The Boston University women’s soccer team was met with an unusually strong test from an opponent as Harvard University forced Tuesday’s night contest into a double overtime battle.
The Terriers (8-3-2, 3-1-0 Patriot League), are, as of late, accustomed to easily outplaying opposing teams, but in this contest, it was an individual player that caused the Terriers so much grief.
Much of the Crimson’s (6-3-2) fortitude came from the efforts of freshman Margaret Purce, a player who is much more decorated than most the Terriers are used to seeing. Purce, who scored against BU in the 27th minute, has now netted seven goals on the year. Her goal leveled the score after senior midfielder Megan McGoldrick put the Terriers ahead in the 12th minute.
Purce has built an impressive resume before even suiting up for the Crimson, as she was a member of the U.S. team that won the 2012 CONCACAF U17 Women’s Championship in Guatemala last year and qualified for the 2012 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup. The Olney, Md., native also won the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012 and was named the All-Met Player of the Year twice during her soccer career.
Despite only playing in her first year the collegiate level, Purce leads both her team as well as the entire Ivy League in scoring. The freshman is clearly the offensive leader for Harvard, as the next Crimson player with the most goals is forward Karly Zlatic with three on the year.
Purce’s strike in the first half was a demoralizing score, as the Terriers had not allowed a goal since their Sept. 20 loss to the U.S. Naval Academy. Furthermore, Purce’s breakthrough was BU’s first goal allowed at Nickerson Field this season.
The Terriers had not allowed a goal at home in over a year, as the last time that an opposing team found the back of the net at Nickerson Field was on Sept. 23, 2012 during a game between BU and the University at Albany.
While Purce’s goal was obviously unexpected, BU did not seem shell-shocked, as BU coach Nancy Feldman said that BU is used to playing in such long, hard-fought matches.
“The challenge is trying to find the right combination [of players],” Feldman said. “Who’s on, who’s fatigued. There’s not a science to it, it’s just trying to keep the flow of the game while playing into the hot hand and trying to keep people fresh.”
BU’s defenders faced a challenge in guarding Purce that seemingly lasted for the whole game. Sophomore defender McKenzie Hollenbaugh worked especially hard, playing all 110 minutes. Fellow center back and junior defender Kai Miller described the strategy that both she and Hollenbaugh prepared prior to the game as focusing mostly on limiting Purce’s speed out on the pitch.
“We just wanted to play the way we play against anyone who’s really good,” Miller said. “Even though she’s fast, if you don’t let her get going, she won’t beat you.”
Feldman expressed pride in the team’s defensive efforts after the game in terms of stopping the dynamic Purce.
“[Purce] is just a really tough kid to keep under wraps for the whole game, she’s just so fast,” Feldman said. “I thought we did a good job on her. It was really a team effort. Kai and McKenzie each had a whale of a game. We’ve counted on those two all season long. They’ve been so strong and steady. They’ve got ice in their veins. They’re very, very strong and competitive.”
While Feldman recognized the struggles that her team has faced against the Crimson, she seemed to believe that the Terriers were making improvements in a variety of different ways.
“There were times when we were forcing it in the midfield and weren’t keeping the tempo,” Feldman said. “[Harvard has] a great midfield. But we didn’t play nearly as well [last year] and we didn’t dominate nearly as much as we did this time.”