ROCHESTER, N.Y. – In their first match after a 680-day wait, the Rochester Lady Lancers dropped a 2-1 decision to FC Buffalo in the United Women’s Soccer season opener for both teams at Charles A. Schiano Field at Aquinas Institute on Sunday afternoon.

Kesley Araujo snapped a 1-1 deadlock in the 83rd minute to lift the expansion team to its first win in its history, in the East Conference encounter.

The last time the Lady Lancers played was in a 2-1 loss at the Lancaster Inferno on July 7, 2019. The 2020 UWS season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trinidad & Tobago international goalkeeper Saundra Baron was named the Kick This! player of the game. She was outstanding in the net, producing 15 saves, and some of them were spectacular.

Baron, however, could not stop Araujo from scoring as the Buffalo forward placed a six-yard shot through her legs for what proved to be the winning goal.

The Lady Lancers entered the game a bit short-handed as had had only two full training sessions and were without eight players because their spring season or academic commitments at their respective colleges.

The core of FC Buffalo competed at the University of Buffalo, Canisius College, Niagara University and Daemen College. So, many of the players already knew one another’s moves.

It showed in the opening 45 minutes as the visitors controlled play, hitting the woodwork – both posts and the crossbar – five times. They also ripped a shot off the post in the second half.

Baron, a Rochester native, was up to the task, frustrating FC Buffalo players several times to keep the game scoreless entering halftime.

Her most memorable saves came against Carissima Cutrona, who was FC Buffalo’s most dangerous player. She denied Curtona twice within a 30-second span in the 19th minute, which included a spectacular kick save. She also denied the forward on a point-blank opportunity in the 38th minute. Cutrona also hit the left post in the 19th minute and the crossbar in the final minute of the half.

FC Buffalo put the ball into the back of the net in the sixth minute, but it was ruled a player was offside.

The visitors’ persistence paid off as Danielle Vis, off a square pass from Curtona, scored from 12 yards to take a 1-0 lead.

The Lady Lancers equalized on a Claire Myers penalty kick after Abby Molloy was called for a handball when the ball bounced up from the artificial turf and hit her arm. Myers powered her shot into the lower left corner as goalkeeper Emily Kelly dove in the opposite direction.

In the second game of the doubleheader on Sunday, the Lancers faced Cleveland SC in their National Premier Soccer League season opener.

The Lady Lancers will welcome New Jersey Copa in the second home game of their 10-match regular season at Aquinas on Sunday, May 23 at 2 p.m., before the men perform at 5 p.m.

After Sunday’s game, the Lancers announced that they would welcome all fans for free for the rest of the UWS and NPSL seasons. Capacity at both openers Sunday was limited due to New York State protocols.

“Our fans had to deal with a lot at home, school and work the past year with COVID,” Lancers owner Salvatore “SoccerSam” Fantauzzo. “We want to give back!”

The Ide Family of dealers and the Salvatore’s Pizza family, the team’s primary sponsors, will cover costs of tickets for the team’s fans.

Current season ticket holders and sponsors will have a designated section with perks, Fantauzzo said.

The Lancers urged all fans to make a donation to Camp Good Days, Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester or charity of their choice.