Slow Start Dooms Women’s Soccer Versus No. 3 UNC

On a foggy Newton night, a spectator could have been fooled into thinking the Boston College women’s soccer and the University of North Carolina played an even, back and forth match—that is, if they missed the first 10 minutes of the game.

The Tar Heels put two goals past Boston College in the first nine minutes on the way to a 4-1 victory. Just three minutes in, No. 3 UNC (11-2, 7-0 Atlantic Coast) attacker Alessia Russo cut into a wide open midfield and took a shot 25 yards from goal which looped over unsuspecting BC (9-6-1, 3-3-1) goalkeeper Alexis Bryant for Russo’s eighth goal of the year. It was an impressive strike, but it was surprising to see Bryant caught by surprise. Such a stalwart at the back for the majority of the season, the Eagle starter didn’t look like herself early.

This was especially apparent in the eighth minute. UNC’s first corner of the game drew Bryant out of position enough that when the ball was cushioned back into the middle of the area, Tar Heel forward Bridgette Andrzejewski easily headed the ball into the back of the net for her third goal of the year to put UNC up 2-0. There aren’t many games any team can afford to go down by two goals within 10 minutes, but it doesn’t get much tougher than creating that situation against a top five opponent that is undefeated in conference play.

Head coach Alison Foley was understandably critical of her keeper’s performance.

“I thought there were two soft goals,” she said. “You got to have your keeper show up big time. When you’re talking top-10, this is the least amount of saves a goalie has had to make from these guys, so the few that she has to make she has to make.”

The Eagles didn’t have much success going in the other direction either. They didn’t have an offensive chance until the 15th minute, and after that BC consistently struggled to unlock an excellent UNC defense. The team managed to alleviate much of UNC’s early possession pressure, but the Eagles didn’t look very dangerous on the counter and UNC’s chances always felt dangerous.

In the 41st minute, UNC took advantage of one of those chances, forcing a corner. The ensuing ball in drew two blocked shots, but BC’s defense was too jumbled after those vital efforts to stop what came next. The second block led to the ball popping into the air, dropping to Jessie Scarpa’s feet at the top of the box where she sent a dipping shot over Bryant’s head to give UNC a three goal lead. This time, there wasn’t much more the Eagles could have done, they were just being beaten by a superior team.

But the game isn’t played for 45 minutes, and BC came out for the second 45 looking to prove a point, even if they weren’t able to steal a result. The first half ended with UNC winning the shot battle eight to four, the shot on goal battle 4-1, and the corner battle 3-2. The second half was a different story: BC won the shot battle 10-3, the shots on goal battle still went UNC’s way 3-2, but the Eagles won the corner battle 3-2.

The start of the period may have been part of the reason things looked a lot more even. The first ten minutes played out much differently–UNC grabbed an early shot saved easily by Bryant in the 51st minute, and then BC started making up ground. The Eagles started by recording two shots in two minutes, and the pressure didn’t let up from there. In the 59th minute Lauren Berman, playing midfield, sent a perfect through ball to Jenna Bike, who wasn’t able to control her volleyed shot enough to put it on goal. Off of a corner in the 66th minute, defender Gianna Mitchell headed the ball just over the bar, and later Bike got another chance off of a Bryant throw which triggered a counter attack. Bike tried to round the keeper, who was aggressive with a tackle and got enough off the ball to avoid a penalty.

These efforts more accurately showcased how balanced the two teams were, but unfortunately for the Eagles, they just didn’t have enough of a finishing touch to get close to UNC, who were consistently deadly. In the 77th minute, after all the momentum BC had seemed to build up in the second half, the Tar Heels broke down the right flank, and a perfect cross completely avoided the Eagles backline, finding its way to Andrzejewski who finished off her brace and gave UNC a 4-0 lead.

BC finally pulled one back late, as Carly Leipzig scored her fourth goal of the year when she capitalized on a mistake from an otherwise perfect goalkeeping performance by Tar Heel Samantha Leshnak. Insteading of holding onto an extremely long range shot, Leshnak punched the ball away–directly to Leipzig, who was about ten yards or so from the penalty area and made no mistake in putting the ball past a still sprawling Leshnak.

Both teams would get one more chance each, but neither was dangerous and the result was already clear.

Foley saw the good and the bad in the performance.

“I thought certainly the score isn’t indicative of how the game flow went,” she said. “We’re the only team this year to outshoot and out-corner [UNC] in a half. We got to start a little better than the way we did.”

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

October 15, 2017