The Boston College women’s soccer team continued its impressive run this past Friday thanks to a pair of late goals from Eagles strikers Andrea O’Brien and Hayley Dowd, beating back a resilient Harvard squad to stretch its winning streak to six games—the program’s longest since its 2011 campaign.
Both teams struggled to get anything going early, with the ball pinning back and forth around the pitch, as one team would clear its defensive zone, make a brief push, and then get turned back around as the back line would boot it back across midfield. Play was choppy on both sides from the onset, as players struggled to complete passes, and the ball found its way out of bounds seemingly as often as it found the foot of the intended teammate. The early stages of the game were a testing-out period for both sides before BC began to slowly take control, garnering the majority of the first-half chances and racking up the possession time.
In the eighth minute, BC saw its first real chance of the game when a pair of Harvard defenders misplayed a fluttering ball up in the air over the middle of the box before it was gathered by BC sophomore Hayley Dowd who struck the ball hard, but put it directly on the Crimson keeper.
Twelve minutes later, with Harvard threatening deep in BC territory and putting on a passing clinic as the offensive players looked for their shot; the Eagles’ senior captain Stephanie McCaffrey intercepted a pass and went streaking down the middle of the field before losing the ball. Dowd, hot in pursuit, picked up the loose ball and had a clear shot on net with just the keeper to beat, but put her chance weakly rolling on the ground into the waiting hands of the goalie.
McCaffrey and junior defender Lauren Bernard both facilitated a lot of opportunities for BC, frequently surging down either side of the field, but struggled with indecision, repeatedly unable to find that final pass or know when to take the shot. In the 36th minute, McCaffrey was once again pushing the ball—having beaten a Crimson defender in the box and searching for her shot—and was taken down from behind by an errant slide tackle and awarded a penalty kick. McCaffrey, however, was unable to capitalize as the keeper guessed right and halted her hard curving shot at the lower left corner of the goal.
“It’s a bit deflating when you miss a PK, and I thought there was a bit of a drop off after that, and you have to get back up psychologically to where you want to be … I think [we showed] a little bit of persistence, the shots were seven to zero the first half, I thought we were managing the ball okay, I thought we had possession,” said Eagles head coach Alison Foley of their first half performance.
It would be that persistence that, in the end, would break the stalemate for BC. As the second half progressed, the story was much of the same, with Harvard struggling to get anything going and BC failing to capitalize on its opportunities.
“Harvard hadn’t lost a game, and they have Margaret Purce up top, who’s as good as any forward in the ACC. She started for the U-20 world cup team, so we had to manage her and keep an eye on her, and I thought we handcuffed her pretty well,” Foley said. “She didn’t have any really true looks at goal.”
Harvard’s best chance to go ahead came in the 70th minute on a corner kick taken by freshman defensemen Marie Becker. Becker put a perfect ball over the heads of the Eagle’s defenders on the near post, giving junior midfielder Brooke Dickens a clear header on an open net on the far side of the goal—a chance she sent wide left. Dickens would walk away shaking her head, clearly frustrated.
BC’s resilience finally paid off in the 77th minute when McCaffrey was awarded a free kick from about 25 yards out on the left side. She put a strong cross to a streaking Dowd who deflected the ball from the six-yard box into the left side netting, past the outstretched fingertips of Crimson keeper Lizzie Durack. Soon after, in the 82nd minute, BC quelled any chance of a Harvard equalizer when McCaffrey once again charged down the middle of the field with the ball and passed ahead to Bernard on the left side, who drew the attention of the goalkeeper. Bernard sent a low, hard cross to the waiting boot of sophomore forward Andrea O’Brien, who tapped the ball in to covert the goal and secure the win for the Eagles.
The win marked six straight for BC and the fourth-straight victory against Harvard, and head coach Alison Foley is determined to let the good times keep on rolling.
“We bought into the fact that detail, game management, and everyone buying into their role was going to be necessary for victories, and their collective effort has been excellent, and game by game and we will keep on going,” she said.
Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff