Both Boston College and Notre Dame played their hearts out in an epic, grueling match en route to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night. Riding the emotion surrounding the women’s soccer team’s senior night, the Eagles fought hard and stepped up the physicality. The stat sheet reflected the competitiveness, showing plenty of fouls and even four yellow cards.
ND’s well balanced and possession-oriented style of play dominated the first half, leading to several chances but no goals. Two minutes into the game, the Fighting Irish quickly put pressure on the Eagle’s defense. Forward Anna Gilbertson of ND had a great chance on the left wing, as she was wide open after receiving a cross from the far side. Goalkeeper Alexandra Johnson recognized the danger though, immediately coming out to challenge the shot and deflecting the ball out of bounds. Johnson worked hard all night, keeping her team alive with plenty of athletic saves throughout the game despite the slick conditions presented by the rain.
Later in the first half, the Eagles started to find some offensive momentum. Their complete sense of urgency translated to a fast paced and direct attack, displayed by slicing runs made by speedy forward Stephanie McCaffrey. McCaffrey and the other forwards countered ND’s possessive style by working hard up top and constantly pressing the opposing defense when they had the ball. They were not afraid to get physical, and their aggressive play set the tone early. McCaffrey continued to badger the Fighting Irish back line despite receiving a yellow card in the 16th minute. Seven minutes later, teammate Jana Jeffrey also got a booking.
Head coach Alison Foley saw no problem with the physicality. In fact, she emphasized after the game that it is the way two top teams should be playing. Yet, after plenty of trash talk and multiple hard fouls from both sides, the Eagles and Fighting Irish found themselves tied at 0-0 going into the intermission.
The Irish completely dictated the flow of the game during the beginning of the second half. ND’s outside midfielders stayed glued to the sidelines, giving the forwards more space to operate up top. This translated to several great chances again on crosses from the right wing to the far post, the most dangerous coming only five minutes into the second period with a header just skimming over the crossbar. For the most part, the Eagles’ back line used defensive headers to clear the crosses, but they could not sustain their success much longer. The Fighting Irish scored on a corner kick, a perfect connection from Brittany Von Reuden to Katie Naughton. Naughton elevated over the defense and used her head to direct the ball into the inside of the net. Von Reuden effectively played the role of facilitator the whole game, orchestrating every Irish set piece and constantly generating chances by setting up others.
The Eagles found themselves in a hole and stepped up the intensity accordingly. Substitute Andrea O’Brien combined with the consistent McCaffrey to make more brisk runs up top.
The defenders and midfielders created chances by supplying a steady dose of through balls to the speedy BC strikers, finally resulting in the equalizer with about 12 minutes remaining in the half. An Eagle was able to get a header on target from a cross on a corner kick, rocketing the ball off the crossbar. Another Eagle was waiting for the deflection at the top of the box and put the ball back on frame, however. Notre Dame goalkeeper Kaela Little barely got her hand on this shot, falling over while making a diving save.
BC defender Allyson Swaby was patiently waiting by the six-yard line, and she slipped the ball in right after Little made the deflection. Instantly, a mob of Eagles surrounded Swaby in an emotional embrace. With about 10 minutes remaining, both sides tried unsuccessfully to sneak a goal in before regulation ended. Both goalkeepers, Little and Johnson, held their ground and made several great saves in the waning minutes.
In overtime, the Eagles and Fighting Irish continued to battle, and the keepers continued to thwart all shot attempts. Players grew tired, but did not lose any intensity, which led to more fouls, more trash talk, and more opportunities on goal. Yet, as the clock winded down, the score remained 1-1. The Eagles channeled the emotion of senior night into a positive burst of intensity, and it led to an exhausting draw with the Fighting Irish.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor