On paper, No. 1 seeded Northeastern (13-4-3) and No. 4 William and Mary (12-6-1) looked like a defensive showdown, a tough conference tournament semi-final going down to the wire between two teams that simply do not get scored on. Instead, the Huskies buried the Tribe in a 4-0 rout Friday in Boston, almost certainly ending the College’s season.
The Tribe never saw it coming. Riding the high of Sunday’s victory over Drexel, the squad was optimistic about turning the season around at the perfect time.
“Our goal is always to shoot for the CAA championship, and then onward to the NCAA,” head coach John Daly told Tribe Athletics prior to the game. “If we play like we did on Sunday [against Drexel], we can beat anybody.”
Safe to say, the College did not play up to its full potential in the crushing 4-0 defeat, which matched an Aug. 28 loss to Maryland as the worst of the season. Considering the national rankings, it is highly improbable that the Tribe will receive consideration for an NCAA tournament bid. If they don’t receive a bid, it will be the second consecutive year the Tribe’s season has ended against Northeastern.
Coming into Friday’s CAA semi-final matchup in Boston, the College had allowed 20 goals over the course of an 18 game season, while scoring 35. Northeastern had only allowed six goals, though a sputtering offense has limited the Huskies, who have scored just 19 goals. A 4-0 shutout seemed unthinkable.
But there has been one defining weakness in the Tribe’s play — self-inflicted goals. In four of the previous five games, the Tribe defense conceded at least one goal off of a variety of errors: defenders colliding, miscommunications with the goalie, or errant passes in the defensive zone. Not coincidentally, the Tribe lost three of those games. Under the crucible pressure that is the playoffs, this defensive crack devolved into a fatal fracture, as three of Northeastern’s four goals were off Tribe errors.
The Huskies got off to a fast start, firing the first four shots of the contest, which accumulated into a 10-3 first half shot advantage. Though the Tribe defense started strong, the Huskies got on board first off of a corner kick play in the 34th minute, taking a 1-0 lead.
Then the mistakes began to pile up. With three minutes left before the half, a Tribe turnover left junior keeper Caroline Casey alone in a one on one breakaway, which Northeastern easily converted into a goal and a 2-0 lead. The College nearly struck back before the halftime whistle, as junior forward Katie Johnston fired a high shot that the Huskies’ keeper barely saved.
At halftime, the Tribe defense still couldn’t make the right adjustments. An errant pass between defenders was quickly intercepted by Northeastern in the 63rd minute, and, unassisted, the Huskies scored a second goal off a Tribe mistake and stretched their lead to 3-0.
Seven minutes later, Northeastern tallied the final goal of the match off yet another loose ball in the Tribe box, marking the third defensive collapse and unassisted Huskies goal.
Still fighting, the Tribe offense nearly notched a score of its own, but an offsides call nullified an apparent goal. In the 80th minute, Northeastern goalkeeper Paige Burnett batted away a shot from Tribe senior forward Emory Camper. The Tribe attack largely stalled out in the game, managing only eight shots to Northeastern’s 13.
Although the Tribe came up short on its ultimate objective, this season featured a number of successes in several areas, including an impressive home record of 7-2-1, excellent play from freshman players including midfielder Rachel Moore, back Haley Kent, forward Sami Grasso, and midfielder Elysee Branton, and an improvement off last year’s 8-2-7 mark. Six players were named to the All-CAA teams. Camper, senior back Emily Frederickson, Moore, and junior forward Samantha Cordum were recognized with second team All-CAA honors, while Casey earned third team All-CAA distinction. Branton and Moore were both named to the All-CAA Rookie team.
Northeastern went on to defeat Hofstra in a 2-0 victory Sunday to claim their second consecutive CAA title. The last team to repeat as CAA champions was the College in the 2000 and 2001 seasons.