No. 19 Boston College women’s soccer welcomed Clemson University to Newton on Sunday afternoon to kick off the ACC tournament. The 5th seeded Tigers defeated the 4th seeded Eagles 1-0 in a largely one-sided contest.
With the win, Clemson avenged their 2-1 home loss in the regular season, which head coach Eddie Radwanski blamed on sloppy play in the final 20 minutes of the game.
Despite the fact that Boston College only had four newcomers on the team this season, they still appeared to lack chemistry, as they were unable to create the same spacing and quality passes that characterized Clemson’s game. Clemson’s defense shut down BC’s offensive attack throughout most of the game, making star forward Sam Coffey a non-factor in the contest; the ACC’s leading scorer was limited to only one shot.
The Tigers came out aggressive, dominating possession early with three corner kicks in the first three minutes. Boston College’s defense matched this intensity, most notably when Clemson forward Mariana Speckmaier weaved around multiple defenders and got the goalkeeper to bite on a shot fake but was stopped in the box by an incredible tackle from behind made by Jillian Jennings. The Eagles appeared energized after this defensive play, following it up with a series of fast-breaks led by Jenna Bike and Olivia Vaughn.
It seemed like BC’s speed would propel the Eagles to victory, but Clemson stuck to their game plan, forcing the BC offense to burn out. The Eagles looked exhausted by the 15-minute mark, often settling for long-range shots. Clemson then took back momentum, finding themselves deep in BC territory for the remainder of the first half.
In the 19th minute, the Tigers scored. Clemson freshman Brooke Power sent a high-arching cross into the box, resulting in a header from Speckmaier that soared into the top left corner of the goal. BC appeared rattled after this goal, frequently making reckless mistakes and turnovers for the rest of the half.
Coming back from the break, it was apparent that veteran head coach Alison Foley had addressed this issue with her team, as BC played much more conservatively in the second half. Albeit an improvement from the first half’s struggles, BC unfortunately did not recognize that a conservative game plan was an ineffective method of overcoming a deficit.
The offensive assaults of the first half led by Jenna Bike were non-existent throughout the majority of the second, and Clemson’s defensive game plan brought the BC offense to a halt until the final 20 minutes of play. They then returned to the same offensive presence they had in the beginning of the game, but it was too little, too late.
BC created a series of scoring opportunities in the box, including nearly scoring directly off a Sam Coffey corner kick in the 87th minute. Coffey took an almost-perfect shot, bending it high above the heads of the Clemson defenders, but goalkeeper Sandy MacIver—who also plays for the England U20 national team—made an athletic diving save, knocking the ball away with her leg. Clemson’s defenders then managed to push the ball back out of the box, preventing the four BC forwards in the area from capitalizing on the opportunity. After this, both the crowd and the team appeared deflated.
Clemson University will now journey to Cary, NC to take on No. 1 seed North Carolina in the ACC semifinals on Friday, looking for their first conference finals tournament appearance since 2002. As for the Eagles, they will await the NCAA Tournament draw, taking time to focus on rebounding from this loss and figuring out how to dominate in the NCAA Tournament.