With just 13 minutes left in Boston College women’s soccer’s final matchup of the year, North Carolina midfielder Bella Sember raced down the field, unopposed. The score was tied 1–1, and another goal for the No. 3 Tar Heels likely would have handed them the win.
BC goalkeeper Wiebke Willebrandt saved Sember’s first shot. But after knocking it away, she fell down to the ground. The ball rolled back to Sember, and with Willebrant unable to get back into position in such a short amount of time, Sember saw an opportunity and quickly took it.
Luckily, Willebrandt’s teammates were there to help her, specifically team captain and defender Claire Mensi. The Eagles were able to kick away not one, but two more attempted shots on goal by Sember, keeping the score at a 1–1 tie.
In its final game of the 2023 campaign, BC (3–9–6, 0–6–4 Atlantic Coast) notched its fourth straight tie with a 1–1 draw against North Carolina (10–0–8, 5–0–5). Despite ending their season on a 10-game winless streak, BC head coach Jason Lowe preached about the group’s commitment and resilience.
“I’m super proud of this group,” Lowe said. “I’m super proud of our seniors for holding this group together. A lot of teams tank when they’re out of [the playoffs], but this group fought all the way through.”
The first half got off to a quick start. In the first minute, North Carolina forward Maddie Dahlien recorded the first shot of the game. Willebrandt saved it, however, which marked her first of nine saves in the contest.
The Tar Heels proceeded to attempt five shots—only one was on target and required a save from Willebrandt—all while keeping BC at arm’s length and never letting the Eagles close enough to shoot.
A corner kick in the 31st minute, however, provided BC with the perfect opportunity to take the first goal of the game. The kick landed at the feet of forward Aislin Streicek, allowing her to nudge the ball past Tar Heel goalkeeper Emmie Allen.
“We believe we can score on anybody,” Lowe said. “We’re playing a really good team and it’s tough to protect the lead. … But I don’t think with this group it’s a surprise we score first.”
With BC in the lead at a score of 1–0, both sides felt pressure. North Carolina, yet again, showed BC no mercy with its defense, only allowing Streicek pass once for an attempted shot.
The Eagles also pushed back on the Tar Heels, only allowing them two shots in the final minutes of the first half, one of which was on target but saved by Willebrandt. The first half ended with no additional goals from either side, and BC remained in the lead from Streicek’s tally.
The second half began at a considerably slower pace, with the first shot on goal not made until the 49th minute. Mensi attempted a dead-center shot that Allen saved.
North Carolina forward Isabel Cox countered with a shot after a corner kick, but Willebrandt saved her team yet again and delayed the Tar Heels from their first goal.
It wasn’t until the 61st minute that the Tar Heels got on the scoreboard. Forward Ally Sentor stole the ball and sprinted up the field, all while dodging BC’s defense. Willebrandt couldn’t block Sentor’s ball as it sailed into the right side of the goal, just high enough to be out of Willebrandt’s reach.
Sentor gave North Carolina its first, and only, point of the game and tied the score with BC, 1–1.
The Eagles attempted an upset over the Tar Heels with a second goal but were always met with a strong and steady North Carolina defense. The Tar Heels kept the Eagles far away from the net, as BC was unable to attempt a shot on goal after Mensi’s in the 49th minute.
After BC’s defense derailed Sember’s multiple attempts in the 84th minute, each team played hard, pushing each other back with neither allowing the other team to score.
“We felt like we were playing our best soccer at the end, and it’s unfortunate that we didn’t pull it all together earlier in the season,” Lowe said. “We did a reset with four games left and said we would take points off of every team and we did.”
The match ended in a 1–1 tie, giving the Tar Heels their fifth conference tie as they head into the ACC Tournament. This game marked the end of the 2023 season for the Eagles as they did not have enough conference wins to advance into post-season play.
“I think [we have] a good foundation, and we needed to find out that we can be in these games,” Lowe said. “Obviously, the next step is we’ve got to win these games. We’re playing the kind of soccer we want. We just need to add some pieces and go from there,” Lowe said.