Sports, Fall, Women's Soccer

Second Half Surge vs. UNH Sends Eagles to Sixth Straight Win

Three of the first four wins this season for Boston College women’s soccer have followed a similar script: The Eagles would score in the first 10 minutes, staking themselves to an early lead that wouldn’t be topped. The last two victories, though, haven’t lacked drama.

On Sunday afternoon against New Hampshire, the Eagles were locked in a scoreless deadlock into the 60th minute. Then, in a flurry of offense, BC scored twice in the final 30 minutes and kept its record perfect with a 2-0 win.

The Eagles (6-0) got their chance to break the tie when Jillian Jennings’ defender kicked a little too high to block her shot, resulting in a free kick in a prime position. Jennings took the ensuing shot, but her initial effort was inches too wide and collided with the post. Sam Agresti was there to connect with the rebound, but UNH (3-3) goaltender Cat Sheppard anticipated her move. 

What the freshman keeper didn’t see coming, however, was Francesca Venezia. The Wantagh, N.Y., native was right there to meet Sheppard’s block, and she was able to sneak the ball for BC’s first goal of the afternoon and her first of her career. 

“I can’t say enough about [Venezia],” head coach Jason Lowe said of the senior, who scored the eventual game-winning goal after coming off the bench. “She’s worked so hard. She’s really earned the minutes she’s gotten so I’m really happy for her.” 

The Eagles doubled their lead with an insurance goal 16 minutes later. As the intensity began to ramp up in the closing minutes, BC made its move. Following a play that began deep in the Eagles territory, freshman forward Sam Smith was fed the ball by Mia Karras and turned her attention to Sheppard. Smith was able to successfully draw the goaltender from the box and snuck a shot behind Sheppard and with nothing but the open net to shoot on.

It was a quick turnaround in the latter stages of the second half, as BC didn’t look up to par in the early going. Twenty minutes into the game, it was clear that both teams were frustrated. The Eagles, used to posting at least one goal within the opening half, were held in check, while UNH was sprinting to keep up to a team that’s faster than them. 

The game started on a promising foot, though. BC took charge as soon as the whistle blew, testing the Wildcats’ defense early. The Eagles brought the pressure to UNH with a shot by Olivia Vaughn that was immediately followed by a corner kick from Gaby Carreiro in the opening minutes of the frame.

BC almost took an early lead after Emily Langenderfer fed Smith, but the freshman’s shot sailed wide, leaving the score at an unnerving 0-0. Vaughn was able to pull away from a UNH defender and take a shot midway through the half, but Sheppard jumped to deflect it. With just minutes left in the half, Gianna Mitchell was subbed in, and looked to be the Eagles’ saving grace. Mitchell had scored in every game she’d appeared in this season, and BC was looking to continue the trend. 

Despite the junior’s impressive start to the 2019 campaign, the Eagles weren’t able to connect by the time the buzzer went off. While the first 45 minutes saw glimmers of hope for the Eagles, they weren’t able to crack Sheppard. But there was a silver lining to the team’s inability to convert chances: UNH was having the same problem. The Wildcats were missing passes and committing turnovers, which created a cushion for BC to refocus. 

Only frustration was generated after 45 minutes of scoreless play, and after Mitchell was fed a corner kick by Langenderfer that went wide in the final seconds, it was easy to see why. Sloppy passes, multiple fouls called on the Eagles, and an offense stretched too thin stopped BC from pulling ahead in the first half, and both teams headed off the field without a goal. 

The Eagles decided to shake things up in the second half, switching out Allie Augur for Maddie Murphy in goal. BC came out aggressive to open the latter period of play—it kept the ball within the Wildcats’ zone and consistently tested Sheppard in front of the net. Eventually, the Eagles overpowered their visitors and ended the day with a comfortable two-goal win.

With six straight victories to start out the season—it’s fifth such start since 1981—the team seems ready for rival Providence on Thursday, but Lowe knows there’s work to be done.

“We need a much faster start on Thursday,” he said. “We weren’t super clean to begin with and we weren’t super clean to end with. Providence is a way tougher opponent, and we have to be ready.”

Featured Image by Delaney Vorwick / For The Heights

September 8, 2019