When Boston College women’s soccer lost the duo of Jenna Bike and Kayla Duran to season-ending injuries, the Eagles seemingly faced a reckoning on offense. Head coach Jason Lowe was turning to a freshman in Sam Smith and a tenured forward recovering from an injury in Olivia Vaughn to shoulder a larger burden. After Sunday evening’s game against Massachusetts Lowell, though, BC appears to be just fine.
Vaughn, who sat out the whole spring due to injury, scored twice and tacked on an assist for good measure, and Smith and newcomer Alison Heckman rounded out the scoring as the Eagles built a four-goal first half lead and coasted to a 4-1 win over the visiting River Hawks. While Vaughn was restricted to 51 minutes with the lead comfortably in hand, her performance was nothing short of impressive and bodes well moving forward.
“I didn’t play at all,” Vaughn told the ACC Network about the spring and her quick start to 2019. “I just think practice and getting in shape over the summer—it was a really long recovery for me and I think just staying true to myself and just staying with my fitness and working hard.
The team really pushes me as well. It’s hard to go against some of the defenders.”
Her first goal came at the 4:48 mark and was a gorgeous right-footed volley off a cross from teammate Riley Lochhead, who has impressed as the team’s starting left back. Lochhead, along with right back Mia Karras, both push up the wings in Lowe’s system and have been able to create chances in the early going.
Less than three minutes later, in the seventh minute, Vaughn set up Smith to double the Eagles’ (2-0) lead. She deftly fed the freshman in on goal, and Smith slid in front of UMass Lowell (0-2) goaltender Lauren Huff and touched the ball into the cage. It was another hot start from BC, which also scored in the fourth minute in Thursday’s win over Massachusetts.
But the Eagles didn’t let up, pushing forward and making things difficult for Huff. Jillian Jennings nearly had an assist on a good ball from a free kick, and Michela Agresti had a strong through ball that nobody on BC could get a foot on. In the 26th minute, however, it was Vaughn once again registering her name on the scorecard.
This time around, Karras set up the scoring opportunity, as she deftly fed Vaughn the ball into the River Hawks’ penalty box. Vaughn ended up taking a shot from a tricky angle but Huff—one of four UMass Lowell players in contention for the starting job—wasn’t able to contain it, and it slipped through to the back of the net. It was the fifth career brace for Vaughn, who had made the most of a tight angle and cited cohesive play as the reason for her good game.
“I think during practice we focused on defending and high pressing and swarming the ball and having a lot of numbers on the ball,” she explained. “We worked really closely as a team and that contributed to our quick goals and going forward.”
Ten minutes later, BC added one more for good measure. In a half where it outshot its visitors by a 9-1 margin, the Eagles scored their fourth goal as the product of a rebound. Karras again slotted a pass through the River Hawks’ back line and Francesca Venezia, who entered in the 30th minute for a tired Vaughn, took a hard shot. Huff blocked it, but it bounced to the waiting feet of another substitute in Alison Heckman, and she tucked home her first goal with BC since transferring from James Madison.
“We talked a lot about moving the ball,” Lowe said at halftime. “On Thursday we gave the ball to UMass a ton. Good things happen when we keep the ball.”
At the break, UMass Lowell subbed in Farre O’Shaughnessy at goalie, and she went on to have a scoreless half. The River Hawks played tougher as the Eagles’ seemed to take their foot off the gas, and it eventually resulted in a goal for the visitors. It took an impressive combination in the 63rd minute from Cristina Blaya and Lily Fabian, as UMass Lowell had largely been contained by a stout BC back line.
Blaya spotted Fabian making a run, and sent the ball ahead for her teammate to get it. Fabian got there before BC goalie Maddie Murphy—in competition with Thursday’s starter Allie Augur for the starting role—could close the angle, and she sent a hard low shot into the back of the net.
The goal was followed by a plethora of substitutions from the Eagles, and the game as a whole featured plenty of different faces. Arguably the most positive appearance belonged to BC’s Gianna Mitchell, who came on with four minutes left in the first half. Mitchell was the team’s leader in minutes last season at centre back, but tore her ACL at the end of the year and was just recently cleared for game action. She didn’t feature in the second half, but it was a good sign for a team that is currently starting two freshman centre backs.
All in all, nine players made their way off the bench for Lowe’s side. He likely won’t have that luxury next Thursday when rival Boston University comes to town, though. The Terriers are winless on the year, having drawn Denver and lost to Colorado, but won 11 games last year and are aiming to end a five-year skid against their crosstown rivals.
Featured Image by John Quackenbos / Courtesy of BC Athletics