With three minutes left to play in Boston College women’s soccer’s match against Providence, it looked like the Eagles had a win in the bag. BC led, 1-0, thanks to a goal from Gianna Mitchell, and hadn’t conceded a goal since Sept. 1 at Princeton.
That shutout streak ended, though, at an incredibly inopportune time for the Eagles. Michela Agresti was whistled for a handball just outside the BC box, giving Providence a dangerous free kick opportunity that it took full advantage of. Angie Suaza delivered a cross into the box, and Hannah McNulty got her head on it. Her glancing header just barely crept over the goalline and through the arms of Eagles keeper Allie Augur, knotting the score at one. Three more minutes of regulation and two overtime periods were unable to separate the teams, and BC settled for a 1-1 draw—its first of the season—with the Friars.
“We had one player on our scouting report and that was 23 [McNulty],” Eagles head coach Jason Lowe remarked after the game. “We knew not to leave her open on corner kicks and we failed to match up with her.”
BC (6-0-1) has made a habit of starting quickly this season, but it was Providence (3-2-1) that created the first chance of the game. After some nice possession play from the Friars, a ball into the box found Amber Birchwell alone in space. The junior took a touch in the direction of the goal, and then hammered a shot toward the far post. Eagles goaltender Allie Augur was alert, though, and dove to her right to deflect the ball wide.
The freshman had to be aware of Providence counter-attacks throughout the half, and made another impressive save just before the break. A giveaway gave Kelsie Cummings an opportunity to shoot from outside the box, but Augur backpedaled to the goal line before leaping to tip the ball onto the crossbar to prevent the first goal of the game.
It didn’t take long for BC to get settled, however, and soon the team started to find space on the wings. The Friars dropped plenty of defenders behind the ball on a regular basis, leaving Olivia Vaughn, Gaby Carreiro, and the Eagles’ fullbacks plenty of room to deliver crosses. Unfortunately for the Eagles, a determined Providence defensive effort meant that many of BC’s deliveries into the box were met by a Friars body.
Mia Karras and Riley Lochhead both had crosses blocked, and Sam Smith managed to get on the end of one at the right post, but also saw her attempted shot deflected by a Providence defender. Carreiro had the best chance of the half, after a crossfield pass from Vaughn sailed all the way through the box, and into the redshirt senior’s feet. She took a touch to settle the ball, and unleashed a shot that caromed off the crossbar and out of play.
The Eagles’ other chances in the first half came from long range, but Karras and Jillian Jennings were both unable to find the target. Birchwell also missed a shot from outside the box, and the teams went into the break still scoreless. BC held an 11-5 advantage in shots, but had nothing on the scoreboard to show for it.
That all changed with the introduction of Mitchell after the break. The Eagles’ crosses into the box now had a true aerial threat to target, and it didn’t take long for BC to take advantage. Good combination play from Sam Smith—who shifted out to the left wing after Mitchell subbed in—and Lochhead, who has a team-high three assists in 2019, gave the latter space to deliver a cross, and the junior picked the perfect ball. Her lofted cross to the far post found Mitchell, who emphatically headed the ball into the bottom left corner to give the Eagles the lead. The goal just further emphasizes that BC has a diverse set of options in attack for the rest of the season, with Mitchell and Smith both providing a different sort of threat.
“Sam is more of a false nine and Gianna is more of a true center forward,” Lowe said when asked about their skill sets postgame. “[Mitchell] holds the ball up well and she’s a great heading target so it allows us to have a lot of different matchups.”
Mitchell’s opening goal should have given Providence an incentive to attack, but for the most part BC was able to limit the Friars’ chances. Olivia Lucia sent a wild effort well wide of the goal, and a corner kick with just eight minutes to play didn’t amount to anything. In fact, the Eagles arguably had the best chance to find the game’s next goal, but Smith sent a shot just over the crossbar from inside the box. That missed chance came back to haunt BC in a big way, after Agresti was whistled for handball and McNulty scored the equalizer.
Providence had a good chance to win the game when overtime started, but Augur corralled another header from McNulty, and the final whistle blew with neither team able to score a sudden-death winner.
In the end, it was a story of missed chances for the Eagles, especially in extra time. Jade Ruiters headed just wide off a corner kick, before Vaughn skied a shot over the bar in the dying moments. When the final whistle blew, BC had 22 shots to Providence’s 10.
“We talked about getting more shots, but then they gotta be ready for the moment to put it away when they get there,” Lowe said.
Certainly, the Eagles will have to be more clinical with their chances moving forward if they hope to sustain their excellent start to the season.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor