By: Matt Doherty
In a battle between cross-town rivals, Boston University and Harvard provided a back and forth thriller on Tuesday night at Jordan Field, with neither team able to separate themselves from the other en route to a 2-2 draw.
Both teams came into their last non-conference game playing their best soccer of the season. The Terriers (4-10-1) had won four straight decisions while the Crimson (7-3-2) hadn’t lost a match since September 11th. However, it was the visiting team that came out striking first.
BU controlled the majority of the first half and found pay dirt in the 20th minute in an exhilarating sequence. After splitting through the defense, Harvard senior forward Margaret Purce found herself with a breakaway opportunity but BU goalkeeper Bridget Conway came out of the net to make a diving deflective save. The ball then bounced towards the net where Alivya Wimmer cleared it from the end line. On the ensuing possession, the ball was advanced to McKenna Doyle who found Kelly Park outside of the box. Park then ripped a shot that sailed right over Harvard goalkeeper Danielle Etzel to make it 1-0. It was the freshman from San Jose’s first collegiate goal.
The Terriers had two more promising chances in the first half when Hannah Wilcox and Erica Kosienski took shots from the left of the box that were saved by Etzel, keeping the contest at 1-0 going into the half.
In the second half, Harvard came out as the aggressor with the star forward Purce serving as the culprit of the attack. Just three minutes into the half, the U.S. Under-20 National Team member beat new BU goalkeeper Hannah Ciolek on a breakaway to tie the game at one apiece.
“When 16 is on the field it changes the whole dynamic of the game…She warmed into the match and once she gets going she’s a handful,” Head Coach Nancy Feldman said of Purce.
As Purce made her impact on the match, the Terriers responded with more resilience from their young players. When Jesse Shreck’s set piece from just outside the box was stopped by the Crimson defense, freshman Shannon Keefe stuck with the play and sent the loose ball into the back of the net to give BU a 2-1 advantage in the 64th minute. Keefe marked the second Terrier freshman to score their first collegiate on the evening.
“It’s fantastic,” Feldman said of the impact by her young offense. “We need some of these young players to step in, to be confident, and take in the opportunities.”
After Keefe’s goal seemed to be a breakthrough in the match, Harvard fought back minutes later with Purce leading the attack once again. This time, the Texas native found her fellow senior classmate Rachel Garcia on the wing. Garcia then sent a spiraling shot from 20 yards out to notch the game at two.
Both teams spent the next 25 minutes of regulation trying to find the go ahead goal. The Crimson controlled the latter half of the contest outshooting BU 22-4 in the second half but couldn’t capitalize on a game winner.
With a 2-2 tie after 90 minutes of regulation, the game headed to two 10 minute sudden death overtime periods. Just like the previous 45 minutes, Harvard found themselves with the ball in the attacking zone in the overtime periods. The Crimson had a couple of good looks but nothing to show for in OT. Their best opportunity came in the waning seconds of the contest. After Bridget Conway relieved Ciolek of her duties for the second overtime period, the senior made a diving save as the horn blew to preserve the tie.
Harvard outshot BU 27-11 in the game with Margaret Purce tallying 14 of those 27 shots. However, the shots on goal category was only 10-7 in favor of the Crimson. Nonetheless, the Terrier defense had their hands full with a dynamic attacking unit highlighted by a premier striker.
BU dealt with an offensive onslaught in the second half but was able to settle for a tie thanks to another goal line save by Wimmer and an all around steady defensive effort. Especially for a defensive unit that changed their system yesterday at practice in order to contain Purce and the Harvard offense.
“The defense was great,” Feldman said. “Thats a tough task playing a 3-back instead of a 4-back…Libby, Bloz, Liv, who came up with some amazing goal line stances… and then Mariah coming off the bench really helped us,” Feldman said.
After starting the season 0-10, the Terriers stretched their unbeaten streak to five games with the tie. BU is playing their best soccer of the season at the right time as the team is continuing to grow and improve game by game.
“Our defensive organization and our confidence has grown since the beginning of the season. I think that’s what we saw tonight. We saw a much more mature team and a much more confident team,” Feldman said.
Sitting in second place in the Patriot League with four league games remaining, the Terriers will head to Lehigh on Saturday in search of their fifth PL win of the season and to continue their second half surge.