With some necessary defensive adjustments and solid goalkeeping, the Boston University women’s soccer team came away with a 2-0 victory over Northwestern University at Nickerson Field Sunday night.
Northwestern (0-3-1) had greater possession of the ball for the first several minutes, with the Terriers (2-1-1) unable to gain any significant opportunities until the 16th minute, when a series of pretty passes in Wildcat territory saw the ball land at the feet of senior forward Madison Clemens, who sent the ball past Northwestern goalkeeper Jenna Hascher to put BU ahead 1-0. Senior midfielder Kylie Strom was credited with the assist. For Clemens — the Patriot League preseason pick for Offensive Player of the Year — it was her first goal of the season.
In the 34th minute, freshman forward Erica Kosienski came close to scoring her first collegiate goal when a corner kick from Strom brought Hascher off her line. This left a wide-open opportunity for Kosienski. However, her shot sailed right of the goal post.
Despite the missed attempt, BU coach Nancy Feldman said she was impressed with Kosienski’s 58 minutes of play.
“She’s a tough player to take off the ball,” Feldman said. “Once she gets running with the ball, she’s running so fearlessly and so recklessly that she’s hard to defend … Erica brings something that we don’t have. I think that she’s going to keep working and learning the game tactically. She has a bright future here.”
A scary moment for the Terriers came in the 39th minute, when Northwestern forward Maria Gryleski fired a strong shot. BU goalie Alyssa Parisi, in her first collegiate start for the Terriers, was able to get a hand on the attempt before it bounced off the post. Northwestern nearly got a rebound to the back of the net but freshman defender Rachel Bloznalis was able to step in and prevent the Wildcats from scoring.
“Rachel Bloznalis is just a really strong, physical, intelligent, powerful defender,” Feldman said. “She can play in the middle, she can play in the back.”
However, Feldman said she was displeased with how close the Wildcats came to scoring.
“We were sleepwalking,” she said. “If we keep sleepwalking, we’re going to pay a very dear price, because once that team scored, we were going to see a whole different animal from the opposing team. We just got lucky … If we let them in, it was going to be a dogfight. That was when I got really fired up and it helped me go into halftime with a really strong message.”
Northwestern finished the half with four shots on goal as opposed to BU’s one, but the Terriers went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
The next 45 minutes saw an improved defensive effort from the Terriers, as BU allowed only one shot from Northwestern in the second half.
Junior Ana Cuffia gave the Terriers some breathing room in the 69th minute as her soft header found its way past Hascher to put BU up 2-0, which would ultimately hold as the final score.
The Terriers did not allow any Northwestern shot attempts following Cuffia’s goal. BU finished the game with a 9-4 advantage in shots, while also recording six corner kicks to the Wildcats’ three.
Also significant to BU was the return of junior defender Ariana Aston, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Aston played nine minutes in the contest, primarily at the forward position, despite being listed on the roster as a defender — much to Aston’s surprise, she said.
“Incredible,” Aston said of her return. “It was the best feeling.”
Feldman said playing Aston as a forward was designed to help her reintegrate into a game setting.
“She is a very good player that’s running with a little bit of a bum leg, but has gotten to the point where she can train, is fit enough to play … at a high level,” Feldman said. “I thought entering the game as a forward when we needed defending was a great priority. It was a good place for her to get a little bit of game action and start to kind of get back into seeing herself as a player again. Because what happens for when you don’t play for a while is you stop seeing yourself as a player.
“I think she’s dreamt about this moment, and hopefully this will inspire her to keep pushing through the pain and the difficulty of her recovery and building her confidence.”
Feldman said she was considerably happier with the team’s improved play in the second half.
“The second half was outstanding,” Feldman said. “Yeah, second half was great. That’s how I envision our team playing, competing and winning … You’ve gotta be physically strong to defend together and to organize and to get the ball down on the ground and move it. I thought we used all of Nickerson Field. And nice to score a couple goals, too.”