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Women’s soccer charges to playoffs

Freshmen propel team to America East tournament

America East Rookie of the Year candidate Farrell McClernon (SMG’10) is dangerous around the net. Photo by Rob Klein

As BU women’s soccer coach Nancy Feldman looks to Sunday’s America East semifinals contest against the winner of a Maine-Vermont matchup, she is counting on a handful of rookies — and one in particular — to play a major part in extending the Terriers’ postseason play. Ordinarily such pressure would be a lot for a first-year player to handle, but Farrell McClernon (SMG’10) is no ordinary freshman. She leads the team with seven goals, and three of her tallies have been game-winners.

McClernon, one of an army of freshmen and sophomores who this year have risen to the challenge of replacing the team’s eight graduated seniors, was recruited in high school by several college teams, but she fit right in at BU from her first visit during her junior year. “She was really interested in the School of Management, and she made a great connection with our players,” says Feldman, who realized immediately why the Westchester, Pa., native was a two-time Most Valuable Player at Merion Mercy Academy. But to say that McClernon exceeded her coach’s expectations would be an understatement. “I knew that she was pretty good around the goal,” she says, “but I didn’t know that she would be putting the ball into the back of the net so much from the get-go.”

Indeed, McClernon blasted the first of her three game-winning shots in the season opener against Boston College. Her overtime goal broke a scoreless tie against the very team that eliminated BU from last year’s NCAA tournament. McClernon’s season full of heroics leaves Feldman
wondering what she is going to do for an encore this year — and in her remaining three years. “I think she’s only scratched the surface of what she’s capable of,” says Feldman. “There is no question in my mind that her best soccer is in front of her. With our strength and conditioning program, she can make some strides physically. If she brings the same determination and work ethic that I see right now, she’ll bring her game to an even higher level.”

That’s not to say that the team’s fortunes rest on McClernon’s shoulders alone. She has plenty of help, not only from such upperclassmen as Lauren Erwin (CAS’07), who has scored five goals, but also from fellow freshmen. Rookies Emily Pallotta (SMG’10), Corie Halasz (SAR’10), and Casey Brown (CGS’08) “are playing like veterans for us,” according to Feldman. Pallotta worked on her shooting skills all season with assistant coach Liz Driscoll, and the result has been three goals, including two game-winners. “She has great instincts on the field,” says Feldman, “and her work with Liz on her left foot — her nondominant foot, has produced results.” Pallotta’s last goal was a lefty shot that broke a 0-0 tie with Binghamton on October 8.

BU was ranked 21st in the nation early in the season, then dropped to 24th, only to rise meteorically to number 12 — and then to number 10 after beating third-ranked Santa Clara University, 1-0, on September 15. Did Feldman dare dream of cracking the top-10 back in August? “Not really,” she says. “I thought if we stayed healthy and got good leadership, we’d compete for the conference title. I didn’t think we would beat Santa Clara. Did I think we could compete with Santa Clara? Sure, but in no way, shape, or form did I think we were going to shut them out.”

Following BU’s 1-0 loss at Dartmouth on October 11, the Terriers dropped to number 20, but they responded with shutouts against New Hampshire (2-0 on October 15) and the University of Maryland–Baltimore County (3-0 on October 19). “We’ve had a couple of slipups, but we have been taking care of business for the most part,” Feldman says. “The Santa Clara victory turned people’s heads, and we’re determined to prove in the playoffs that we’re still a top-10 team.”