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Pride's dream season ends at hands of Eagles

By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor

NEWTON, MA - It's been the match-up the Hofstra University women's soccer team has been waiting for since the NCAA Tournament bracket was announced on Monday. At 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14, the Pride took Newton Soccer Field at Boston College looking to avenge its 5-0 loss at the hands of the Eagles in the season opener.

Sophomore defender Brooke Bendernagel returned from her one game suspension after a red card against James Madison in the conference championship game, restoring the back four to its usual self.

The game started out tense as both teams were trying to feel each other out in the early minutes. Boston College came out playing physically, while the Pride tried to establish possession, but the game seemed to be bogged down in the midfield with each team lacking the final ball.

"They went up for headers and challenged very well," said junior midfielder Courtney Breen. "But we had to get to those first and second balls just like they did and when we found them in the middle we were able to get forward but it was a physical battle."

In the twelfth minute, Boston College sophomore midfielder Kristen Mewis had a chance from 20 yards out, but the shot was right to the hands of senior goalkeeper Krista Thorn.

The Hofstra attack had trouble getting things going. Usually relying on the speed of junior forward Laura Greene, Boston College's starting 11 was stacked with great speed.

In the eighteenth minute, a muffed cross from Mewis was able to get over Thorn's head for the Boston College breakthrough. 

Hofstra just couldn't find an answer to the physicality in the midfield after the Eagle's goal. Trying to beat them with the long ball, the Eagles defense was strong winning a majority of the aerial battles.            

But Boston College lost a crucial battle in the twenty-ninth minute when Breen was able to get her head on the end of an Amy Turner free kick from 35 yards out to tie the game at one. 

"When Courtney scored, I thought we had given Boston College everything they could've handled at that stage," said head coach Simon Riddiough.

Boston College was keen to regain their lead quickly as they upped the pace, but the Pride was quick to match their speed. 

The long ball began to improve for Hofstra as Boston College began to get pinned back towards the last 10 minutes of the first half. 

But the Pride defense was undone by a Boston College set piece when the fourth official seemingly made a foul call for the free kick. The fourth official is not allowed the responsibility of calling fouls for the head official and linesmen.  Freshman midfielder Zoe Lombard connected off senior defender Hanna Cerrone's delivery to give the Eagles the 2-1 lead going into break. 

"The fourth official's duty is to control our bench, their bench and the coaching staff, not to decide whether it's a foul or not. That's the linesmen and the head ref," said Riddiough. "He was telling the ref there's a foul just called. That's not his job. He then denied that he did it and I said ‘well I saw you' and he said ‘well maybe I did but we agreed to do that before the game'."

Hofstra started the second half flying as they began beating the Eagles to the ball and creating some chances. In the fifty-third minute, after great combination play between senior forward Kayla Pifer and senior midfielder Brittany Butts, Butts launched her shot over the crossbar from 10 yards out. 

The Eagles settled down son after the Butts miss as the offense began to threaten the Hofstra backline.

But it was the Hofstra offense that had a great chance to even the score in the fifty-eighth minute when senior forward Salma Tarik had a deep angle shot cleared off the line by a Boston College defender. 

The Eagles were able to get on the counter attack and in the sixtieth minute dealt a crushing blow to the Pride when junior forward Stephanie Wirth was able to tuck a shot under freshman goalkeeper Emily Morphitis for the 3-1 lead. 

The Pride tried to get back in the game and just a minute after the Eagles' goal, Greene struck a left footed strike that rang off the left post.

Greene had another chance but shot wide as the Eagles began to hold the ball.

Hofstra continued to try to close the gap as Breen again found herself on the end of a Turner free kick, this time though, her header fell harmlessly into the arms of Boston College junior goalkeeper Julia Mastroianni. 

Boston College was content with holding onto the ball for the final minutes as the clock ran out on Hofstra's season, falling to Boston College 3-1.

"Coming out of the second half I thought we had the ability to turn it around and get a result," said Riddiough. "But unfortunately it's not meant to be."

Boston College moves on to play West Virginia in the next round. The Pride finishes its most successful season in program history with a 19-3 record.

Junior midfielder Courtney Breen heads in the lone goal of the match for the Pride in the 29th minute of play. (Sean M. Gates/The Chronicle)

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