On Sunday afternoon, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top defenses faced off in what would prove to be the physical, back-and-forth matchup everyone expected. Boston College women’s soccer, boasting one of the stingiest defenses in the country, had allowed just three goals total in its first nine games, and were looking to continue its hot streak against another stifling defense in No. 7 Florida State.
The Seminoles were the only ACC team ahead of BC in goals allowed, having conceded just two thus far in 2018. While the Noles defense might statistically have been better coming into the contest, the Eagles boasted the better offense, having scored 24 goals on the season, compared to FSU’s 22. This game looked to be about as even as could be on paper, but BC managed to come out on top by a score of 2-1 in a hard-fought win.
The first half went as predicted, a back-and-forth defensive battle with very few chances for either sides. Both teams had similar gameplans from the beginning, attempting to launch balls over the top and send players sprinting after them in attempts to get in behind the defense. The strategy proved futile at first, as neither team bent, using a combination of great aerial play and intelligent high defensive lines to keep the forwards on both sides at bay. A combined nine shots were taken in the half, with only four on target, two by each side.
The Eagles (10-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast) dominated possession early on, keeping the ball in FSU’s half consistently, but getting shots off was no easy task. BC did win three corner kicks—which are responsible for a large chunk of its scoring thus far—but were unable to convert on any of them. As the half continued, however, the Seminoles (8-2-1, 1-2) started to level the opportunities. They abandoned their gameplan of going over the top, instead using short passes and sharp cuts to move BC defenders and create space to attack. Still, the Eagles back line held strong, allowing only one corner and five shots total in the first half.
The first real chance in the game came with about 15 minutes left to play in the half, as an FSU defender passed the ball back to goalkeeper Brooke Bollinger. The redshirt freshman accidentally picked up the ball, either thinking it was touched by a BC attacker or just automatically grabbing. The resulting free kick was quickly taken by Sam Coffey in an effort to catch the Seminoles off guard. She laid it off to Jenna Bike, who had an excellent look at goal, but her first shot was blocked by Bollinger and her second went wide. Later in the half, a through ball into Carly Leipzig gave the senior forward a chance, but her shot was saved by Bollinger, which kept the game scoreless at halftime.
The second half was more aggressive than the first, with hard tackles coming from both sides. After zero yellow cards were given in the first half, two were given out in the second, one for each team. The referees seemed to have lost control of the game, with both teams pushing the limits of what they could get away with. To make up for this, at the end of the second half the officials began making questionable calls, which clearly frustrated both sets of coaches and players.
While the aggression amped up, so did the action. Only three minutes into the second half, Bike was dragged down in the box and awarded a penalty. Gaby Carreiro stepped up to the spot and converted the kick, coolly placing it into the bottom left corner—just out of the reach of Bollinger, who guessed right—and giving BC a 1-0 lead. The Eagles fed off of their lead, dominating possession for a while.
The pendulum swung back in the Seminole’s favor, though. After a strong push on the attack, FSU midfielder Jaelin Howell was tackled in the box 10 minutes later, but it was a surprising no-call. FSU’s players, clearly upset, upped the tempo again and kept the pressure up as they sought a tying goal. When Deyna Castellanos was sandwiched between two BC defenders and went down in the box, the referee had no choice but to point to the spot, and Castellanos herself placed the spot kick in the top corner, tying the game.
This lead was short-lived. Less than a minute later, Bike was put through on goal thanks to a fabulous over-the-top pass from Emily Langenderfer. She deftly placed her shot over the keeper and into the top right corner to give the Eagles the lead they would not relinquish. It was a fitting game-winning goal for Bike, who was a headache for the FSU defense throughout the entire game.
A final Seminole charge was squandered on a fantastic kick save from Eagles goalie Alexis Bryant with less than a minute to play in the game, sealing yet another shutout. As the whistle blew, the team mobbed Bryant in celebration of a tough victory.
“She’s a leader,” BC head coach Alison Foley said of her senior goaltender. “She reads the game so well it’s like having another coach back there.”
Foley also lauded the toughness of her team as the game got more physical in the second half, arguing that her team had the edge when games take the inevitable dive into cheap tackles and aggressive runs.
“I think that plays into our favor,” she said. “We’re a tougher team than [Florida State]…We can bump, and hit, and run with the best of them.”
BC is the only undefeated team remaining in the ACC, something few saw coming at the start of the season. The talent was clearly there, but question marks around underclassmen shouldering big roles and players returning from injury saw the Eagles come in at 10th in the preseason conference poll. Now, they’re surely a new addition to the top-25 poll when the next rankings come out, and enter the final eight games of the conference slate with unbridled confidence after claiming their second ranked win of the year.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor