Last season, Boston College women’s soccer entered the season with plenty of confidence under longtime coach Alison Foley. In the preseason, Foley stressed how much she was looking forward to the season, citing consistency in net, a strong back line, and a dynamic midfielder who was aiming to be one of the nation’s best.
How things have changed. Foley resigned, the dynamic midfielder—ACC Midfielder of the Year Sam Coffey—transferred to Penn State, and former Wake Forest assistant coach Jason Lowe took the helm of the program. Lowe has quickly left his mark, establishing a new offensive system and shifting pieces around, but he’ll have his hands full in 2019.
A week before preseason, though, Lowe was dealt extremely difficult news. Two of BC’s best players from a year ago, centre back (and potential target forward) Kayla Duran and speedy winger Jenna Bike, were ruled out for the season with foot and hamstring injuries, respectively. Throw in the fact that another anchor of last year’s team, centre back Gianna Mitchell, was recovering from an injury, and Lowe was grappling with a lack of depth.
So, with 20 healthy field players, Lowe didn’t get a chance to see his team in 11-v-11 action until the first preseason scrimmage against Colgate. He came away impressed, though, and has seen freshmen integrate well alongside several key returners. With a win over the Raiders (and another later in the week against Vermont), here’s a full breakdown of the team the Eagles will trot out in 2019.
Departures: D Rachel Newborough, GK Meredith Thompson, GK Alexis Bryant, D Elysa Virella, F Carly Leipzig, F Gabby Rouse, M Sam Coffey (transfer)
BC took a hit, losing its four-year starting goaltender in Bryant, as well as its best player last season in Coffey. Bryant posted a career-best 0.82 goals against average last year across 20 games and finished her career having played in an impressive 72 games. Coffey, meanwhile, departs to the Nittany Lions after a season in which she led the ACC in scoring with 12 goals and 14 assists. Other losses include Virella, who was a physical defensive back, who finished seventh on the team in minutes last year, and Leipzig, who played in every game off the bench and tallied four goals as a dangerous forward. Newborough, a graduate student from England, additionally made eight starts at right back and had her hand in seven other matches.
Incoming transfers: D Emily Weintraub (UCLA), M Alison Heckman (James Madison)
Weintraub comes to Chestnut Hill after a season with the powerhouse Bruins. The Seattle, Wash., product didn’t make an appearance for UCLA but was a well-regarded recruit. She factors in as a depth option on the Eagles’ backline. Heckman, meanwhile, will vie for more playing time in the midfield. As a freshman, she played in 15 games for the Dukes and averaged nearly 20 minutes per game.
Incoming Freshman: GK Allie Augur, GK Mackenzie Egan, D Becca McCourt, D Michela Agresti, D Sydney Moore, M Samantha Agresti, M Hailee Perri, M Sam Smith, F Lindsay Groves
Two names stand out from this bunch—the Agresti twins. Sam and Michela Agresti have been on the national radar for a bit now, and both were tabbed as four-star recruits by Top Drawer Soccer. Augur, another four-star recruit, is already competing for the starting goalkeeper job. Groves profiles as a depth option on attack but could make a quick impact after tearing up Connecticut during her high school career. Moore and Smith are both starters right off the bat, and each were tabbed as three-star recruits to round out a class that ranked an impressive 17th in D-I.
Projected Starters (4-2-3-1)
Forward: Sam Smith
Lowe was going to move Duran up from the back to here, but her foot injury sidelined that possibility. Lowe is excited about Smith, though, even if her style of play is less like Duran’s true No. 9 (a physical centre forward) and more of an attacking midfielder. Smith scored in both exhibitions and will look to carry that success into the regular season.
“Sam plays it differently, as she’s a true attacking midfielder,” he said. “She’s got a really broad skillset—she can finish, she can hold the ball up. She’s done a pretty good job.”
Midfield: Gaby Carreiro (LW), Olivia Vaughn (RW), Jade Ruiters (AM), and some combination of Jill Jennings, Kayla Jennings, Emily Langenderfer, and Sam Agresti
The wings are well-established, as Carreiro and Vaughn are both tenured players with a knack for creating chances. Carreiro had three goals and three assists last year, while Vaughn was second only to Coffey with 10 goals. Ruiters will slot into the middle and connect with Smith ahead of her. She made just one start in 2018 but will be leaned on more.
The two holding midfielders have a wider choice of starters. Lowe cited four players that he was looking to “figure out the best combination of.” Agresti is a promising freshman, while Langenderfer made 18 appearances last year and had a trio of shots. The Jennings sisters combined for 35 of 40 possible starts last season, with Jill never missing a game, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or both of them there.
Defense: Riley Lochhead (LB), Michela Agresti (CB), Sydney Moore (CB), Mia Karras (RB)
Two established starters flank a pair of freshman in the back. With Mitchell working her way back from injury, it’s an entirely new back four for Lowe as compared to last season. Lochhead was used more as a forward under Foley, but she’s settled in well on defense. Karras looked phenomenal against Vermont as a playmaker along the sides. Agresti enters as the No. 17 recruit in her class, per TDS, and her and Moore have meshed well in the early going.
“We kind of threw them out there and said figure it out,” Lowe said of the first-year duo. “They did a really good job against Colgate and looked good in the second half. They’re both really good defenders, just learning how to play at this level.”
Goalkeepers: Maddie Murphy or Allie Augur
While depth has been an issue in the field, Lowe has four potential goalkeepers. The race seems to have been cut down to two, with a sophomore in Murphy competing against a first-year in Augur. The duo split each of the first two exhibition games, and you can probably expect something similar to continue as the season gets underway. Murphy played in two games last season, made two saves, and didn’t give up a goal.
“Both have been playing really well, so it’s a pretty good battle,” Lowe said. “We may not know until a few games into the season.”
Featured Image and Images Courtesy of BC Athletics