BROOKLINE — Northeastern stepped onto their home field for the first time this season Monday night, taking on the visiting UMass Lowell River Hawks in the pair’s first competition since 2019.
After finishing fourth in the 2022 CAA regular season, while Lowell was unable to nab a single America East conference win, the Huskies were favored coming into the matchup. But with a collective 23 newcomers to the two teams and both head coaches in just their second year at the helm, it was a rookie match up at Parsons Field and the River Hawks came out on top 2-1.
Although school isn’t yet in session for either team, the stands were packed with family, friends, and fellow athletes from both sides of the cross-state competition.
Northeastern was the stronger team from the get-go, with graduate student forward Kevin Ogudugu sending a shot over the crossbar just 16 seconds into the game.
The Huskies maintained heavy pressure up the right side of the pitch, keeping the River Hawks on their toes and forcing them to give up free kicks and corner kicks. They generated multiple quality scoring opportunities in the opening stretch, setting River Hawks graduate student goalie Jacob Heihsel on high alert as he grabbed and punched balls out of the air.
Halfway through the half, Lowell notched their first shot on goal, giving Northeastern graduate student goalkeeper Gregor Shaw his sole save of the night.
A series of substitutions gave the River Hawks some fresh legs, and the Huskies were pushed back to defense as the visiting team gained offensive momentum.
Despite the Huskies’ bursts of speed and one-touch passes giving them a 9-5 lead in shots, Lowell kept the hosts at bay through the first half of the game and the two teams ended the frame scoreless.
As the lights flickered on and the sun set over Parsons Field upon the teams’ return to play, both Huskies and River Hawks alike turned up the heat. After substitutions had replaced much of the teams’ starting lineups, the much-needed break gave players time to study their opponents and prepare to step back on the field.
Early in the half, Northeastern junior forward Tobias Wangerud fought through defenders and earned a corner kick.
The Huskies failed to convert the corner into a scoring chance, and the River Hawks came back on the other end to earn a corner kick of their own. After the corner got the play started, freshman forward Daniele Mastroianni finished it with his first career goal to put Lowell on the board first in the 50th minute of play.
The Huskies responded quickly, evening the score just six minutes later after a one-touch shot from sophomore forward Fraser Brown blazed past Heihsel. From the left wing, Northeastern senior midfielder Federico Tellez shuffled the ball toward the net, where sophomore midfielder Morris Matthews sent in the centering pass. Although Heihsel dove for the ball, Brown beat him to it, chipping the ball over his head for the equalizer.
The assist was Tellez’s third in as many Husky goals so far this season.
After having a taste of the lead, the River Hawks weren’t about to back down and the Huskies put every effort into fighting back. Tensions were evident across the pitch, as four yellow cards were pulled within the final 20 minutes of the game.
Ogudugu received the first, allowing a dangerous chance for Lowell in the middle of the Huskies’ half. Luckily for Northeastern, the River Hawks’ free kick soared clear of its target, and the Huskies were able to dash back on offense.
Once in the River Hawks’ zone, Brown nearly snuck the ball around a defender but Heihsel made a diving save to keep the score tied with eight minutes remaining.
Immediately, Lowell turned it around and Mastroianni seized another opportunity at net. With help from graduate student forward Javier Torrez and sophomore forward Iñaki Esnaola, the freshman sent the eventual game winner past Shaw, securing the River Hawks’ first victory of the season.
With the final minutes ticking down, Northeastern tried to rally once again. A yellow card pulled against Lowell junior defender Rui Aoki in the 87th minute gave Tellez a free kick, but it went just over the bar.
Another free kick came just moments later, but the scuffle that broke out as a result of the play drew yellow cards against both Brown and River Hawks junior midfielder Justin Milovanov.
In the waning seconds, Tellez took yet another corner kick, the Huskies’ eighth of the game, but an incredible save by Heihsel ended Northeastern’s chances for a home opener victory.
Brown topped all players’ efforts in the game with five shots, all of them on goal, and Tellez was right behind him with four attempts of his own.
The outcome of the game may not have been what the Huskies were expecting, but they’ll have to pick up their spirits quickly to compete against the UNCW Seahawks, a team they haven’t beaten since 2018, on Saturday. The team will travel to Wilmington, NC for the first CAA game of the season with hopes of claiming their first win.
WRBB will return to live coverage when Northeastern returns from their two game road trip for a 6 p.m. contest against Charleston on Saturday, Sept. 9 at Parsons Field.