Boston College women’s soccer could sniff a victory on the road against a ranked opponent. The Eagles could feel an end to their five-game winless streak, which featured four losses to stiff ACC competition. Holding a 1-0 lead over No. 25 Virginia Tech with less than 15 minutes left in the game, BC just needed to hold on.
But Kelsey Irwin had other ideas.
The graduate defender, who had tallied just one goal entering Thursday, netted two free kicks for the Hokies in the game’s waning minutes, securing the 2-1 victory after BC’s defense had kept them off the board for the whole game up to that point. While Virginia Tech (11-3-2, 3-3-2 Atlantic Coast) boasted a 20-10 advantage in shots, it was a deflating finish to an encouraging game for an Eagles (8-6-2, 1-6-1) defense that had entered the contest fourth-worst in the ACC with 1.4 goals allowed per game.
The first half featured a back-and-forth 45 minutes that did not see many attacking chances on either end. The Hokies had the first opportunity, with Emmalee McCarter just chipping the ball over the crossbar in the fifth minute of play.
BC fought back, getting three shots off in the ninth minute, as it kept the ball inside the 18-yard box—the attempts came from Olivia Vaughn, Sam Smith, and Gianna Mitchell. None of the Eagles’ shots would reach the area of Virginia Tech goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn, though, as two were blocked and the third trickled to the left of the target. These would be the only three shots that BC’s offense would muster in the first half, compared to nine for the Hokies.
The second half kicked off with an overpowering Virginia Tech attack. The Hokies kept the ball in their attacking third for nearly the entire first 20 minutes of the second frame. BC’s defense and goalkeeper Maddie Murphy, however, proved to be up to the task. The sophomore netminder had appeared in just two games prior to Thursday, but earned the start after freshman Allie Augur had allowed at least two goals in each of the past five contests.
Murphy had four saves on the game and played confidently and aggressively on a myriad of Virginia Tech crosses and long balls. In the 51st minute, she athletically poked away a sinking header from Nicole Kozlova to keep the score even, and kept out another shot from Mikalya Mance five minutes later.
Counterattacking against the run of play in the 70th minute, it was BC that would find the back of the net first on Thursday night. Vaughn was taking on a Hokies defender in the middle of the field when she skillfully laid the ball off to Gaby Carreiro, who was streaking down the left side. With a defender at her back, the senior captain dribbled up to the six-yard box, and as she fell to the ground, swung her left foot under the ball and chipped it over McGlynn inside the far post for her fourth tally on the season.
While BC’s defense was getting tired from the barrage of Hokies shots, it was holding firm, but the Eagles were also defending and tackling very aggressively. A number of challenges in the box were timed just right, knocking the ball away instead of conceding penalty kicks. However, in the final 15 minutes of the game, two attempted tackles that missed their mark spelled BC’s doom.
In the 76th minute, after a foul just outside the box, two Hokies lined up over the ball for a 22-yard free kick attempt. After the first was a decoy, Irwin planted her left foot and struck the ball with pace and curve over the wall. Murphy could only watch as the ball sailed into the top left corner of the net, knotting the scoreline at a goal apiece.
Nearly 10 minutes later in the 84th minute, it was deja vu all over again for head coach Jason Lowe’s Eagles. A foul slightly further away than the first set up another set-piece opportunity for Virginia Tech, and Irwin was locked in. This time, she fired a line drive that lasered past BC’s defense and nestled into the top left corner to take the decisive lead. With so little time left on the clock, the Hokies simply controlled the ball and coasted to the finish line, sealing the comeback victory.
Now with just two ACC matches left in the regular season, BC really needed a victory against the Hokies to help their case for a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Eagles have yet to win against a ranked opponent this year, but will get another chance on Sunday afternoon in Charlottesville against No. 1 Virginia. While a win is unlikely, Lowe’s crew will have everything to play for in hoping an upset is in the cards.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff