On a cool and drizzly Thursday afternoon, Northeastern had their work cut out for them. They had made it to the CAA semifinals by the skin of their teeth, clinching their spot in the last game of the season with a win against William and Mary. The Huskies were seeded fourth and were due to play UNCW, which was seeded first for good reason. UNCW hadn’t lost a single conference game all season, beating Northeastern 2-0 in the middle of the season. Meanwhile, Northeastern had been a more middle-of-the-road team, with flashes of brilliance, such as when they defeated Hostra and broke their three-year-long winning streak in what head coach Ashley Phillips called one of the best games in the program so far, and some struggles.
Despite the fact that Northeastern was coming in at the underdog position, the Huskies were used to being on top and they were determined to prove their worth.
UNCW came out strong, with a huge shot by forward Audrey Harding that bounced off the post. They seemed to dominate in the first 20 minutes, but just couldn’t find the net behind Northeastern’s stellar goalkeeper Angeline Friel. About halfway through the first half, however, the tide changed. Northeastern looked more confident, taking control of the ball and really battling with UNCW for possession, clearly trying to prove that they belonged in the championship game.
Alexis Legowski got the charge going with a long shot from just outside the box, dead center, falling down on the wet turf in her efforts. Jane Kaull also had a big shot just outside the box that was then caught by UNCW goaltender Kaylie Bierman. They were playing tough, which they needed to against a first seeded team, and because of that Alexis Legowski ended up getting a yellow card at the 20 minute mark.
Unfortunately Kaull, who had excelled in the game so far, seemed to get tripped up by a UNCW player and landed hard on the ground, appearing to twist her ankle, and had to be helped off the field by an athletic trainer and Ashley Philips. She wasn’t able to return the rest of the game, sitting on the sidelines, icing her ankle. Hopefully it’s nothing major, and she’ll be able to help her team in the championship on Sunday.
The Huskies had a couple seconds to regroup, with Kayla McCauley coming in to sub for Kaull, and then it was back to a fierce struggle between the two teams. The next 20 minutes were much of the same, with both teams excelling on defense, making it an extremely low shot game. UNCW’s next best chance at gaining the lead came with just six minutes left in the half when Harding took a hard shot from the top right that was just bounced away by Friel. A gritty first half ended at 0-0.
The second half was much of the same, with Northeastern fighting with everything they had to get shots in, holding the Seahawks to just one shot, again by Harding, in 45 minutes of play. UNCW tried to switch it up, sending their other goalkeeper in, Blair Barefoot, to guard the net. The Huskies were determined to not let UNCW get close to the net and excelled defensively, making it so Friel only had to make one save. The time was ticking down, and the score was still 0-0, with the Huskies and Seahawks just battling it out for possession of the ball.
Just when it seemed like the game was doomed to go into overtime, Northeastern came through. Nina Dooley tapped the ball over to McCauley. McCauley was ready and shot the ball on the bottom left corner of the net, bouncing it around the goalkeeper Barefoot and making the shot to get Northeastern the lead. The Huskies were ecstatic, crashing into each other for a giant group hug, knowing they had most likely won the game. UNCW just couldn’t come back, and Northeastern won the game 1-0, sending them to the CAA Finals for the first time since 2017.
They’ll play Hofstra at 1 pm on Sunday in the CAA championship, and you won’t want to miss it.