The Battle of Comm Ave felt a bit like a Charles Dickens novel: it was “the best of times” for BC Women’s Soccer and sometimes it was “the worst of times” in a 3-1 win for the Eagles.
The first half found the Eagles on their heels, while the second half turned into a track meet with BC pulling ahead in the final twenty minutes. Sam Smith would score the game-winning goal, with Emily Sapienza and Ella Richards tallying points as well in the Sunday night away victory.
Smith’s go-ahead goal came in the 72nd minute when the forward received a ball over the top from Richards and made no mistake in putting it into the upper left corner of the goal to give the Eagles their first lead of the game. Richards found Smith in space and put her through to the goal, demonstrating how the Eagles’ sustained pressure and strong position play could break down a strong BU defense that hadn’t allowed the Eagles much space in the box for the majority of the game.
Despite the Eagles dominating possession, BU would strike first in the 12th minute off of a defensive breakdown.
Laura Gouvin sent an arching pass back to Ragna Magúsdóttir that proved difficult to handle. The defender's first touch sent the ball away from her and towards the BC goal, with an onrushing Abby McNulty challenged for the ball as BC goalkeeper Wiebke Willebrandt came off her line to try and intercept. McNulty tipped the ball just wide of Wiebke, in a lateral pass to Amy Thompson, who wasted no time in slotting the ball into the far-post netting to make the score 1-0 in favor of BU.
The Eagles came out gunning in the second half and it took less than ten minutes to produce an equalizer. Richards was fouled in the box, leading to an Eagles penalty kick in the 54th minute. Sapienza stepped up to the spot, sending the ball to the lower left corner. The penalty kick was the result of sustained pressure, driven mostly by Sydney Segalla’s speed on the left wing that allowed the Eagles to stretch the field.
Richards would add to her night with a goal of her own in the 74th minute, this time with the assist coming from Sapienza. The junior won the ball in the right corner and crossed to Richards, who sliced it home into the left netting. The Richards goal came moments after the referee had called back a point-blank tap-in, having whistled Richards for shoving before the forward could score. Lesson learned: Richards cannot be denied and the Eagles went up 3-1 with 15 minutes left in the second half.
The first half started strong for the Eagles, with the lion's share of possession belonging to BC and strong position play allowing for Andi Barth and Sam Smith to stretch the BU defense on the wings. The Thompson goal completely shifted momentum, instantly placing BC on the back foot and disrupting the game plan. BU’s speed proved problematic for a young backline, with BC getting caught in transition and thus allowing BU to have direct access to the box, forcing the Eagles to defend deep and often with a tinge of desperation.
Despite the shaky first half, the Eagles managed to generate six shots, two on goal, refusing to allow BU to completely dominate the game. A nifty passing sequence nine minutes into the game almost put BC on the board, with Ella Richards laying off a ball and instead chipping it back to a wide-open Barth whose shot was deflected by a sliding BU defender at the last second. Richards would draw a free kick in a dangerous position in the 13th minute, on the left edge of the box. Gouvin’s kick was too far right for any player to get a decent header on, but the play demonstrated Richards's ability to create chances even if the forward wasn’t shooting.
What made the difference in the second half was the sustained pressure and speed by the Eagles, taking the game to BU and contesting fifty-fifty balls. Segalla proved virtually uncatchable in the fifteen minutes she played, while Sarai Costello found success with the overlapping run on the right side, feeding off Sapienza’s creativity and desire to cut in, drawing the BU defender to her and leaving the wing open. Smith, Richards, and Sapienza also clicked, with Richards involved in all three goals. The sizzling chemistry of the top three is a good sign as BC edges closer to ACC play.
Willebrandt was the unsung hero of the match, making several point-blank saves to give the Eagles time to find their legs and eventually take the match to BU. The keeper also kept the door shut after the initial BU goal, commanding her box and tightening up the defensive structure, stifling BU’s forwards.
The Eagles (4-1-1) will square off next against Providence College (2-3) on Thursday, September 8th in an away non-conference matchup.
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