BU Soccer Launches a New Season in a New Conference
Men’s, women’s teams play doubleheader at Nickerson tonight
When the men’s and women’s soccer teams take to Nickerson Field tonight, it will be with a sense of anticipation and excitement. This season’s move to the Patriot League marks a new chapter in the squads’ history.
The Terrier men host nonconference rival Boston College today at 5 p.m., followed immediately by the women’s squad taking on nonconference foe South Carolina. Both games are at Nickerson Field and kick off with a Terrier Tailgate, featuring games, prizes, and free food.
America East, invoking its bylaws, banned Boston University sports teams from participating in the conference tournaments last year after the University announced that it would be joining the Patriot League in fall 2013. As well as BU, the league comprises Army, Navy, Holy Cross, Colgate, Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh, American, and Loyola Maryland.
Men’s head coach Neil Roberts, now in his 29th season at BU, says his team is looking forward to the challenge of facing new opponents. “It’s not going to be any easier,” Roberts says. “They are good teams that have been successful over the last 10 years, so it’s going to be a battle.” The Terriers open conference play on September 28 at Navy.
Cocaptain Anthony Ciccone (CGS’12, SAR’14), a preseason All-Conference midfielder, says the team is “excited to travel to new schools and experience different styles of play” this season. “The transition to the Patriot League should not be a problem as long as we play our style and brand of soccer,” he says. “We are always up for a new challenge, and we will embrace this one.”
This year’s team includes 18 returning players, among them standout goalkeeper Nick Thomson (CGS’13, SAR’15). Thomson started all 18 contests last season, posting a .755 save percentage and allowing only 1.21 goals per game. He shut out the opposition 11 times over his first two seasons.
The British native is one of 10 international students on the 2013 roster. His defensive lines will be bolstered by the return of 2011 America East Defender of the Year Kelvin Madzongwe (CGS’12, COM’14), who missed nearly all of last season with a leg injury.
While the Terriers lost four-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Region honoree Michael Bustamante (CGS’10, MET’13), now playing with Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, to graduation, they are still flush with talent. Madzongwe and Dominique Badji (CGS’13, CAS’15) were chosen for the preseason All-Conference team along with Ciccone. Badji, a skilled forward from Senegal, was named the 2011 America East Rookie of the Year after tallying five goals and three assists.
Plagued by multiple injuries, the Terriers finished 6-8-4 in 2012. It was only the third time in Roberts’ tenure as head coach that the team failed to finish with a winning record.
“We have had a little drought the past couple of years, falling short of the NCAA tournament,” acknowledges Ciccone, who says expectations remain high for this season. “Anything short of an NCAA bid would be an unsuccessful season,” he says.
While the men’s team is poised to make a run at the league title, the women’s squad is the Patriot League preseason poll favorite to win the conference title. The Terriers hope not only to win their first PL championship, but capture their 11th NCAA tournament bid.
Beginning her 19th season as women’s soccer head coach, Nancy Feldman calls the team’s number one preseason ranking an honor. “Certainly it’s nice to be respected as one of the top teams this year in the Patriot League,” says Feldman, whose team will begin conference play at Navy on September 20.
“If you look at the history of the champions in the Patriot League, there are four different ones in the last four years,” she says. “I think that’s telling, and that’s not been the case in the America East.” The fact that four different teams have claimed number one status over as many years may indicate, she says, that “there are a deeper group of teams that are competitive” in BU’s new league.
Players like midfielder Emma Clark (COM’14) say they are eagerly anticipating the chance to play new teams. “We have a fresh slate to work with,” says Clark. “It’s exciting to play a whole new set of opponents, and we look forward to seeing what conference play will look like.”
The women’s team began the 2012 season ranked 37th nationally, but finished with a 12-6-1 record, capturing its sixth straight regular season America East title, with an 8-0-0 conference record.
The Terriers lost two players to graduation, 2012 America East Defender of the Year Jessica Morrow (SMG’13) and starting forward Brea Hewitt (COM’13), but 22 players have returned—16 upperclassmen, and 4 of the top 5 goal scorers. Forward Madison Clemens (SMG’14) led the Lady Terriers with eight goals last season and was voted the Patriot League’s Offensive Player of the Year in preseason polls. The team also welcomes back Emma Clark (CGS’12, COM’14), the 2012 America East Midfielder of the Year and a preseason All-Conference honoree.
Feldman will have a difficult time replacing Morrow on a back line that posted a stingy 0.89 goals against average last season, but the defense will be strengthened by the return of Ariana Aston (CGS’13, COM’15), a 2011 All-Rookie Team member, who missed her sophomore year because of a leg injury.
That defense has looked promising in BU’s first two games, allowing one goal in a 1-0 loss to Boston College on August 25 and holding Dayton scoreless in a 1-0 victory in the home opener on August 23.
Feldman remains optimistic despite the split in the two early nonconference games. “There are a number of teams that should feel pretty confident about being competitive enough to win the conference,” she says, “and I feel like we are one of those teams.”
The BU men’s soccer team takes on Boston College at 5 p.m. today, Friday, August 30, at Nickerson Field, 285 Babcock St. The women’s soccer team hosts South Carolina immediately after. Admission is free for all BU fans; $5 for the general public. Gates open at 4 p.m. for the Terrier Tailgate.
Nate Weitzer can be reached at email@example.com.+ Comments