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A New Era and a New Home for Terrier Field Hockey

Patriot League home opener tomorrow

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As the sun slowly made its away across New Balance Field earlier this week, members of the Terrier field hockey team could be seen briskly executing sprints and spacing drills as they prepared for this weekend’s doubleheader, one of them the first-ever Patriot League game on New Balance Field.

The season marks a series of firsts for the women Terriers. Not only are they competing in a new league (like most of BU’s varsity teams, field hockey has joined the Patriot League), they have a permanent home for the first time ever. For the past 13 years, the field hockey team has had to practice and play home games at Harvard and Northeastern, because Nickerson Field’s turf is ill-suited for the sport. That has meant losing valuable pregame time loading equipment into buses and traveling across the city to host competitors. Now, with the recent opening of New Balance Field, the team finally has a dedicated field on campus.

Head coach Sally Starr, now in her 33rd season with the Terriers, says that having a permanent home on campus will give them a competitive edge they haven’t had before when they play that inaugural conference game tomorrow, against American University. “I think it will help the players bring their focus in before the game,” Starr says. “Being able to walk over to the field instead of spending time traveling makes a huge difference as far as preparation goes, and it gives us a true home-field advantage for the first time in years.”

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Cocaptain Ysabel Schieb (CGS’12, SHA’14), who anchors the Terrier defense this season, is one of seven international players on the roster.

The Terriers, with a 5-2 overall record, are currently ranked 18th in the nation. They won their first conference match with a dramatic 2-1 defeat of Colgate University on September 21, and they hope to build on that momentum tomorrow. The weekend’s second contest is a nonconference game against Hofstra University on Sunday afternoon.

The Terriers have already played a number of intense nonconference contests. They notched two overtime victories, against Providence and Colgate, and suffered two losses, to 11th ranked Northwestern University and 17th ranked Boston College.

Starr places a lot of value on those experiences. “We want to get better every practice and every game,” she says. “That means facing some tough challenges. Those two losses may have been losses on paper, but we’re a better team because of them, and they will help us in the future when we take on teams in the Patriot League.”

Although this year’s team boasts strong players and a lot of talent, they are also young. With 10 freshmen on the team and 7 underclassmen starting, it’s vital to have some vocal veterans in the lineup. Starr points to two seniors, Ysabel Schieb (SHA’14) and Madeleine Hackett (COM’14), who have been particularly “instrumental on the field this year. All of the captains do a great job leading this young team, but these two in particular are really great at setting the example, playing with confidence, and helping the young players develop.”

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Madeleine Hackett (CGS’12, COM’14) and the Terriers entered their first year in the Patriot League as the preseason favorite to capture the conference title.

During a recent practice, Schieb and Hackett moved assuredly through passing drills, encouraging and directing the younger players into the right positions, all the while trying to keep the atmosphere loose. Both players recognize the importance of helping to mentor these underclassmen.

“As a senior on this team, I find it essential to be a good role model for the underclassmen and lead by example,” Schieb says. “It’s important to encourage the freshmen and help them gain confidence.”

Veteran midfielder Hackett says she’s been impressed by the freshmen. “The team has incredible chemistry this year,” she says. “The freshmen immediately fit in, and they are true team players. We’ve improved exponentially since the first day of preseason in August, and we’re thrilled to be entering Patriot League competition.”

BU will be vying with Colgate, American, Bucknell, Lehigh, Lafayette, and Holy Cross for the Patriot League title and an automatic NCAA bid. The new conference may not be quite as strong as America East, Starr says, but nevertheless tomorrow’s conference home opener is an important game. “There are a couple of teams that are really the cream of the Patriot League and American is one of them,” she says. “They’re a well-coached veteran team that is ranked in the top 20 nationally.”

Schieb says that having a home of their own has given the team a level of visibility and support it hasn’t had before, and that in turn has made them more competitive than ever. “We have a lot more support behind us when we play now,” she notes. “It really drives us to protect ‘our house,’ and if we are able to host the finals on our new field, it would be our way of saying thank you to the athletics department for building such an incredible facility.”

Hackett is eager for tomorrow’s game. “There are so many new and exciting things about this year. We have a new field, a new conference, and 10 new players. The first Patriot League game on our home field is going to be nothing short of memorable. It’s the start of a new era, and we can’t wait to get out there and demonstrate our Terrier pride.”

The BU women’s field hockey team takes on American University at 1 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, September 28, at New Balance Field, 286 Babcock St. Gates open at 12:45 p.m. for a free pancake breakfast and merchandise giveaway, courtesy of BU Athletics. The team will host Hofstra University at 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 29. All games are free and open to the public.

Nate Weitzer can be reached at nweitzer@bu.edu.

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