The women’s soccer Terriers, ranked 12th in the nation with a 4-2-1 record, knew there was something special about this year’s team as early as last May. BU had just gone undefeated (4-0-2) in its spring exhibition season, allowing only two goals in the six games.
This is, after all, a soccer program that has made it to the NCAA tournament for four of the past six years, and racked up its best season ever last year, with a 14-5-4 record. Nonetheless, after graduating eight seniors — six of them starters — the Terriers were due for a letdown, according to some women’s college soccer observers. So the players became determined to prove the naysayers wrong.
“The spring season gave us a sense that the returning players were ready,” says Coach Nancy Feldman. She and new assistant coach Liz Driscoll “saw their determination to send the message that even though we graduated a lot of very good players who helped take us to the second round of the NCAAs last fall, there are some excellent players left to carry on our successful tradition.”
It has been especially gratifying to Feldman to see her younger players stepping up to fill the void. In BU’s 3-1 victory over St. Joseph’s University on September 8, freshman Farrell McClernon (SMG’10) netted two goals, and sophomore Marsha Schumacher-Hodge (CAS’09) recorded a goal and an assist. On September 5, McClernon earned America East Rookie of the Week honors after her overtime goal lifted BU to a 1-0 victory over Boston College August 25. In addition, on September 5 she led the Terrier offense with three shots in BU’s 0-0 tie with Brown.
“The freshmen came into preseason with a lot of confidence and an attitude that they were willing and able to contribute right away,” says Feldman, “and they have done just that, while learning what it takes to be a Division I soccer player at a high level.”
As for contributions from veterans, it’s hard to top Lauren Erwin (CAS’07), whose 13 career goals put her 9th on the BU all-time list. In the Terriers’ 1-0 wins over Fairfield and Santa Clara, on September 12 and September 15, respectively, “Ernie” scored the only goal in each game. “Lauren Erwin has the most amazing motor,” says Feldman. “It would rival any that you might see in an athlete, regardless of the sport. She is singularly focused, determined, and has a will that is incredible. Couple this with her team-first mentality and unselfishness and we have an incredible leader, because her tenaciousness is contagious.”
Feldman, who has coached the team since it was elevated from club to varsity Division I status in 1995, says that in the history of the program, Erwin is the player most respected by her teammates. “Lauren will continue to rack up points this year in important goals and assists because of her ability, but mostly because of her determination,” she says. “I call them ‘Ernie’ goals — especially the one she scored at Fairfield.”
Feldman insists that she and her team aren’t getting caught up in their number-12 ranking. “I don’t believe that they put much stock in the rankings at this point,” she says. “It’s nice to be recognized and thought of as a successful program and be on the tip of people’s tongues when they talk about the top 25, but we realize that we are only as good as our last game, and for us to be successful, we have to bring an aggressive and determined mentality and focus to every match, as well as continue to get better as a soccer team during the season.”
Feldman looks forward to a four-game homestand that begins against Harvard on Wednesday, September 20, at 4 p.m. “Playing on Nickerson Field brings a special energy and enthusiasm,” she says, “and we feel strongly about protecting our home turf.”
A September 23 game against Stony Brook University, at 3 p.m., marks the beginning of conference play, and the September 25 contest against Yale at 7 p.m. will draw fans eager to see a game against a top regional opponent. On September 28, BU hosts the University of Maine, which she describes as “our conference rival of all rivals.” The four games will mark “an important stretch of matches for us to continue to position ourselves as a top team in the region,” she says.