Eagles Drop Third Straight, Playoff Hopes in Jeopardy

Hayley Dowd was on the attack. Dribbling into Clemson’s backline, the senior co-captain eyed a scoring opportunity. But a Catrina Atanda trip disrupted the run. Samantha Hiatt took the free kick, and Tiger goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan leapt in the air, attempting to haul in the service ball. Remarkably, the ball fell through her fingers and dropped down to Dowd’s foot—three yards in front of the, now-empty, net. Dowd immediately wound up and launched a shot.

It soared over the goal.

Dowd couldn’t believe it, and neither could her teammates. Unlike Boston College women’s soccer’s loss against Wake Forest on Oct. 15, the Eagles created chance after chance during Thursday night’s match in South Carolina. BC outshot Clemson 16-6 and had three more corner kicks than the Tigers. Still, just like Dowd’s misfire, the Eagles could not finish—ultimately leading to their third consecutive loss. No. 7 Clemson’s (11-3-2, 5-1-2 Atlantic Coast) 2-1 victory puts it in a comfortable position to clinch a top-four seed in the ACC Tournament. For BC (10-6-1, 2-6), the defeat dampens its hope of sneaking into postseason play.

From the start of the game, Clemson dominated possession. Frequently passing the ball, side-to-side, across their backline, the Tigers were able to control the pace of the match. Despite taking its time to move the ball up the field, Clemson’s first score came quickly. In the 12th minute, Shannon Horgan beat Andrea O’Brien on the left side of the field. With Allyson Swaby pressuring, Horgan kicked the ball into the vicinity of the goal. Goalkeeper Alexis Bryant and other Eagles defended it like a cross, but, shockingly, the ball found the upper right corner of the net.

Just five minutes later, the Tigers knocked on BC’s door once more. Sam Staab heaved a long throw-in into the 18. Deflecting off of an Eagle defender, the ball was left up for grabs in the box. Clemson’s Jenna Weston located the rebound and grounded a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal. It was Weston’s sixth goal of the season and her fourth goal in her last five games. Staab was credited with her ninth assist of the year.

BC tried to give the Tigers a taste of their own medicine in the 19th minute. While Clemson was recovering from an offensive run, the Eagles used a throw-in to lead a speeding Jenna Bike down the left side of the pitch. Bike advanced past Staab, and with Sheridan coming out of the net, the freshman forward used her left foot to guide the ball around the goalie. But the touch barely missed the far post, leaving BC empty handed.

In the final minute of the first half, McKenzie Meehan pushed the ball forward on the left side of the field. She crossed it into the box, and, after a minor Clemson deflection, the ball found Olivia Vaughn. Volleying the ball, Vaughn nearly chipped away at the deficit, but the shot landed wide right.

Eventually, the Eagles came within striking distance. Gaby Carreiro lined up to take a corner kick in the 69th minute. She passed it short to Lauren Berman, who then crossed the ball into the 18. Berman’s feed was perfectly placed, as it reached Meehan, who was tucked behind the Clemson defense. The ACC’s leading scorer headed the ball into the heart of the net, uncontested by Sheridan, as the goalie was positioned near post. The goal was Meehan’s 11th this fall, and Carreiro and Berman earned their sixth and seventh assists, respectively.

Now down only one goal, and fighting for its season, BC was in desperation mode. But the Eagles simply could not equalize the match. Meehan, looking for her second goal of the game in the 76th minute, drove the ball down the middle of the field. As defenders began to close in on her, she lifted a shot towards the right side of the goal. Instinctively, Sheridan dove and batted the bouncing shot away. The Eagles’ last chance came off a give-and-go between Carreiro and Berman in the 88th minute. Carreiro, the final recipient of the exchange, lofted a shot from the top of the box—it veered wide right, essentially ending the game. Clemson proceeded to run out the clock by shielding the ball away from BC defenders.

The Eagles have only won one game in their past six matches. Meanwhile, Clemson has only lost one in the same span of play.

While the playoffs appear a longshot for BC, as it sits in the 11th spot of the ACC standings, two regular season games remain. Even though the team’s scoring is led by two senior co-captains, head coach Alison Foley’s club is filled with young players—players who actually see the field. Four freshmen started for BC in this match. Capitalizing on scoring opportunities and winning one more game could very well propel this developing team into the upcoming season.

Featured Image by Jake Catania / Heights Staff

October 21, 2016