Men’s Soccer Terriers on Quest for America East Championship
BU hosts Hartford in semifinals tonight
Propelled by a 5-2-0 conference record and a 9-8-0 regular season record, the America East regular season champion men’s soccer Terriers continue their quest for an eighth conference championship tonight. Entering the postseason as regular season champions for the third time in the past four years and the 11th time in program history, the team hosts Hartford at Nickerson Field at 7 p.m. in a semifinal matchup.
Head Coach Neil Roberts, now in his 27th season at BU, has a simple explanation for his team’s success this season: “We’ve got good players who want to get better, want to work hard, and want to keep playing. That’s a winning combination.”
Captain and America East first-team midfielder Stephen Knox (COM’12) says the real strength of the 2011 squad can be attributed to the way players treat one another. “We have good unity within the team and good connections,” Knox says. “We don’t try to treat players like freshmen, sophomores, juniors, or seniors, but just as one team, so we have that bond and that connection.”
Knox also credits Roberts and his coaching staff, who just received AE Coaching Staff of the Year honors for the seventh time, for the team’s success.
“Sometimes it can be very stressful, because they expect so much of you every single day—there’s no time to slack off, no time to joke around,” says Knox. “Every day you have to come to practice serious, ready to work. But although I say it’s stressful, it’s very beneficial to us, and that’s why we’re having the success we’re having.”
The program has benefited from a consistent influx of talented young players in recent seasons. Freshman forward Dominique Badji (CGS’13) was named America East Rookie of the Year, the fourth Terrier to earn that honor in the past five seasons. In addition to Badji, four Terrier newcomers made the America East all-rookie team this season.
The player Badji succeeded as the league’s most outstanding rookie—defender Kelvin Madzongwe (CGS’12)—was awarded Defender of the Year, just the second underclassman ever to earn that distinction.
Asked how he’s able to consistently recruit such excellent athletes, Roberts points to the way his team approaches the game. “I think the style of play that we bring…talented kids want to play that style. So that’s why we can get a Knox, get a Badji, get a Kelvin,” he says. “And I think our alumni throughout the world help us attract these kids, so it’s been a winning combination of playing good soccer and being able to get good, talented kids.”
Knox sees it the same way. “We actually try to keep possession, pass…we try to play attractive football,” he says. “I guess most teams in our conference have big guys—they just try to whack it in, but we actually try to play the game, because we’re a fairly small team.”
Men’s soccer isn’t the only BU program reveling in success on the pitch. The women’s soccer team has had a phenomenal season (18-2-0), capturing its fifth-straight America East title on November 5 by defeating Albany 2-0 at Nickerson Field. Currently ranked 12th in the nation by Soccer America, the Terriers take on Harvard at Nickerson on Saturday, November 12, at noon, in their first-ever NCAA postseason game against an Ivy League opponent.
Roberts is careful not to look too far ahead going into tonight’s game. “Hartford’s really hot right now,” he says. “They’re a young team that seems to be coming into their own, so that’s what we have to deal with.”
“Our first goal is just taking care of business on Wednesday night, and then winning the conference, and then doing our best in the NCAA tournament,” Knox says. “But we’re just trying to take it one game at a time.”
The BU men’s soccer team hosts Hartford in an America East semifinal tonight, Wednesday, November 9, at 7 p.m., at Nickerson Field. Tickets are $5 for the general public and $2 for BU students, faculty, and staff. Tickets are available at the gate just before the game.
The BU women’s soccer team hosts Harvard in an NCAA postseason matchup on Saturday, November 12, at noon, at Nickerson Field. Tickets are $7 for the general public, $3 for seniors and students with an ID from Harvard or BU, and $1 for children five and under.
Ben Carsley can be reached at email@example.com Comments