Since Boston University joined the Patriot League in 2013, the women’s soccer team has dominated the league, taking three of the last four championship titles. The field hockey team has been almost as successful, splitting the last four league titles with American.
Today sees both teams competing in the 2017 league tournament semifinals: the field hockey team, hosting this year, takes on Holy Cross at noon at New Balance Field, and women’s soccer travels to Annapolis, Md., to face Bucknell tonight at 8 p.m. A win for each team advances them to Patriot League Tournament championship games on Sunday.
The field hockey team enters today’s Patriot League Tournament semifinal as the favorite to win the title. After a roller-coaster ride that took the Terriers from a 4-0 start to three straight losses, they finished with a modest 11-7 record, but a perfect 6-0 in Patriot League play.
“The fact that we’re hosting the tournament says a lot about us,” says Kara Enoch (CGS’17, COM’19). “Being able to host speaks volumes about the growth we’ve had.”
Projected to finish second in the preseason, the Terriers surpassed expectations, accomplishing the widest margin of victory in Patriot League history. The Terriers outscored their opponents 27-4 in conference play, preventing even one team from scoring more than a single goal.
The team’s success this season is largely because of the freshmen class: Ailsa Connolly (CGS’19) led the team with 20 points, Petra Hall (CAS’21) finished fifth (13 points), and Miya Denison (CGS’19) was sixth (11 points).
But talent could be spotted across the board. Ally Hammel (CGS’17, Sargent’19) proved the defensive anchor of the team, earning Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. Hammel, along with Allie Doggett (CGS’17, Questrom’19) and cocaptain Kali Shumock (Sargent’18), were unanimous All-Patriot League First Team selections. Connolly and Kiley Gallagher (CAS’20, Questrom’20) made the second team.
Earlier this week Sally Starr, marking her 37th year as head coach, was named Patriot League Coach of the Year for the third straight time.
Before reaching Sunday’s championship game, the Terriers first have to face Holy Cross tonight. Players are hoping for a repeat of the last matchup with their Worcester rivals: a dominant 8-1 win. But Starr says the Terriers know they can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
“Holy Cross is on our schedule next, and it’s zero-zero,” she says. I don’t care what the score was in our regular season game against them. Right now, the score is zero-zero.”
When the Terriers take the field today, they’ll be focused on the next step on the quest for a third conference tournament title in five years.
“We’re ready to bring home the trophy and keep it here,” Enoch says.
Like their field hockey counterparts, the women’s soccer Terriers are also looking to claim another title, making it their fourth since joining the conference.
While they remain a force to be reckoned with, this season’s record looks different from seasons past: 8-7-3 overall and 6-2-1 conference—an objectively strong standing that’s not quite up to par with the program’s standards. The last time the Terriers lost more than a single game in conference play was back in 2004, when they posted a 5-3-1 record in America East. Their third-place finish in regular conference play marks BU’s first time without a bye in the Patriot League Tournament.
“For us, this is new; it’s been a long time since we’ve not gotten a bye for the championship weekend,” says veteran head coach Nancy Feldman. “Our goals are the same: we want to be at the championship weekend. We want to be in a position to win the championship.”
The Terriers have consistently improved throughout the season, especially, players say, amidst the tough nonconference schedule they faced, and they hope to build on that momentum tonight when they take on Bucknell.
“From the beginning of the season, we’ve played a lot of good teams—high competition—and we learned new things from each game we played,” says Christina Wakefield (CGS’16, CAS’18), who led the Terriers with 13 points (5 goals, 3 assists) during the regular season.
“Our confidence has really improved,” tri-captain Jacki Carty (CGS’16, Sargent’18) says. “That all started with out-of-conference play, and it’s really shown with in-conference play.”
The season has seen a number of distinctions conferred on individual players: tri-captain Rachel Bloznalis (Sargent’17, SPH’19) is the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year for the second season in a row, and Anna Heilferty (CAS’21), who coled the team in goals, with five, earned Rookie of the Year honors. In all, the Terriers have five All-Patriot League Team honorees: Bloznalis and Wakefield made the first team, and Julianna Chen (CAS’19), Heilferty, and Dorrie Varley-Barrett (CGS’17, Sargent’19) were chosen for the second team.
BU is facing an unexpected challenge in tournament play this season. An injury had already sidelined Chen when the team lost Wakefield in the first 10 minutes of the quarterfinal game against Lafayette. While the rest of the players stepped up to pull off a 1-0 victory, with Carty scoring a header off a perfect corner by Heilferty, injuries remain a concern.
With the loss of their points leader, the Terriers will look to the other end of the field for success tonight. Defense has been a major strength this season: from September 16 to October 18, BU allowed just a single goal, posting a 7-1-1 record during that time.
“All you need is one more than the other team, so if we defend like hell and continue to be gritty and persistent, be aggressive finding opportunities, we’re going to break through,” Feldman says. “We trust our defending—and we have to. We’ve become a team that needs and wants clean sheets. If you look at our history, we have always been stingy defensively. Years that we haven’t had prolific goal scorers, this has been the method.”
The Terriers will need to play a topflight defense tonight against Bucknell, the conference high-scoring team. A win would also avenge their 1-2 overtime loss to the Bisons in last season’s championship game.
“We’ve got to be confident going into these games. We have the talent. We have the ability,” Wakefield says. “And if we’re confident, composed, and poised, I think it’ll go our way.”
The Boston University field hockey team takes on Holy Cross in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals today, Friday, November 3, at noon. All tournament games are at New Balance Field, 286 Babcock St. Today’s other semifinal game pits American and Bucknell, at 3 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. The winners of the two Friday games will meet in the Patriot League championship game on Sunday, November 5, at noon. The Patriot League Network will broadcast the games live.
The BU women’s soccer team takes on Bucknell in a Patriot League Tournament semifinal matchup tonight, Friday, November 3, at 7:35 p.m. All tournament games are at the US Naval Academy Glenn Warner Soccer Stadium, Annapolis, Md. The winner will go up against the victor in today’s 5:05 p.m. Navy-Colgate game in the Patriot League Championship game on Sunday, November 5, at 12:05 p.m. The Patriot League Network will broadcast the games live.
Jonathan Chang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.