FC Buffalo women begin 2024 UWS season away to FC Berlin

FC Buffalo’s women’s team begins their 2024 United Women’s Soccer campaign at 7 p.m. Friday when the Wolves face Canada-based FC Berlin at Buffalo State University.

Nikki Bartholomew begins her fourth season as the head coach for FC Buffalo’s women’s team, and the boss shared her experience over the last few years as a member of the FC Buffalo family in a conversation during Tuesday night’s training session

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“We are building a great organization and program,” said Bartholomew. “We are building a little bit year after year with success.”

That word, success, has described the women’s program over the three-years of Bartholomew’s tenure.

The Wolves have lost just three times in 28 regular season matches, winning 22 times under the two-time UWS Eastern Conference Coach of the Year. FCB has also won three division titles, including one that led to an appearance in the 2022 UWS National Semifinal.

FCB went undefeated in the 2023 regular season, winning eight games with no draws and scoring 43 goals with a +38 goal differential. 

Part of the Wolves’s defensive prowess comes from understated center back Tess Ford. 

Tess Ford
Tess Ford (photo by Brett Ballachino)

Ford, who enters her fourth season with the club, believes experience will help maintain FCB’s elite defensive identity and build team chemistry. 

“Much of it comes down to communication and staying on the same page,” said Ford, who has made the UWS Conference Best XI twice. “As the season goes on, communicating, especially with the younger players, will help us build that connection.” 

The Wolves finished first in its division and reached the playoffs, defeating Albany Rush 1-0 in the first round. FCB came up short in the second round, losing undermanned to Lancaster Inferno 4-2 in the second round. 

Bartholomew shared how this team can compete for the UWS National Championship, a goal the club seeks with desperation and passion.

“It has been the same motto each year of keeping our players longer,” Bartholomew said. “We have to accept we are not everyone’s primary focus given that they come from college teams but I think we have a greater, deeper roster this year. That will help us in competing for a championship.”

[ MORE: FC Buffalo men win Brewers Cup (story, highlights) ]

Carissima Cutrona, FCB’s captain and veteran figure, is also in her fourth season at the club. As one of the team’s focal points, Cutrona can hardly wait to see how the mix of the 12 new summer signings and returning players can push the Wolves to overcome that barrier.

“I am really excited because we have a lot of talent,” said Cutrona. “We have a unique mix of college students, younger girls, and post-college players who I think could be playing overseas professionally.” 

FC Berlin, led by Greg Margolis, will play its second 2024 UWS match. In Berlin’s first 2024 UWS match, Margolis’s side lost to Steel City on May 19. Margolis has reshaped a Berlin roster that struggled in 2023, ending the season without a win while conceding 32 goals, and is led by his Buffalo State assistant and longtime FC Buffalo mainstay Victoria Colotti.

Erie County derby

Last season, the Wolves won both contests against Berlin, first scoring a blowout win before getting a 3-0 home win later than month.

Bartholomew views this first match as an opportunity for the team to build chemistry and structure.  

“It’s about getting off to a good start. Finding our rhythm and chemistry early on is important for us,” said Bartholomew. “It’s the teams with the best chemistry we try to get after right away. It will help us find people in the right roles for the length of the season.” 

Cutrona and Bartholomew shared a special message for the new faces.  

“Just enjoy the moment,” Cutrona said. “Our season is so short since we don’t have many games. The atmosphere is incredible, and we are back at All-High this season, which we are excited about. I want them to enjoy it as much as possible so that they can return next season.”

Bartholomew agreed with her captain.

“I am that coach who says all the time that this is your time frame, especially as a college player, to feel free to play and not have pressure,” said Bartholomew. “It’s more of a positive environment where we build each other up.”