With three minutes left to play in the first overtime period of Sunday’s matchup against No. 14 University of South Florida (11-6-3, 5-1-2 AAC), Boston College freshman Simon Enstrom received a tailor-made through ball just outside the six-yard box from Len Zeugner.
Enstrom, the Eagles’ points leader and recent ACC All-Freshman Team honoree, was the hero for the Eagles (11-7-1, 4-4-0 ACC) last Thursday as he sent them to the second round with a game-winner at home against Vermont. With a chance at deja vu on the road against the Bulls, the Swede opted instead to go the unselfish route, laying the ball back into open space at the outskirts of the penalty box. All eyes cut back in anticipation. No one was there.
A minute later, he had a shot at redemption.
Junior midfielder Zeiko Lewis broke free about 20 yards away from the goal, drawing attention away from Enstrom on the right side. Lewis tapped him a quick pass, and, this time, Enstrom didn’t hesitate. The forward wound up and struck a screaming one-timer to the far post to lift BC to a 2-1 overtime victory and its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2009.
The biggest play before Enstrom’s emphatic finish came courtesy of Randy Cook—not an Eagle or a Bull, but the head referee. After a skirmish left BC midfielder Joshua Forbes writhing in pain on the pitch, the pinstriped official jogged over to issue a yellow card to USF’s Lindo Mfeka. Following a brief exchange of words, Cook changed his mind and pulled out the red card, leaving the Bulls to finish the match with only 10 players.
The game-altering decision forced USF to drop its entire team back behind midfield to protect against the Eagle attack. But a combination of poor passing and exceptional defense kept the game scoreless well into the second half. In the 74th minute, Atombra Ampadu lobbed a deep cross to Isaac Normesinu at the back post, who nailed a volley from close range over the head of the Bulls’ keeper for a 1-0 lead. Normesinu, a junior who led the team in goals last year, notched his first goal of the season after struggling to get playing time because of personnel changes and injuries.
USF responded by adding two additional forwards in its desperate search for an equalizer. With just under two minutes remaining in regulation, the Bulls saw their best chance at scoring in the form of a throw-in deep in Eagle territory. The toss found Kendan Anderson in the far corner one-on-one against BC’s Abe Bibas. Bibas attempted a tackle at the edge of the box, but was beat goal-side as Anderson streaked into the heart of the Eagle defense. Zeugner stepped up to help, but the speedy USF striker ran around the 6-foot-4 German. Before a third BC defender could try his hand, Anderson found a cutting Prosper Figbe for the finish, tying the game at 1-1.
The improbable comeback was amplified by the fact that Figbe wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the goal in the first place. The freshman defender was only called upon to play forward to fill the void left by the ejection of Mfeka. In fact, it was Figbe’s first collegiate goal—and probably one of only a handful the back will amass in his time at USF.
The deadlock continued into overtime with the Bulls hoping for two scoreless periods in extra time and a chance for penalty kicks, where they could escape their crippling disadvantage in numbers. Enstrom, however, ended any shot of a PK shootout with his goal in the 98th minute, his ninth of the season and fifth game-winner of the year.
The win advances the Eagles to the Sweet Sixteen against No. 2 Georgetown, a powerhouse Big East program coming off a recent 3-0 victory against Hofstra in the second round. If the Eagles want any chance of pulling off another upset, they will need to capitalize on their goal-scoring opportunities—much more so than they did Sunday against an undermanned USF squad. BC totaled 15 shots, yet had nothing to show for them until late in the second half.
The Eagles will also need to be more disciplined, as they racked up three yellow cards during a very physical contest. These cards weren’t assessed for hard tackles or rough collisions in the air, however—these penalties were the result of unnecessary shoves and similar blunders that exhibited BC’s youth and unruliness.
Regardless, the Eagles will present a challenge to Georgetown when they meet next Sunday with a quarterfinal appearance on the line. Enstrom has already had two signature slides during the tournament as part of his post game celebrations of game-winning goals. Perhaps a third could spoil the Hoyas’ hopes of winning their first national championship.
Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Editor