BOSTON, Mass. – After an 11-day break, the VCU women's soccer team returned to action Friday night, opening its conference schedule at Northeastern. Unfortunately for the Rams, it was another heartbreaking result as the Huskies' Kelly Matthews scored the game-winner off a free kick with 1:45 left to hand VCU a 2-1 loss.
It was the Rams third straight match - and fourth time in their last five – to be decided in the final eight minutes of regulation or overtime. Twice during that stretch, VCU has lost matches with heartbreaking goals in the final two minutes of regulation or OT. All of VCU's losses this year have come by a single goal.
"As a coach, this is a frustrating result to reflect on," said Co-Head Coach Tim Sahaydak. "Aside from not converting some good opportunities, I thought we were outstanding. There were many challenges to overcome tonight and I thought we did that valiantly. But moving forward, our focus will be on improving our finishing, get some goals on the scoreboard and walk away with a win."
Senior Heather Hovanesian finished with four shots, all on goal, and scored her first of the season to tie the game at 1-1 midway through the first half. Freshman Maren Johansen also fired four with one on frame, while eight different Rams collected a shot in the game.
After VCU goalkeeper Kristin Carden made her first stop in the 16th minute, Northeastern's Kirby Anderson connected with Greta Samuelsdottir, who scored her third goal of the season, less than 10 minutes later to give Northeastern a 1-0 lead.
The Rams (2-6-1) would continue to battle as Hovanesian had a look in the 27th minute off a corner by freshman Cristin Granados but her offering went wide. Johansen's strike also drifted wide in the 33rd minute before Hovanesian, who took a feed from junior Gabby Wilson, scored her first goal of the year to tie the game less than two minutes later.
Following a Northeastern foul in the 37th minute, senior Meaghan Dullea launched a series of shots. After her first attempt was blocked, she fired back the rebound but Huskies' goalkeeper Paige Burnett made her first save to preserve the tie.
Northeastern (5-4-0) then countered with a chance late in the first half but Hanna Terry's strike off a corner was blocked and Carden saved a shot by Cassidy Costa at the 44:40 mark to keep it a 1-1 tie at intermission.
VCU was on the attack to start the second half – firing three shots with two on goal during the first nine minutes of action – as senior Azania's shot was blocked in the 48th minute. The Rams continued to threaten but Burnett followed with back-to-back saves on shots by Hovanesian and senior Molly Allen to keep the Rams out of the net.
After a strike by Samuelsdottir was blocked in the 51st minute, VCU settled in and held Northeastern without a threat for nearly 30 minutes until Lahiana Zoller's attempt sailed wide at the 78:55 mark.
Burnett continued to stand strong in goal for the Huskies, making stops on shots by junior Karol Sanchez (66th minute), Johansen (67th minute) and Hovanesian (78th minute). Granados also had a look with less than eight minutes to play, but Burnett was there for her eighth save of the game, sixth in the second half.
Then, in the 89th minute, Matthews scored the game-winner, her first of the year, off a free kick to give Northeastern a 2-1 lead with 1:45 to play.
VCU held a 15-10 advantage in shots and a 6-3 margin in corners but were called for 20 fouls to Northeastern's 12.
The Rams continue their northeast tour with a 1 p.m. match at Hofstra on Sunday. VCU returns to Sports Backers Stadium on Sept. 29 against George Mason for its annual Massey Cancer Blue Out. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.