Behind Stout Defense, BC Upsets No. 8 Virginia in Charlottesville

boston college field hockey

Boston College field hockey entered Friday dead last in the ACC in goals allowed, and it wasn’t even close. The No. 17 Eagles sported a 2.44 goals against average, a full goal worse than every other team in the conference. Playing against No. 8 Virginia in Charlottesville would be a tough task for Sara Dwyer, the senior goalkeeper who was making just her second start of the season, a goalie switch induced by the five goals allowed by Joana Kennedy the game before.

But on Friday, BC’s defense showed that it did not care about its numbers or UVA’s high ranking, and Dwyer proved she was up to the task.

Dwyer made three clutch saves, and Fusine Govaert finished off a penalty corner that would mark the only goal scored in this defensive contest, en route to a 1-0 statement win. Head coach Kelly Doton’s team stifled the high-flying Cavaliers (8-3, 1-2) offense, holding them to just 10 shots, well below their season average of 15.4, and played especially well at not allowing the Cavaliers’ forwards to find space in attacking zones.

The first quarter opened with chances on both sides. BC (5-5, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) was eager to get back on the field after its heartbreaking loss to Saint Joseph’s, and it showed a plethora of energy early. In the first three minutes of the contest, the Eagles fired off five shots with the benefit of two penalty corners.

Jaime Natale and Margo Carlin each put a shot on net, but UVA goalkeeper Lauren Hausheer was up to the task, notching two saves to keep the ball out of the cage. After the initial surge, the Cavaliers’ offense and defense picked up, as they would create the space for four shots over the rest of the frame while holding BC shotless. 

Dwyer came up with a huge save off a penalty corner in diving out in front of the goal to stop a Sarah Ezechiels firecracker. The save kept the game scoreless, and both teams cranked up the defense from there.

After Dwyer’s save, both teams went 13 minutes without a shot. Both defenses also played without fouling, conceding nothing more than penalty corners. Dwyer came up with another save late in the first half, and BC’s best attempt of the half would come with just 12 seconds left on the clock, after Natale’s speed driving inside the semicircle drew BC’s fourth penalty corner of the match.

With so little time left on the clock, BC wasn’t afraid of a counterattack, so it sent nine attackers forward on the corner, and it paid off, as Darcy Clement delivered the ball to the semicircle where Carlin settled it for Govaert. The junior took a huge swing and lasered it straight off Hausheer and into the back of the net, sending BC into the break with a one-goal advantage.

“We have a lot of faith in Fusine,” Doton said at halftime, via the ACC Network. “We know [UVA has] a good defensive penalty corner unit, and we went with a straight ball.”

UVA’s offense came out explosive in the third quarter, creating a number of scoring chances and keeping the ball mostly in BC’s defensive end. In the first five minutes, the Cavaliers got off three shots and put one of them in the back of the cage, but it was called back due to a kicking violation on UVA’s attack.

It was a break for BC, but one that would be balanced out later on in the period when Charlotte von Huelson found herself alone with a point-blank chance on goal. Nearly halfway through the period, the freshman made a run that got her past all UVA defenders but the goalie, and she tried to go high. 

Ordinarily, the crossbar doesn’t come into play that often in college field hockey, but Huelson put so much loft on the ball that it caromed off the top frame of the goal and stayed out, keeping BC’s lead at one.

The Cavaliers would create two more chances, en route to outshooting the Eagles, 5-1, in the period, but Dwyer stayed strong and kept everything out.

The fourth quarter had been a point of struggle for BC, especially in the last two games, as BC had lost a pair of one-goal affairs as a result of last-minute deciding scores. On Friday, however, the Eagles’ defense that had struggled so much late in games delivered. 

Nursing the 1-0 edge, BC played keepaway for nearly the entirety of the frame. Its back line did the job, not allowing the Cavaliers to muster even a single shot, playing well as a cohesive unit. BC did what it could to keep the ball and advance it into the opposing half of play, and this limited UVA’s opportunities. The Eagles frustrated UVA, which kept trying to force the ball into attacking positions, but BC held firm and maintained the 1-0 lead.

The road upset over the top-10 Cavaliers was a huge decision for Doton’s crew. Despite the .500 record, the team has played better of late and could easily have been undefeated in the brutal ACC if not for Louisville’s late goal. BC will take on regional rivals Quinnipiac, Harvard, and Boston University next—and it’ll have to have a strong showing with a potential NCAA Tournament future in mind—before returning to the rigor of the ACC schedule.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor