Facing off against nearby rival Massachusetts, two newcomers settled the season opener for Boston College women’s soccer, handing new head coach Jason Lowe his first career head coaching win in the process. The freshman duo of Sam Agresti and Sam Smith each found the back of the net, with the latter deftly beating a defender and scoring in the 88th minute to put away the visiting Minutewomen in a 2-1 thriller.
When the final whistle blew on Lowe’s first win since being hired away from Wake Forest, BC Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond—who had been watching from the press box—made his way down to the pitch. He presented Lowe with the game ball, much to the enjoyment of the Eagles players, who responded by saying, “On to the next one.”
It wasn’t a comfortable win for BC (1-0), as it was arguably outplayed for much of the second half by the visiting UMass (0-1) side. The Minutewomen took more shots, created more corners, and, on several occasions, nearly found a go-ahead goal. In the end, though, it was a patient—but dangerous—Eagles counterattack that proved to be enough.
“A win’s a win,” Lowe said after. “We didn’t play particularly well but we stuck with it for 90 minutes. We had great effort at the end.”
BC took an early lead, striking in the fourth minute. Despite facing a Minutewomen side that was coming off of their best offensive season since 2001, the Eagles didn’t skip a beat from preseason exhibition success and pressed right off the bat. They created a corner in the fourth minute after nice combination passing from Smith and Olivia Vaughn, and that in turn led to the game’s first goal. BC midfielder Jill Jennings delivered a through ball that snuck through everyone and landed at the feet of Agresti, who calmly buried her first goal of the year with a right-footed finish at the far post.
After that, however, the Eagles struggled to create much offensively. The visitors almost equalized with 22 minutes to go in the half—but Michela Agresti came up huge, slide tackling a Minutewomen forward in the box. Vaughn had a chance for BC a little bit later, but was denied by a similar tackle, and the two teams went into the break with the Eagles holding a 1-0 edge.
Vaughn had a golden opportunity called back due to an offside call after a pass from transfer Alison Heckman just seven minutes into the second half, then just missed on getting a foot on a cross from teammate Gaby Careirro three minutes later. But, from then on, the game was largely controlled by UMass. The Minutewomen started to possess the ball more effectively and strung together more passes. It seemed as if they were going to break through eventually, and sure enough, they did.
With 23 minutes left in the match, UMass forward Melissa Kossler—who came off the bench—made a nice run onto a through ball before BC’s Sydney Moore sliced in and cleared it out for a corner. On the ensuing corner kick, Kossler found herself unmarked and settled the ball before burying it past Eagles keeper Allie Augur to tie the game up at one apiece.
The intensity picked up, yet it wasn’t the hosts that had the momentum. UMass got a chance in the 68th minute via a Jenny Hipp free kick that went into the wall, then had three corner kicks in a 10-minute span. In the 85th minute, Hipp saw the ball land at her feet, but her effort off of the feed sailed far wide. Their inability to convert the chances they had—the Minutewomen piled up 14 shots with four on goal—would come back to haunt them.
With just under three minutes left on the clock, Vaughn got the ball near midfield and found Smith ahead. She touched the ball past UMass defender Fiona Kane—whom she had faced in high school—and found herself with a chance on net. Smith loaded up and rifled a shot in the bottom corner, beating Minutewomen keeper Peyton Ryan and scoring her third goal in as many games (albeit, two of which were exhibitions) under Lowe. It was an excellent finish for the freshman, who earned the starting job after Kayla Duran went down with a foot injury in the fall.
“I was just hoping Fiona [Kane] didn’t win it,” Smith told ESPN at the time. “It was really fun. We’re focusing on working as a team, and I just want to keep getting more.”
While it wasn’t the cleanest victory for Lowe’s side, it was still the first step for the first-year head coach. The Eagles started five freshmen, a remarkably high number, and will likely only grow from here. They won’t have much time to address the issues that cropped up against UMass, though, as BC welcomes in Massachusetts Lowell on Sunday in its second game of the season.
“I think for the five freshman we started it was a great learning experience,” Lowe said. “It’s difficult to win, and to stay dialed in for 90 minutes. We’ll take a lot away from this game and get better for Sunday.”
Featured Image Courtesy of John Quackenbos / BC Athletics