By: Akshai Wadhwani October 14, 2017
BOSTON — The loss to Navy, which snapped the BU women’s five-match shutout streak, already seems far in the past. On Saturday, the Boston University women’s soccer team began a new shutout streak, conquering Loyola Maryland, 3-0, at a rainy Nickerson Field.
The victory helps anchor the Terriers (7-6-3, 4-1-1 PL) into fourth place in the Patriot League standings, with three matches to go in the regular season. BU also appears to be back to their shutout ways, with a two-match streak now established after their 1-0 win against Harvard on Wednesday.
Loyola (3-10-1, 0-5-1 PL) took a further blow to their chances of qualifying for league playoffs, remaining winless in conference play and staying second from bottom in the PL standings.
The match started at a slow tempo amid early afternoon rainfall, but livened up as the half hour mark approached thanks to the Terriers’ first goal.
A scramble in the center of the penalty area saw Christina Wakefield and Chelsea Churchill battling for the ball with a cluster of Loyola defenders. Wakefield managed to poke the ball back to the edge of the box, where a waiting Anna Heilferty launched a missile of a shot from 25 yards out that flew past Greyhound keeper Sumer Rahe and rippled the bottom left corner. The goal propelled Heilferty to become the Terriers’ leading goalscorer with five on the year.
When asked what was going through her mind as she took the shot, the freshman said, “Just keeping it [the ball] down.”
“I know [BU assistant coach] Emma Clark would have yelled at me if I’d shot it over, so definitely just keeping it down and keeping it on net,” said Heilferty. “That’s all you really have to do.”
The Terriers survived a nervous end to the first half when Loyola nearly pulled even. A corner kick whipped in from the right was initially headed clear, but only as far as the Greyhounds’ Hannah Hoefs. From the edge of the 18-yard box, the Loyola sophomore side-footed a brilliantly controlled volley that was tipped by BU goalkeeper Amanda Fay on its way to the crossbar.
Perhaps in response to what was, at times, complacent play in the first 45 minutes, the Terriers came out of the halftime break at full throttle. Within 30 seconds after the second half kickoff, Heilferty beat two Loyola defenders down the left flank; making her way to the byline, she cut a pass back to the near post that junior McKenna Doyle met with a sliding effort that went just wide. Freshman center back McKenna Kennedy then saw her header off a Heilferty corner kick hit the outside of the left post two minutes later.
After mounting pressure, the Terriers finally doubled their lead in the 56th minute. Heilferty, taking another corner, passed short to teammate Jesse Shreck. Shreck immediately swiveled and looped a low cross towards the penalty spot. The ball was attacked by several players, and, in the ensuing scramble, found its way to Doyle poaching on the right side. The forward scuffed her shot past Loyola’s Rahe and into the back of the net.
As they have done in previous matches, the Terriers did not sit back and defend their lead, but continued to press for more goals.
Terrier full back Libby Closson forced an impressive save from Rahe when she released a right-footed shot from outside the box the Greyhound keeper got her palms on before it could find twine. Heilferty, continuing to be a constant offensive presence, saw her own effort go over the top a few moments later.
The Terriers were rewarded in the 68th minute with an insurance goal, which was scored in almost identical fashion to its predecessor. This time taking the corner kick herself, Shreck picked out fellow senior Rachel Bloznalis just inside the box. The center back put a free header down towards Kennedy, who held off her defender well and squeezed the ball towards three Terriers left completely unmarked around the goal box. In the end, Doyle was the one who pounced, grabbing her chance to give BU a three-goal advantage.
The Terriers continued to control the tempo for the rest of the match, and cruised to the victory. They allowed the Greyhounds six shots total — including just two in the second half — with three on target. BU themselves amassed 20 with 11 on frame, as well as seven corner kicks.
Head coach Nancy Feldman praised the Terriers’ emphatic start to the second half in her postgame commentary.
“The best thing about [the win] was the second half…they did better” Feldman said of her squad. “I thought they responded really well.”
Doyle expressed similar sentiments.
“We didn’t want to get comfortable only being up one goal,” she said. “We wanted to…prove that we’re here to play hard and here to be number one.”
Kennedy, a freshman had enormous shoes to fill, started alongside Bloznalis in the center back position normally occupied by veteran defender Alivya Wimmer. With Wimmer absent from the BU roster due to an injury stemming from last week’s game against Harvard, Kennedy was called upon to fill her place — and played brilliantly.
Working seamlessly with Bloznalis in the center of the Terrier back line, the first-year defender helped shut down Loyola’s middle play. She was first to every ball that entered the BU penalty area, and put in several thorough tackles as well.
“I thought she handled herself marvelously,” Feldman said of Kennedy. “That’s not an easy thing to do, to come in as a player who hasn’t had a ton of experience and play center back at this level. And she helped us…get a clean sheet.”
The victory will hopefully lend the Terriers momentum as they prepare for a grueling conclusion to the regular season. BU will spend the next week on the road, facing Army on Wednesday before a matchup with current league-leaders Bucknell over the weekend. After those two fixtures, the Terriers will return to Nickerson Field for their regular season finale against Colgate on October 28th.
Next Up: The Terriers head to West Point, N.Y. for their midweek clash with Army. Kickoff will be Wednesday at 7 P.M.