As the lights came on over Newton Soccer Field, the Boston College women’s soccer team came alive after a quiet first half to defeat Villanova 2-0 to start their season. Emily Sapienza scored the game-winner in the 57th minute. Claire Mensi added to the tally with a penalty kick in the 80th minute to put the game away. Both goals were the players’ first in a BC uniform.
Riley Kerber created space near the top of the box, drawing three Villanova defenders to her before feeding the ball to Sapienza just outside the 18-yard box. Sapienza capitalized on the space by rocketing a shot into the upper right corner of the net, making the score 1-0, and finally getting the Eagles on the board after a dominant start to the second half.
Claire Mensi, a graduate transfer, would add a goal of her own with a penalty kick in the 80th minute to seal the deal. The play started with a Laura Gouvin corner kick that proved troublesome for Villanova, as a bouncing ball hit a player’s hand in the box, leading to a penalty kick for the Eagles. Mensi stepped up, waited for the whistle, and buried the ball without hesitation into the upper right corner, past a diving Megan McClay.
Despite the eventual score line, the first half started slow, with the Eagles struggling to control possession in the midfield and string passes together. Those first ten minutes proved an outlier though, as the midfield began to click, finding outlet passes on the wing and connecting Ella Richards into the play.
The chances were there for the Eagles but proved elusive. Sam Agresti took a chance in the 27th minute, cutting to her right to get a step on her defender before launching the ball towards the goal. Goalkeeper McClay made a diving stop to her left to grab the ball out of midair, stopping the chance.
Despite the inability to find the goal, the team demonstrated their depth with several players linking together and proving their ability to attack the net. Richards, Éabha O’Mahony, Sam Agresti, and Emily Sapienza all had chances to give the Eagles the lead, while Alycia Morin demonstrated her experience by clogging up the midfield and making it difficult for Villanova to play in transition.
Villanova used the counter-attack to generate chances on goal, relying heavily on the physical play of Lauren Belcuore to drive play down the wing, giving the Eagles some trouble. Belcuore repeatedly drove down the line, attracting several defenders, before attempting to cross into the Eagles’ box to onrushing Villanova forwards.
The second half started with Villanova on the front foot, but the Eagles quickly regained control and stretched the field, boxing Villanova into their own end and disrupting passing lanes to regain possession of the ball. With the space, the Eagles were able to use their speed and physicality to control the wings, while preventing any forward movement in the midfield.
As the game opened up for the Eagles, Villanova’s defense proved unable to handle the forward trio of Richards, Andi Barth, and Sapienza, giving up several dangerous free kicks in the waning moments of the second half. A foul just outside the 18-yard-box gave Mensi a chance to make the game three nothing, but her kick sailed over the crossbar.
Goalkeeper Wiebke Willebrandt made her first save in the 11th minute, building her confidence and establishing control of the box. The keeper was extremely vocal, initiating a high back line and taking control of her box throughout the game to keep her first clean sheet of the season and third of her career. Most of the shots Willebrandt faced were low and came from difficult angles, demonstrating the keeper’s position and the pressure opposing forwards faced in trying to enter the box.
A standout for the Eagles was freshman Sophia Lowenberg, holding the line behind the midfield and providing quality balls to drive the offense forward. As the second half opened up, Lowenberg helped to create space that the speedy Eagles forwards would take advantage of, while also using her considerable poise on the ball to slow the game down and survey the field for options.
Next up, the Eagles (1-0-0) face Northeastern on Sunday the 21st at 1:00 pm in an away matchup.
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