Soccer, Sports

W. soccer edges rival

The Boston University women’s soccer team marched one step closer to a second consecutive America East regular season title with a 1-0 win over the University of New Hampshire last night at Nickerson Field.
Led by a second-half goal from junior Farrell McClernon, the Terriers held off a fiery Wildcat attack. Last night’s game was played at a remarkably quicker pace than any of BU’s previous conference games ‘-‘- a testament to the growing rivalry between BU (10-5-1, 5-0-0) and UNH (5-9-1, 4-2-0).
‘This is a game we get really pumped up for,’ McClernon said. ‘They are somebody we view as our rival, and we were very fired up. We were, they were, so [the game] just took on a new speed.’
‘This has become a pretty big rivalry,’ BU coach Nancy Feldman said. ‘We’ve been battling each other in the [America East Tournament]. We, fortunately, have recently had the better of them, but they are awfully close. We certainly haven’t outclassed them ‘-‘- they’re an excellent team.’
BU silenced UNH’s potent offensive attack, holding the ‘Cats to a single shot on goal. Led by the trio of Sarah Hourihan, Shaunna Kaplan and Michelle Sheehan, the Wildcats were averaging 2.5 goals per game in conference play coming into last night’s contest.
Hourihan, a senior forward, leads the team with 14 points in 14 games played, while Sheehan, who missed the team’s first seven games due to injury, had scored five goals in seven games heading into last night.
‘They’re quick,’ Feldman said of UNH’s attackers. ‘I’ve been impressed by them, and certainly their attacking players are a handful. They were a lot quicker than I thought they were going to be, and that forced us to play quicker than we have in the last four or five games.’
The box score suggests BU dominated the ‘Cats from start to finish ‘-‘- BU outshot UNH 22-4, earned seven corner kicks to the Wildcats’ one and maintained possession for the majority of the game.
Statistics, however, can be misleading, and the Wildcats played the Terriers tougher than any America East opponent has so far this year.’
UNH pulled a page from the University of Maine’s playbook last night, stacking the box with six or seven defenders each time BU entered the attacking zone. The strategy, which was successfully implemented by Maine in last Sunday’s contest at Nickerson Field, minimized the threat of BU’s dangerous crossing game.
Rather than adjust its style, Feldman said her team needs to sharpen up its crosses and use the width of the field to stretch opposing defenses.
‘I don’t know if there’s anything we can do to adjust to it than to just continue to stretch the field width-wise,’ Feldman said. ‘We need to attack on the flanks and open them up a little bit more. As we do that, we can start to take what they give us in the middle of the field.
‘It’s all about being patient and being aggressive. We need patience to get the ball into the attacking third to try to find isolations. And then when you find the moment where you have a player isolated without any cover, you try to go after it quickly.’
Feldman said McClernon, in particular, excelled at being patiently aggressive last night, calling it the sophomore forward’s ‘best game this year.’ Especially in the second half, McClernon isolated her opponents on the far-side wing opposite the BU sideline. For the most part, McClernon took her opponents wide, trying to stretch out the field to set up crossing opportunities.
More than halfway through the second half, the strategy had yet to yield a BU score, prompting McClernon to change up her strategy. With just outside of 18 minutes left to play, McClernon took possession of the ball just inside Wildcat territory. Seeing that she had her defender isolated, the junior dribbled to the middle of the field directly toward the Wildcat goal.
She easily shook the defender, who wrongly anticipated McClernon would break toward the far sideline and, just as the midfielder was approaching the last line of Wildcat defense, she unleashed a laser on goal. UNH goaltender Nikki Golding never had a chance at the shot, which flew from about 22 yards out into the upper-left corner of the net.
‘I guess, for the most part, I’d been taking [the defender] out wide the whole time,’ McClernon said. ‘I decided to change things up, and took her inside, caught her off guard, got lucky, got a good shot off and it just went in.’
The win was a big one for a Terrier team coming down the home stretch of the conference season. BU sits in first place in America East with a 5-0-0 record, but UNH, the University of Hartford (7-4-4, 4-1-0) and Stony Brook University (8-6-0, 4-1-0) ‘-‘- three of the Terriers’ final four opponents ‘-‘- are right on BU’s tail.
Feldman said she feels good about the team’s current position but said the end of the season is still a long way away. When Stony Brook comes to town Sunday, the BU coach said she expects another tough contest, as the Seawolves are every bit as good ‘-‘- if not better ‘-‘- than the Wildcats.
‘We did our job [last night], and it’s not going to be any easier on Sunday,’ Feldman said. ‘Stony Brook is in some ways similar to UNH in that they have some dynamic attackers, but [the Seawolves] have a little bit of an edge and I think they may have a little better goalkeeping. They’ve got a little more bite, and they’re a little more edgy.
‘We’re in the driver’s seat so long as we keep winning. As soon as we get a loss, we get in the mix with the others who only have one loss and we don’t want to be there. We have a chance right now to grab that number one seed and we’re really focusing on doing that.’

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