By: Matt Doherty
As the ball was crossed towards the top of the Bucknell box, Boston University players and coaches were yelling for a handball against the opposition. The Terriers did not get the call and the ball bounced towards defender Chelsea Churchill. Churchill then gathered the ball and sent a spiralling shot to the top left corner of the net, past the full out dive from Bucknell goalkeeper Jessica Ratner.
Suddenly, the hand ball became forgotten and Churchill became the hero. The freshman from Carlsbad, Colorado, scored the game-winning goal in the 85th minute to break a scoreless tie and propel the BU Women’s Soccer Team to its third consecutive Patriot League Championship.
“She (Churchill) has been put in those situations before but hasn’t seen a boat load of minutes…but as soon as she gets in the game she’s in the flow and can make stuff happen, she’s a sparkplug and a great super-sub.” head coach Nancy Feldman said.
Leading up to the late game goal, the match had been a back-and-forth, high paced battle with both teams playing outstanding soccer. BU and Bucknell went into the match with the two best defenses in the conference and showed it throughout.
Both teams had a handful of chances earlier in the match to get on the scoreboard, especially BU in the second half. The Terriers outshot the Bison 22-4 and 12-2 on goal and had two great scoring opportunities from Alexandra Cooper in the second half but both of her shots hit the crossbar.
In the first half, Bucknell only lost the shot on goal battle 5-2 and had a 3-2 advantage in corner kicks. The Bison had a chance in the first half to make it 1-0 but Kendall Ham’s open shot nailed the crossbar. The two teams went into the half playing evenly matched soccer.
However, BU came out in the second half applying pressure on the offensive end and keeping star Bucknell striker Alexis Gannon from beating them.
“I told my team at halftime to keep the ball in front of us and contain number 22 because I thought she was going to create a goal. I also told them to keep poise and patience and keep attacking.” Feldman said.
The Terriers did a phenomenal job on Gannon and first-team all-Patriot League member Kendall Ham. PL Defender of the Year McKenzie Hollenbaugh battled through injury and helped shut down the Bison strikers.
Fellow senior Clare Pleuler also made plays all over the field to help the Terriers on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field. Pleuler’s efforts won her Patriot League Tournament MVP. After the game, Feldman talked about her midfielder.
“She’s gotten better every single game. Her talent is amazing and she grew in the area of defending and how many touches she needs to take. She loves to be on the ball and she’s kind of our engine, she sets the tempo and she’s done an incredible job.” Feldman said.
With Boston University taking so many shots on the net, it was a busy day for Bucknell goalie Jessica Ratner who recorded 12 saves. Ratner played an amazing game and kept her team in the match. The junior also lost her six consecutive match shutout streak in the defeat.
With the win, the Terriers improve to 12-5-3 on the season while Bucknell falls to 11-6-3. The win also means BU earns an automatic bid to NCAA Tournament. The Terriers will find out their pairing tomorrow afternoon when the selection show takes place.
For right now though, Coach Feldman’s team can celebrate their third straight Patriot League Championship and their 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 11 seasons after the exciting victory at Nickerson Field.