For most soccer matches, the box score does an adequate job of highlighting key plays and turning points. That was not the case on Sunday in Newton, as Boston College women’s soccer found itself on the wrong side of a controversial officiating decision and fell to the University of Virginia by a final count of 4-2.
Early in the second half, with the Eagles trailing the No. 2 Cavaliers 2-1, forward Hayley Dowd collected a lofted through ball from the midfield and jetted down the center of the pitch toward the goal with two Virginia defenders hot on her tail. A few steps inside the box, right as Dowd was gearing up to shoot, a Cavalier slid from behind to poke the ball away but instead took out the junior’s legs, causing her to collapse violently to the turf.
No whistle. No red card. No penalty kick.
“Play on!” referee Lance VanHaitsma said.
“If he makes the call it’s a whole different game,” head coach Alison Foley said. “I’m never one to say anything about a referee, but that was bad. That was bad.”
Foley pressed on, suggesting that VanHaitsma’s decision to swallow the whistle prevented the unfolding of a new match dynamic.
“If you get what you earned, which is a red card and a PK, it’s 2-1, you get the PK, it’s 2-2,” Foley said. “Then you’re playing up a man at home. I’ll take our chances. That’s how quickly things can change from a decision or a lack of decision.”
ACC soccer isn’t played in an alternate world, and the reality is that Virginia far outplayed BC from start to finish.
In fact, it only took 58 seconds for the Cavaliers to draw first blood. A misplayed ball by BC senior defender Madison Meehan found its way to the right boot of Virginia’s Makenzy Doniak, who bent a shot to the far post, past the outstretched wing of goalkeeper Alexis Bryant.
A short seven minutes later, the Cavaliers extended that lead to two goals when midfielder Alexis Shaffer ripped a beauty to the bottom left corner from 24 yards out.
Giving the opposition a two-goal buffer to kick off the match is never a recipe for success, and wins are even tougher to come by when that opposition is the No. 2 team in the nation.
“Sometimes it takes us a little bit to get settled, and I think it took us awhile to get settled in the first half,” said Dowd, who notched her eighth goal of the season in the 20th minute after swiping a soft Virginia pass back to the goalkeeper. “Once we gave up those first two goals and scored, I think we settled down a bit, but by then it was a bit too late.”
Redshirt junior McKenzie Meehan headed home her 12th goal of the season in the 87th minute––mere seconds after Virginia had once more widened the gap to two goals––but needed to be carried off the field by trainers after exacerbating a left knee injury sustained in the first half.
“For her to ask to come off the field is a concern,” Foley said. “But I don’t think it’s structural. I think she’ll be okay. It appears at this moment to be a hematoma, so there’s some swelling there.”
The initial injury came in the 32nd minute, when Meehan collided with a Virginia center back as the two chased after a loose ball in the middle of the field. The Cavalier defender’s shin speared Meehan’s knee, and the Eagles’ leading goal-scorer crumpled to the ground, clutching at her leg.
The crowd, including a sizable Virginia contingent, held its collective breath as the BC star, who missed all of last season with a torn left achilles tendon, cried to the sideline for help, a look of fear and devastation sweeping across her usually-stoic face.
However, after a careful examination by the athletic trainer, Meehan made it off the field under her own power, albeit at a gingerly pace.
Though BC kept it close for much of the afternoon, Virginia controlled the game’s tempo and outshot the Eagles 23-6. Goalkeeper Alexis Bryant tallied 10 saves, while Cavaliers netminder Morgan Stearns, whose sister Amber starts in the midfield for BC, turned away only one of the three shots that she faced.