BROOKLINE, Mass. — Though it is only September, the Northeastern women’s soccer team has already felt some of the highest highs and the lowest lows this year. Coming fresh off of a disappointing loss to Farfield, the Huskies had an uphill battle against the 20th-ranked Brown.
Right from the first whistle, Brown established themselves as in control of the game. Despite Northeastern getting the first touches, Brown marched down the field and won a corner kick in no less than 80 seconds. The Bears were dominant with the ball and applied incredible pressure without it. They had a massive pace advantage and were beating Huskies players to every loose ball. Despite their advantages, Brown was unable to crack the Northeastern defense.
Senior Alexis Legowski, in stark contrast to most of her career as a Husky, started the game at center back. She fit like a glove at the new position, using her size to win physical and aerial battles, as well as neutralizing some of the speed Brown possessed at their front end.
Both teams struggled for supremacy, but it was Brown who looked to be the better side. They were passing significantly better, with a level of crispness that only a top-25 team has. They used their superior passing to switch fields with ease, exposing Northeastern’s weak side and setting up crossing chances.
Despite getting the ball deep into corners, Brown just couldn’t score. Every cross was either blocked away, or safely sent into the hands of graduate student goalkeeper Holland Stam. Legowski was especially good at the back end, making a few daring sliding tackles to stop chances for the Bears. While her risky defending did earn her a yellow card, it also saved the game. Brown almost certainly would have scored had it not been for a sliding Legowski taking the ball right out from under the Bears noses.
Neither team would pot a goal in the first 45 minutes, but the opening half was far from boring. Brown ended the half with three shots on goal, each forcing a save from Stam. Northeastern had one shot on goal, but the action was constantly back and forth between teams in the midfield.
Brown exited the locker room with a new level of intensity. Senior forwards Ava Seelenfreund and Brittany Raphino used their size and speed to physically dominate the Northeastern defense. Legowski and senior defender Jane Kaull were unable to win the ball from the speedy strikers, and only six minutes into the half, they conceded a corner kick. Senior forward Sheyenne Allen played an inswinging cross from the corner, and some poor defending on Northeastern’s part left Seelenfreund wide open in the penalty area. It was a simple, training-ground finish for the senior from California, who nodded the ball past Stam and into the net to break the deadlock.
Brown was unrelenting, and showed that they were playing more for a second goal than to protect their lead. Stam was busy in net, and was even beaten a few times on her line. The only thing keeping the ball out of Northeastern’s net was Brown’s inability to put a decent shot on target.
The Huskies weren’t quick to respond to the pressure, and for most of the second half they were on their heels. They were almost completely unable to move the ball out of their own half for the better part of 30 minutes. If they did clear the midfield, their momentum would fizzle out quickly, and give Brown a chance to push right back at them. Northeastern was hanging on by a thread.
They needed a lifeline, and freshman Vivian Akyirem was ready to answer the call. As the clock wound down to the final minute, junior midfielder Jessie Hunt slid a perfect through ball behind the Brown back line. Akyirem accelerated past one defender and cut into the box. Her burst of speed had left her with only the Brown goalkeeper to beat, and a deft finish with the right foot did exactly that. Akyirem’s heroic effort tied the game with 61 seconds left on the clock. Brown was stunned. They pushed for a final chance, but it was clear that the fatigue of a 90-minute match had really set in.
“I never give up,” Akyirem said after the game. “I am thankful for my team, we are super supportive to each other, and we execute as a group. If we keep listening to what the coaches have for us, then we will succeed in this conference.”
Akyirem’s game-tying goal was her fifth of the season. The team as a whole has only scored eight.
Northeastern will begin conference play Sept. 22 against Elon, before making a weekend trip to Maryland for a match against Towson.