add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );Women's Soccer Shutout Against No. 5 Duke - BANG.
Photo courtesy of BC Women's Soccer / Twitter

Women's Soccer Shutout Against No. 5 Duke

Women’s soccer fell to another ranked ACC opponent on Thursday, losing 3-0 to no. 5 Duke to start their North Carolina two game road trip.

The Eagles conceded early against Duke, with Kat Rader scoring from distance in the 12th minute. The play started in the Duke end, with Sophie Jones freeing the ball up to Maggie Graham, who fed the ball over the top of the BC defense for the sprinting Rader. Receiving the ball on the left flank, Rader cut the ball back and drove to the center of the field, gaining a step on her defender. That space allowed Rader to rifle a shot off her left foot that bent to the left post, bouncing past a sprawling Wiebke Willebrandt.

Duke would score a second via penalty kick in the 37th minute. Sophia Lowenberg stepped into Michelle Cooper as the Duke forward turned towards the goal. The referee whistled for the foul and Cooper stepped up to the spot. After a deep breath and a short run up, Cooper buried the shot into the left corner, shooting with her right foot to make the score 2-0 and score her sixth of the year.

Cooper would notch her second in the 54th minute off of an assist from Mackenzie Pluck and Olivia Migli. Pluck found the ball in the right corner of the Eagles half and sent an arching ball into the center of the box, where Cooper, lost between two BC defenders, jumped up and flicked the ball home to the far post, the play moving so fast that Willebrandt didn’t have time to react.

Throughout the first half, the Eagles struggled to break through the Duke defense, with most of the half played in BC’s final third. Andi Barth and Emily Sapienza had the two best chances of the half, both targeting the near post and forcing diving saves out of Duke goalkeeper Ruthie Jones. Barth’s came on an individual effort that saw her gaining the inside edge on her defender and firing off a shot, while Sapienza narrowly missed the near post, as she just couldn’t quite get the angle right.

Despite the score, the Eagles never mailed it in. Éabha O’Mahony tracked all the way back to make a sliding stop on a Duke forward that kept the Blue Devils from adding to the score. Michela Agresti blocked several shots in the box, interrupting shooting lanes and using her positioning to keep Duke from taking the shots the players wanted.

Willebrandt also had a strong performance, making eight saves, including an incredible diving punch save in the first half, where she swatted the ball away from the back corner in mid-air. The goalkeeper was strong in the air and on the ground, coming out of her box to make plays on the ball and looking confident while doing so. Willebrandt kept the Eagles in the game and helped to keep the backline organized and applying forward pressure.

Another positive for the Eagles was the offsides trap, which worked to keep the Blue Devils from having their way in center field, and repeatedly forced turnovers in a match where the Eagles struggled to retain possession. The strong offsides trap forced Duke to hold their runners and had a goal called back, proving the trap as an effective way to force teams to change their game plan.

ACC play is a different animal from non-conference play, and the Eagles are struggling to adjust, especially when it comes to finding ways to produce against compact, possession-based teams that control the midfield. In addition, the space between the defense and the midfield gives opposing team’s forwards and midfielders ample time to choose where they want to shoot the ball, with relatively little pressure applied to force errors and turnovers. Notably, this game showed how often BC forward Barth could be found in the defensive end, hinting at what a true commitment to shutting down extra space might look like going forward against ACC opponents.

The Eagles (4-3-3) finish up their North Carolina road trip with an away match up against No.3 North Carolina (8-2) on Sunday at 1:00 pm. BC is looking for their first win and their first goal in ACC play.


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