Top Story, Fall, Women's Soccer

Eagles Clinch Home-Field Advantage, Rout Visiting Pittsburgh

With the exception of the past weekend in North Carolina, Boston College women’s soccer hasn’t had much trouble finding the back of the net in conference play. Scoring a lone goal across consecutive losses put the Eagles in a predicament, though—they’d dropped to fifth in the conference table, just outside of home field advantage in the quarterfinals. So, a return home against a Pittsburgh side that had struggled mightily seemed like the perfect chance for the Eagles to polish up their performance and win back the home-field advantage that they so desperately wanted.

The answer arrived emphatically, with BC claiming the fourth and final host spot in the conference tournament on the strength of a 7-0 win, a scoring output that hadn’t been reached by the Eagles (14-3-1, 6-3-1 Atlantic Coast) since Oct. 16, 2016. The Panthers (4-12-1, 0-10) were the unfortunate recipient of the thrashing, a particularly painful loss that kept them out of the point column in conference play.

Sam Coffey punctuated an impressive 38-point regular season—a total 11 points more than the ACC’s second-place player, Duke’s Kayla McCoy—with two goals and two assists against Pittsburgh. Coffey needed just 60 minutes to total four points, continuing her unprecedented tear through the conference. The sophomore midfielder recorded a point in 14 of BC’s 18 regular season games, and finished the regular season currently tied for the fourth-most points in a single campaign in program history.

Kayla Jennings scored twice and Jenna Bike added three assists for head coach Alison Foley’s side in the decisive win. Jillian Jennings and Mia Karras both scored for the first time in their careers, while Emily Langenderfer had two assists for the first time. Carly Leipzig rounded out the scoring for the Eagles, who finished the regular season with 11 wins in 11 home games, boasting an absurd plus-32 goal differential in those games.

Fourth-seeded BC will have a chance to extend that streak on Sunday afternoon, when it hosts No. 5 Clemson for a shot at a semifinal matchup with either No. 1 North Carolina or No. 8 Virginia Tech.

“It was a win with conviction,” Foley told “Most importantly [it was] one that many players contributed to, but more importantly ensured us home field advantage in the ACC Tournament. We are peaking at the right time and playing our best soccer right before postseason.”

The Eagles stifled their visitors throughout the night, allowing just two shots on goal through, both easily turned away by goalkeeper Alexis Bryant. BC held a 27-6 edge in total shots, with the Panthers finishing their season where they started—struggling to string together possession and create anything on offense that would test an opposing goalie. The win was much more decisive than the one the Eagles needed at the end of last season in Pittsburgh to slip into the postseason—that game went into overtime before Gianna Mitchell netted the game-winner. There was no need for heroics this time around, as BC came out with its foot on the gas and didn’t let up until it was looking at a six-goal halftime lead.

Bike set up Coffey just five minutes and 13 seconds into the game, with the sophomore unloading a shot from 10 yards out that beat Panthers keeper Katherine Robinson. Two minutes later, Coffey took on the facilitating role, sending a through ball into the box that Jennings was able to get a head on. It was the second goal conceded in the first 10 minutes by Robinson, but Pittsburgh head coach Randy Waldrum kept the true freshman in.

She would go on to allow four more goals before the break, where she was replaced by Amaia Pena, who found greater success against the BC bench. Robinson was left helpless by her defense when Coffey finished off a shot from three yards out in the 12th minute, then couldn’t turn away a Jennings header in the 23rd minute off of a rebound. Having made three saves and conceded four goals, she seemed destined to escape to halftime and avoid further damage, but the Eagles had other ideas, scoring twice in the final five minutes. Karras headed in a Langenderfer pass, then Leipzig was set up by Mijke Roelfsema and Langenderfer for a shot from distance that slipped in. Jillian Jennings capped the scoring in the 65th minute, beating Pena—who managed three saves on four shots on goal—from point-blank range.

The win, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t mean much when you consider the quality of opponent—Pittsburgh represents the dregs of the ACC. Still, it was a game that BC really needed to win, and it left no doubt. Paired with Louisville’s loss to Virginia Tech around the same time, and the Eagles have to be feeling confident with a home game to open the conference tournament. Yes, UNC likely looms in the next round, and the Tigers aren’t a team to write off—but BC’s defense just spun its 10th shutout of the year, the offense powered its way to seven goals, and the fourth-place finish was the highest for the program since 2011. The Eagles have more than bounced back from a weekend that tested them, and now postseason play is a chance to continue to bring the program back to the heights it’s reached in years past.

Featured Image by Steve Ebert / For The Heights

October 26, 2018