In 2018, Boston College women’s soccer has relied on a combination of great defense and outstanding set-piece execution to win games. For the entirety of its non-conference schedule, the formula worked perfectly. The Eagles (9-0-0, 1-0-0 Atlantic Coast) rattled off eight consecutive victories to start the year, scoring 21 goals—11 off set pieces—all while conceding just three. But with the conference slate beginning, there were legitimate questions about whether BC could continue to win games in the same fashion. After all, the ACC—and its five nationally ranked teams—is a completely different level of competition.
Well after one game, the early answer to the question seems to be yes. Just 11 minutes into the Eagles’ conference opener against Syracuse (3-7-0, 0-2-0 ACC), Sam Coffey’s corner kick bounced several times around the box, with no BC player able to get a decisive touch on it. Finally, the ball found the foot of Kayla Duran, and the freshman defender made no mistake, poking it home for the game’s first goal. Five minutes later, another Coffey corner found the back of the net, this time thanks to Kayla Jennings. Staked to an early two-goal lead, the Eagles’ vaunted defense went to work, holding Syracuse to just five shots, en route to a comfortable 3-0 win.
From the opening whistle, it was clear BC was up to the challenge that is ACC play. Despite an 11-day, weather-induced layover, it showed no signs of rust. First, Duran’s header off a deep free kick from Coffey was wide of the left post, before Jenna Bike’s effort from the right side of the box was blocked out of bounds, setting the stage for the corner kick that resulted in Duran’s first-ever goal.
After the early lead, the Eagles continued to press and control the midfield, preventing the Orange from gaining a foothold. Meanwhile, BC continued to create opportunities of its own. Gaby Carreiro used some fancy footwork to open up space at the top of the box, but her shot was blocked by a leaping Syracuse defender.
Seconds later, Olivia Vaughn’s cross was blocked for another corner. Coffey sent her delivery high toward the back post. The service managed to clear every Orange defender, finding the head of Jennings, whose cushioned header nestled into the bottom left corner to give BC a 2-0 lead.
The second goal finally seemed to wake Syracuse up a bit. Immediately off the restart, Steph deLaforcade was left open just outside the box and unleashed a fierce drive that seemed destined for the upper corner, only for Alexis Bryant to deny her with a great full-extension save. Minutes later, the Orange won a corner of its own, but the Eagles managed to scramble it clear.
After the brief surge of Syracuse momentum, however, BC once again took control of the game. Bike let fly with a shot from way outside the box, but it flew wide. Minutes later, a scramble in the area, after yet another Coffey free kick, ended with the ball dropping at Mijke Roelfsema’s feet. Unfortunately for the Eagles, her right-footed effort was blocked before a flurry of corner kicks at the end of the half amounted to nothing.
The second period began the way the first ended. BC continued to look like the better of the two teams, winning three consecutive corners that again were all cleared. Jenna Bike was left all alone right outside the top of the six-yard box, but was unable to turn a Coffey cross home, instead firing it straight at Orange keeper Jordan Harris. Just three minutes later, Jillian Jennings played a perfect through ball to Vaughn, but her shot from the right side of the 18 was weak and straight at Harris.
Syracuse, in what has become a theme of its season, struggled to materialize any sort of offense. The Orange has scored just six goals all season and didn’t have much luck against Gianna Mitchell and Duran, who were once again rock-solid at the back. All half long, Syracuse recorded just two shots—a long-distance drive from Laurel Ness that was an easy save for Bryant and a wild shot off a free kick from Kate Donovan that sailed well over the goal.
BC all but ended the game soon after Donovan’s effort. Coffey played a ball down the line to Riley Lochhead. The sophomore winger used her speed to get into the box, before cutting the ball back to an open Carly Leipzig, who buried her shot in the lower left corner to put the finishing touches on the perfect start to the Eagles’ ACC schedule.
Even so, BC’s schedule only gets tougher from here on out. Next up? A visit from No. 7 Florida State, which also won its ACC opener 3-0 over Virginia Tech. The Eagles will need some more set-piece magic and defensive solidity if they are going to continue their perfect start to the season.
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Senior Staff