NCAA, Soccer, Sports

Women’s soccer fends off Army to advance to Patriot League championship

After a hard-fought Fall season, the Boston University women’s soccer team (11-5-3, 6-1-2 Patriot League) has once again made its way to the prestigious Patriot League final following a close 1-0 win against Army West Point (7-9-3, 3-4-2 PL) in the conference semifinal Thursday night. 

The Terriers looked like a shaky version of themselves compared to Oct. 27, when they trotted on the pitch and handed the same Army team a decisive 2-1 win before entering a well-deserved bye week. BU head coach Nancy Feldman said some rust had built up during the break.

Sophomore forward Abigail McNulty faces Army West Point’s Andrea Riddle in a match Thursday night. The Terriers won 1-0, advancing to the Patriot League final. SHANNON DAMIANO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

“Our eight-day layoff showed up a little bit,” Feldman said postgame. “[Army] had experienced tournament play in the [quarterfinals] and we hadn’t, and I was a little concerned about that.”

Despite neither side getting on the scoreboard in the first half, Army dominated the numbers game by keeping BU junior goalkeeper Gretchen Bennett on her toes with a total of six shots and four corners. Meanwhile, the Terriers got off to a slower start and entered the locker room having had just four shots and two corners. 

With the clock winding down in the first half, the Terriers managed to find their footing, applying pressure in their opponent’s box with a pair of promising attempts that saw the ball ricochet left and right but failed to find the back of the net. 

“We got a little rattled, so we had to organize better defensively,” Feldman said. “I thought the second half, we had to win 50-50 balls. … Now you’re winning territory a little bit more. You’re a little bit more comfortable playing in their half [of the field] than our half, and that definitely was a factor.”

The second half saw more of a contest between the two sides, with each team adopting a more aggressive and fast-paced style of soccer. Ultimately, it was BU who drew first blood in the 51st minute, after All-Patriot League First Team member and sophomore forward Abigail McNulty placed a calculated cross that saw the ball float to junior forward Marli Rajacich, who drilled it past Army freshman goalkeeper Sage Strohman to give the Terriers a 1-0 lead.

“I’m very proud of my team in general,” Rajacich said postgame. “We got [the goal] in three passes. It was insane. We practiced that kind of stuff a lot, so, very exciting.”

Bennett was put to the test yet again in the second half with a close-quarter tussle inside BU’s box that saw the goalkeeper snatch the ball off the opponent before they could capitalize on an attack. 

For all their efforts in the first half, Army fell short of the mark, losing pace, confidence and control over the game as possession shifted in favor of the top-seed Terriers. A staunch defense saw Army shoot just once in the second half, compared to BU’s six. The Terriers also managed to close the gap in corners, ending with a total of four to Army’s five.

Army managed to piece together some plays as the second half progressed, earning a corner and forcing Bennett to make her first save of the evening. However, the flurry of attacks was not enough to overcome a synergized BU backfield, who managed to hold their own until the final whistle. 

Having sealed their second victory in a row, the Terriers find themselves on a short turnover heading into familiar territory, the Patriot League final.

The Terriers will be competing for the title at home against No. 4 Bucknell University this Sunday, Nov. 7, at 1 p.m.

“I’m very confident in my team,” Rajacich said. “I think we know what we need to do, and we have practiced it all year, and I really do believe we will bring our entire game to Bucknell on Sunday.”

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