Ask any soccer coach or player what the toughest lead to hold is, and the answer is automatic: 2-0. After a dominant first half, highlighted by two unassisted goals from senior captain Stephanie McCaffrey, the Boston College women’s soccer team found itself in that position and seemingly in the driver’s seat. In a tale of two halves, however, the University of South Florida regained the momentum just after the break and went on to win 3-2, snapping the Eagles’ six game win streak.
Just 31 seconds into the game, a miskick from a USF defender fell to McCaffrey on the left side of the field, who broke inside and ripped a shot into the top corner for a goal, her fifth of the season. The Bulls responded well by pressing hard, and senior holding midfielder Demi Stokes looked strong on the ball, but USF failed to do anything in the final third, forcing through balls and giving away possession more often than not.
In the 15th minute, a defensive misplay nearly cost USF again, this time due to miscommunication between goalie and defender. The keeper was forced to come out and head the ball back into pressure, but the Eagles could not find the open net.
Neither team had many quality opportunities in front of goal, but the Eagles made the most of their few chances. In the 26th minute, McCaffrey notched her sixth goal of the year and doubled the Eagles’ lead with another stunning solo effort, this time beating the keeper with a low, hard shot to the opposite corner from just inside the box.
The Bulls immediately brought in backup goalie Kat Elliott, who didn’t see too much action for the remainder of the half. BC failed to get leading scorer Hayley Dowd and top midfielder Lauren Bernard involved in much of the play, with only McCaffrey standing out in the first 45 minutes. The half ended with BC up two.
Five minutes into the start of the second half, Bulls defender Cristina Ferral scored the coveted third goal of the game, stunning the Eagles for her first of the season. She received a pass off a short corner from midfielder Olivia Chance and whipped a ball in toward the goal, which beat BC’s Alex Johnson and dipped under the bar, finding the side netting.
“It was a very uncharacteristic goal for us, to have it go in directly off a corner,” said BC head coach Alison Foley. “I think we got a bit shell-shocked, and I don’t think our response to that was very good.”
With the visitors now in control, USF’s leading goalscorer Leticia Skeete tied the game up 30 seconds later with a left-footed shot from distance that curled inside the far post, bringing her season tally to four.
The tide of the game continued to turn in favor of the Bulls when Johnson went down with an injury after colliding with Skeete in the 62nd minute, forcing freshman backup Darien Dunham, who has only played 13 minutes this year, to enter the game with the score tied and her team on the defensive. She was immediately called into action and came up with a big save, sliding to deny USF midfielder Sarah Miller a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
For the next 10 minutes, the Eagles had control over the run of the play. McCaffrey continued to be the Eagles’ lone offensive threat, winning a corner and then a free kick from the corner of the box, but BC couldn’t convert.
USF eventually netted the winner in the 78th minute off a corner kick, when a ball sent in from Stokes found an unmarked Miller’s head at the penalty spot, with the senior easily heading in the goal.
The Eagles nearly equalized in the final minutes, but a looping header off a corner that went back across goal hit the woodwork, and USF was able to hold on for a 3-2 victory.
“Sometimes it’s the kiss of death to score so early,” Foley said.
Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff