When you’re the best player on the field, you can afford to gamble.
During Tuesday night’s game against the University of Connecticut (3-1-3, 0-0 AAC), Boston College (5-2-0, 1-1 ACC) midfielder Zeiko Lewis, by far the most talented player on the pitch, took a few risks on his way to scoring two goals in a 3-1 victory.
All night, high press from the Eagles put the UConn defense on its heels. Looking uncomfortable on the ball, the Huskies created four chances for BC in the first half off of their own mistakes. Lewis, while flying around the field, put himself in the right position to pounce onto two of those misplayed balls.
Anticipating a mistake from the defense in the opening minutes, Lewis jumped behind the defensive line and capitalized off a poor back pass to goalie Scott Levene. He only needed two touches to get around the goalie and passed the ball into the net with ease.
Later on, at the half-hour mark, the Bermudan national player once again snuck onto the ball after a missed header from the Huskies. Toby Ampadu sent a long ball out of the back in the direction of Simon Enstrom, who looked offside. With the defender unable to clear with his head, the ball fell to the oncoming Lewis, who was in on goal and put it away, giving the Eagles a three-goal lead.
Lewis rounded off his man of the match performance with an assist to Trevor Davock for the Eagles’ second strike of the game.
Following a corner in the 25th minute, the ball fell to Lewis on the endline just outside the box and he put one back into the mixer. The ball found Davock in traffic, who managed the niftiest of flicks to put the ball far post, past the keeper.
Lewis has moved into a central position in the midfield after starting the season out wide. He admitted he has been playing much better now than he was at the start, largely due to the support he has from the two midfielders—usually Henry Balf and Abe Bibas—behind him. With four teammates directly at his back, Zeiko can move into the heart of the defense more freely, and he can take those risks that lead to chances knowing that there will be defenders behind him.
The 4-1-4-1 formation that head coach Ed Kelly introduced this season is paying off for the attack. With four at the back, Bibas in a destroyer role in front of the backline, and Balf providing a calm in the middle, the likes of Lewis, Enstrom, Davock, and a now-healthy Ike Normesinu can charge forward at will.
“At times, it was electric,” Kelly said. “We were explosive.”
While still sporting a lineup filled mostly with freshmen and sophomores, the more experienced players on the team are coming back into the fold. Normesinu, last year’s leading scorer, has taken Lewis’ original spot in the outside midfield.
The fifth-year senior Ampadu has also made a positional switch from defensive midfield to center back, taking the spot of the freshman Emanuel Estrada. Kelly stressed the importance of Ampadu’s experience as Estrada adjusts to the college game. Ever vocal, Ampadu subdued the Huskies’ attack with strength on the ball and was “the best player on the field,” in Kelly’s opinion.
Most notably, Alex Kapp started his first game of the year and did not look out of place, coming up with veteran saves on a couple occassions. UConn’s only goal of the game came in the 63rd minute off the leg of Alex Sanchez. A rocket of a shot from distance, Kapp could do nothing about it.
If only for a moment, the Huskies looked like they could claw their way back into the game after coming out strong in the second half.
Kapp and the other returners making their way back into the mix will be vital as the Eagles look towards top-notch ACC competition on the schedule. While this freshman class has certainly added a serious explosiveness to the team, inexperience will hurt the Eagles against the toughest teams.
“Sometimes we get a little bit—not cocky—but we are goofing around and flicking, trying to do stuff,” Kelly said. “We just have to play direct.”
Post game, the team, coaches included, is lax and goofing around, which is to be expected after a win. This win is especially big, as UConn holds a 31-8-3 series advantage of the Eagles dating back to 1974. The mark of a truly great team, though, is to be loose as possible off the field, but determined and mentally in it come game time.
With Lewis coming into his own and older players seeing more minutes, the Eagles are starting to have the right mixture of young talent and experienced leadership.
This volatile combination of qualities has the Eagles in a great spot to take some gambles, which, after tonight, will likely pay off.
Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Editor