By Akshai Wadhwani
With two matches already done and dusted, the 2018-19 season is well underway for the Boston University women’s soccer team. Therefore, it’s past time to ask: How do things shape up for them this campaign?
So far, BU have come up 0-for-2 on a short tour in the Midwest: a 3-1 defeat to Michigan, followed by a 2-0 defeat to Michigan State. This is hardly cause for concern—after all, the Terriers dropped their first two games last season before improving to 1-1-2 through their next four fixtures. Plus, Anna Heilferty is already back on the scoresheet—which, as those fans who followed the Terriers last season will know, is definitely a positive sign.
The bar from last year has been set high. 2017’s team went 10-8-3 overall, with a 6-2-1 conference record; the latter included a three-week span over which the Terriers went 4-0-1 while scoring 11 goals and conceding none. That momentum carried them into the Patriot League semifinals, where an 87th minute Bucknell goal denied them a fifth consecutive trip to the championship match.
Iron-willed defense was undoubtedly the most influential component of 2017’s success. BU garnered ten shutouts (2nd in Patriot League) and allowed just 18 goals (T-2nd in Patriot League). For the same positive results to be produced this year, the Terriers will need to maintain that level of play in their own half.
Another conclusion that can be drawn from last season is that when this team wins, they win emphatically. Of their ten victories in the 2017-18 campaign, eight were shutouts; five involved multiple goals. This year, a young offense led by senior McKenna Doyle and sophomore Heilferty will hope to maintain that pattern.
Graduation has cut several gaping holes in BU’s roster. Two-time Patriot League Defender of the Year and former captain Rachel Bloznalis has moved on to a professional career with Sweden’s Umeå IK after five years in scarlet and white. Alivya Wimmer, her center back partner and co-captain of last year, is also gone.
The Terriers have lost the core of their defensive leadership. This does present the opportunity for the predominantly young center backs populating this year’s squad to gain some substantial experience in the starting lineup—although whether they can provide replacement for the physicality, aerial ability, and intelligent cover play of Bloznalis and Wimmer remains to be seen.
Also out the door are primary forward Christina Wakefield—who co-led BU in goals (5) and points (13) in 2017—and central midfielder Jesse Shreck, last season’s joint assists leader and All-Patriot League Third Team member.
Head coach Nancy Feldman will see three 2017 All-League honorees return to the lineup, including Rookie of the Year Heilferty, for her 24th year in charge. She has named seniors Pietra Sweeney, Dorie Varley-Barrett, and Libby Closson as captains of the squad.
Players to Watch
With the invaluable services of Bloznalis and Wimmer no longer available, the Terriers are in dire need of center backs. As a result of that, fans could be seeing this fresh face take a regular place in the starting eleven.
Hailing from Portola Valley, California, Lily Perryman has already recorded starts in both of BU’s first two matches. The freshman recorded her first career shot against Michigan; additionally, she owns the most playing time of any of BU’s rookies, as well as the sixth-most on-field minutes among outfield players.
Perryman, along with sophomore McKenna Kennedy, appears to be the likely choice to replace Bloznalis and Wimmer—meaning she will take on the responsibility of anchoring a defense which last year carried much of the weight for this team. Should she remain a member of the starting lineup, Perryman will be an intriguing player to watch this season.
After just one year in college soccer, Anna Heilferty has amassed a resume that would make some senior athletes jealous. The winger played in every single match of the season her freshman year, ending with five goals and three assists to her name—good for 13 total points, the joint-most with graduated forward Christina Wakefield (the two also joint-led in goals).
She finished as runaway Patriot League Rookie of the Year, and was voted the Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year a few weeks ago—making her the only underclassman to receive 2018 All-Patriot League Preseason honors.
Also under Heilferty’s belt is a bout of international experience; after the end of last season, she spent late February and early March competing with the United States U-18 National Team in Spain. Now, BU’s attacking powerhouse is back to wreak havoc once more down the wings—as well as in the center, given she has started as a forward in both opening matches—and has already netted her first goal of the season against Michigan. One can imagine she has opposing teams’ scouts working overtime.
Midfielder Julianna Chen returns to the lineup for BU as one of the Patriot League’s most respected midfielders—with good reason. Fearless, aggressive midfield play characterized by strong tackles, direct passes, and a standout work ethic has earned her all-league honors in each of her previous three seasons in Boston, as well as a selection to the All-Patriot League Preseason Team this year. With fellow midfielder, Shreck, now graduated, Chen’s role in the middle of the pitch becomes even more vital for the season ahead.
BU’s newly-recruited goalkeeper out of Atkinson, New Hampshire was thrown into the mix perhaps sooner than she expected when Nancy Feldman elected her to replace the injured Hannah Ciolek between the sticks last September.
In the end, she was clearly well-prepared. Amanda Fay finished her freshman season with nine clean sheets, leading Patriot League goalies in goals against average (.560) and finishing second in save percentage (.833). Additionally—and perhaps more importantly— Fay gathered an abundance of experience in working with the BU defense, leaving her poised to retake her starting mantle as an expert defensive communicator and the eyes of the back line.
Fay will, however, have to adapt to a new starting center back pairing; working with co-captains and senior full backs Libby Closson and Pietra Sweeney should help her adjust.
After last season’s disappointment (the first time ever since joining the PL in 2013 that BU have missed out on the championship match), the Terriers are keen to be contenders again. Their next opponent in the quest for a fifth Patriot League title is a familiar one: the Hofstra Pride, whom they also met in August of last season. That match ended in a 2-1 defeat; overall, the Terriers still hold a 9-2-1 advantage in the all-time series, the latest installment of which is set for this Thursday.
Given their immediate and consistent domination of the Patriot League conference, it has become almost expected of the Terriers to achieve regular season and postseason heights. This year is no different.
As for how the players themselves are defining success this season, Shannon Keefe put it best in her edition of Terrier Tribune: “Our captains…along with the entire senior class were, and still are, determined to lead us to a Patriot League championship. Anything short of that is unacceptable.”
Kickoff against Hofstra from Hempstead, N.Y. is set for 7 p.m.