For the second year in a row, the Boston University women’s soccer team has earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a win in the America East championship game.
Backed by goals from sophomore Corie Halasz and junior Mara Osher, the Terriers (15-5-1, 8-0-0 AE) clinched the program’s sixth conference title Saturday with a 2-1 win over Stony Brook University (11-8-0, 6-2-0) at Nickerson Field.
Halasz broke a scoreless tie with her fourth goal of the season in the game’s 72nd minute.
Heeding the advice of junior Emily Pallotta, Halasz decided to put her speed to use, burning two SBU defenders to set up a one-on-one encounter with Seawolves goalkeeper Marisa Viola. From just outside the six-yard box, Halasz let loose a laser that snuck past Viola and clanked off the left post and in to put the Terriers on top, 1-0.
‘Emily came up to me and said, ‘Corie, if you get your defender isolated take her one-on-one and score a goal,” Halasz said. ‘That was literally 10 seconds before I got the ball, and I kind of just did a little move, got by her and just pretty much powered it by [Viola].’
One minute and 50 seconds later, the Terriers extended their lead when Halasz crossed a ball into the box, where junior Farrell McClernon cradled it. McClernon worked the ball deep into the right side of the box, drawing two SBU defenders her way.
The collapsing defenders left Osher all alone about eight yards in front of the net, where McClernon hit her with a no-look pass. Osher unleashed a rocket into the upper left corner of the net, putting the Terriers ahead, 2-0, with 16:47 remaining in the game.
‘It’s a connection ‘-‘- me and Mara,’ McClernon said of her faith that Osher would be there to take the pass. ‘We’ve just got it. I just felt her there. I knew she would be right there, and she just buried it.’
Freshman Dominique Adamo put the ‘Wolves on the board with 2:13 left in the second half, but SBU’s rally was too little, too late.
The teams exchanged possession for most of the first half, but it was not until the game’s 25th minute that the Terriers earned their first legitimate scoring opportunity.
With about 19:25 to go in the first half, freshman Jessica Luscinski received a throw-in deep in Seawolf territory. The Bedford, N.H., native moved a few steps toward the box before delivering a cross just over the head of an SBU defender. The cross found the foot of a sliding McClernon, who blistered a shot toward the middle of the net. Unfortunately for McClernon and the Terriers, Viola was there for the save.
The Terriers generated a few more chances in the first half’s waning minutes before barraging the SBU net with scoring opportunities in the second stanza. However, until Halasz’s late goal, Viola, AE’s Goaltender of the Year, was ready for everything the Terriers threw at her.
‘[Viola’s] a great goalkeeper,’ Halasz said. ‘She took a lot of shots away from us the first time we played them this year, so we knew coming into the game that we were going to have to keep our crosses away from her and keep our shots away from her. She’s very talented, and we knew that going into the game.’
‘She’s quick as a cat,’ BU coach Nancy Feldman said of Viola. ‘There were some shots there, even off her own players, that she was just in the right place. She’s so sound and she’s so quick. She was the Goalkeeper of the Year for a reason.’
The win capped BU’s first undefeated conference season since 2000 and earned the team its seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last nine years.
‘It’s the sign of a great team,’ a Gatorade-drenched Feldman said after the win. ‘To be picked number one at the beginning of the year and to finish number one with everyone gunning for us and expectations and all, I’d say it shows a lot of fortitude.’
‘It’s amazing,’ McClernon said of going undefeated in conference play. ‘I don’t think any of us expected it. I mean, we hoped for it, but none of us really expected it. We have a team where everyone just comes to play every day. It’s really great.’
BU will discover its first-round NCAA Tournament foe Monday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN News.