Boston College men’s soccer had an opportunity to break two long-standing streaks that it currently holds in its matchup against North Carolina in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday.
Entering the matchup, BC hadn’t just not won an ACC Tournament game since its victory over the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament on Nov. 16, 2016. It also hadn’t won a conference game on the road since then.
But as BC stepped on the field in Chapel Hill attempting to break both streaks, forward Ernest Bawa and North Carolina (8–4–5, 2–2–4 Atlantic Coast) had other ideas. The Eagles (4–7–5, 1–4–3) tallied only five shots all game in a 1–0 loss to North Carolina that not only ended BC’s season but continued both losing streaks another year.
BC goalkeeper Brennan Klein tallied five saves and kept the Eagles in the game for 90 minutes.
“Brennan [Klein] is a great keeper,” head coach Bob Thompson said. “I honestly think he’s one of the best keepers in the ACC. He was injured in the spring and summer, but since he’s been healthy he’s been one of the best in the league.”
Bawa finally beat Klein with eight minutes to go in the match on a perfectly placed header off a corner kick. The Eagles’ players could only watch as he backflipped in celebration after spoiling their chances, with overtime looking like a near certainty just minutes before.
BC played defensively for most of the game. Despite having the ACC’s top goal scorer in Stefan Sigurdarson, the Eagles failed to get anything going on offense, and Sigurdarson didn’t take a single shot in the game.
Prolonged possession was a rarity for the Eagles throughout the game, and it often felt like the entire game had been played in BC’s territory.
“We wanted to get much more pressure on the ball defensively and hold more possession than we did,” Thompson said.
This offensive deficiency resulted in the Eagles failing to get a shot on goal until 45 seconds remained in the game. The only save that Tar Heels goalkeeper Marco Saborio-Perez had to make was a challenging one, as he fully extended to make a diving stop on Diego Ochoa’s rocket that seemed like it was destined for the top corner of the net.
Unlike the Eagles, North Carolina was successful in getting the ball to Bawa, its most dynamic offensive player.
Bawa was a thorn in the side of BC all night, creating several chances that looked sure to give the Tar Heels the lead. BC goalkeeper Brennan Klein, however, was up to the task for almost all of Bawa’s attacks.
North Carolina attempted to tip a shot from Milo Garvanian into the net, but the ball sailed over the crossbar, keeping the score tied at 0–0 with 10 minutes to play.
Bawa broke the stalemate two minutes later with a perfectly placed header.
Despite a couple more attacking chances from the Eagles, including Ochoa’s nearly equalizing strike as well as midfielder Camilo Ponce’s shot-that-never-was in which he failed to get around North Carolina’s defense in an open-net situation, BC left the field to end yet another season without an ACC tournament win.
But this one was about as close as it had ever come.
“Our style of play has started to change,” Thompson said of the progress BC has made since he took over the head coaching job in 2020. “We’ve had more control in these ACC games than we’ve had in the past, and the culture of the team has taken strides. I’m super proud of the character of the group. They’re amazing kids.”