Zeiko Lewis can’t remember ever playing as well as he is right now.
Lewis has scored four goals in four games for the Eagles since the postseason starting. The senior netted two against Virginia Tech to force OT in the first round of the ACC Tournament, and then scored the game-winner against UNC in the quarterfinals. His latest tally came in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in BC’s 1-0 win over Fordham on Thursday night.
While Lewis gets a lot of the credit for the win, BC (9-8-3, 3-3-2 Atlantic Coast) put in one of its best team performances of the year against the Rams (10-7-4, 5-2-1 Atlantic-10), taking the game to the visitors from the opening whistle.
“We usually come out flat and we usually let the other team dictate the game,” Lewis said. “But we came out and we put our mark on them from the beginning.”
After a strong week of practice, Trevor Davock got the starting nod up top over Simon Enstrom, and played well linking up with Lewis and Callum Johnson in the midfield. Right back Younes Boudadi had one of his best games for BC, getting on the ball early and often with lots of space down his side.
Within the first 15 minutes, that attack down the right side generated five good opportunities for BC. In the second minute, Davock collected the ball from deep and had space at the top of the box but shot right into the arms of Fordham goalie Rashid Nuhu. Two minutes later, Davock held the ball up on top of the box and laid it off to Callum for another Nuhu save. Lewis created two chances, dancing around defenders and feeding Davock twice, first for a Davock shot high and second a saved shot from Boudadi barrelling down the right side.
BC’s best chance of the half came in the 11th minute. Ike Normesinu deked past a defender on the endline and sent a lobbed cross into the box for an oncoming Johnson. The freshman midfielder hit a hard shot off the half-volley that deflected off a defender and was parried away by Nuhu.
“The ball movement was fantastic,” head coach Ed Kelly said. “We just moved it and moved it and moved it and moved it. It was the best soccer.”
Henry Balf, who has regained a starting spot as a deep-lying midfielder, was at his best as BC was able to move the ball around with ease. While a dynamic BC team generated lots of chances, however, they still had goal-scoring troubles and couldn’t find the back of the net. On a number of occasions, BC was too fancy around the goal, trying for one pass too many or opting for the harder shot from distance.
The Eagles’ missed opportunities nearly came back to bite them, as Fordham’s best chance came late in the half.
With the Rams’ first shot of the game, defender Joergen Oland got his his head to a corner kick, but his header bounced just wide of the post.
Fordham’s attack relied on its pair of German brothers, Jannik and Janos Loebe, the leading scorers for the Rams. With BC dominating the first half, the only chances would come off a quick counter led by the speedy Loebe brothers, who both showed an inability to take on multiple defenders at a time to generate some offense.
To start the second half, Kelly subbed in Enstrom for Davock, looking for something new to change the game. Right off the bat, Enstrom made an impact. Normesinu beat a defender with a beautiful touch off a long ball and played the ball across the goal to Enstrom, who took took a few touches before ripping a low shot at Nuhu.
Fordham stuck around and came out better in the second, getting its first shot on goal in the 54th minute from Jannik Loebe.
BC kept up with more of the same from the first half, creating a number of clear chances on goal. By the 54th minute, Nuhu had already tied his career high in saves.
Again, missed chances from Lasse Lehmann, Enstrom, and Lewis kept Fordham in the game—it nearly took the lead in the 78th minute with its best chance of the night. Midfielder Bart Dziedzic played in Tim Steuk behind the defense and into the right side of the box, but goalie Cedric Saladin came out and got an arm to the shot with a sliding save.
Saladin once again came up big for the Eagles, as he has had a knack for the big save. Even in a game where he had just three saves, he makes them count.
Four minutes later, Lewis broke the deadlock. Boudadi dribbled into the attacking third and laid off the ball to Enstrom out wide. With a quick deke, Enstrom beat his defender and got into the box down the endline before cutting back to an open Lewis who slotted home from close range.
Fordham still wouldn’t go away, and it took a goal-line clearance from Mohammed Moro and a scramble in front of net to preserve the BC victory.
In a conference featuring five of the top 10 teams in the country, the Eagles are aptly prepared for the big-time opportunities in the NCAA Tournament. BC showed its ability to rise to the occasion in a late-season run last season, and this playoff season has started more of the same as Lewis refuses to let his season end.
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff