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Field Hockey, Women’s Soccer Head to Patriot League Tournaments

Semifinal matchups Friday, championship games set for Sunday

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Today kicks off a big weekend for the field hockey and women’s soccer teams: each will compete in the semifinal round of their Patriot League Tournament. Field hockey is hosting Bucknell at 1 p.m. at New Balance Field, and women’s soccer heads to Lewisburg, Pa., for a 7 p.m. matchup with Navy at Bucknell’s Emmitt Field. Wins today will advance the teams to their Patriot League championship games on Sunday.

Field hockey

The field hockey team clinched the top seed in the conference tournament and accompanying hosting duties with a 2-1 victory at American last Saturday. The win concluded a season that saw the Terriers go 12-5 overall and a near-perfect 5-1 in Patriot League play.

Field hockey’s 36-year head coach Sally Starr, who has led the team to back-to-back Patriot League titles and NCAA Tournament appearances, credits this year’s strong season to an eight-woman senior class that knows what it takes to be successful.

“The seniors have had a lot of success in the last two years,” Starr says. “They really wanted to sustain that, and they committed themselves to being fitter, faster, and smarter. That really started last February and continued with their hard work through the summer. They continue that work ethic day to day to get better.”

BU outscored opponents 43-22 over the course of the 2016 campaign, and tri-captain Amanda Cassera (SAR’17) led the way with nine tallies. Fellow tri-captain Hester van der Laan (ENG’17) added six goals of her own, while Taylor Blood (CGS’15, SAR’17) dished out seven assists to pace the Terriers in that category.

Cassera was selected to participate in this year’s Victory Sports Tours/National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division I Senior Game, with fellow tri-captain Ellie Landsman (Questrom’17) picked as an alternate. The game, on Saturday, November 19, at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., falls between the semifinal and championship rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

“Amanda leads by example and has a tremendous work ethic,” Starr says. “She’s having her best season this year. She’s somebody who really committed herself to making her senior year special, and I’m happy for her that she’s having a great senior year.”

Besides Cassera, several other members of the program have snagged postseason accolades. Earlier this week, Landsman was named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and van der Laan Offensive Player of the Year. Starr earned her eighth Coach of the Year honor.

The Terriers are looking to build on their two consecutive Patriot League championships and NCAA appearances, experiences that Cassera is confident will aid the team in this year’s postseason.

“I think that having eight seniors who are so experienced in these situations allows their confidence to become contagious throughout the team and especially in our underclassmen,” she says. “Our team culture allows for our positivity and encouragement of each other to bring the rest of the team up with us.”

That said, Starr notes that today’s game against Bucknell will be a tougher test than a typical top seed’s opening round game.

“We’re really not thinking about the result, but about being the best that we can be on each given day. I think there’s a calm confidence and I think they’re really excited about the opportunity they have to play against a really good Bucknell team on Friday,” she says, and that the game pitting the first seeded team and the fourth seeded in this tournament may be the more difficult game.

If the Terriers take down Bucknell, they will face the winner of a matchup between American and Holy Cross in the Patriot League Championship, which will be held at noon on Sunday at New Balance Field.

The Boston University field hockey team faces Bucknell today, Friday, November 4, at 1 p.m. at New Balance Field, 286 Babcock St. American and Holy Cross play in the other semifinal at 4 p.m., at New Balance. 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 6, at noon, also at New Balance Field. The Patriot League Network will broadcast both games live.

Rachel Bloznalis, Boston University Terriers women’s soccer cocaptain

Women’s soccer cocaptain Rachel Bloznalis (SAR’17) has been named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. She and teammates take on Navy today in a Patriot League Tournament semifinal contest. Photo by BU Athletics

Women’s soccer

For women’s soccer, the second half of the 2016 season has been one of redemption.

After beginning the year with 10 consecutive losses, the Terriers rattled off a 9-game unbeaten streak to clinch the second seed and a quarterfinal bye in this weekend’s tournament. BU finished the season with an impressive 8-1 record in the Patriot League.

Cocaptain Rachel Bloznalis (SAR’17) attributes the turnaround to the mantra of this year’s team, selected by the senior class: “Believe in We.”

“We describe it as believing in the leadership, believing in the coaches, and believing in the process,” Bloznalis says. “Believing in the process is a big part of it, because the first 10 teams that we played were all really good, strong teams. Instead of getting discouraged that we were losing those games, we used them to build our confidence in our team in general.”

The Terriers’ goal differential tells the story—prior to Patriot League play, BU was outscored 19-2. In league play, however, the team outscored opponents 18-7.

The offensive outburst came from a variety of players, with Jesse Shreck (CAS’18), McKenna Doyle (Questrom’19), Kelly Park (SAR’20), and Bloznalis finishing the regular season tied at three goals each. Park credits her offensive success to an invested group of upperclassmen and coaches.

“I can attribute any success I had to my teammates, and mostly to the senior class and upperclassmen,” says Park. “Coming in, I think their confidence in me and their ability to make me feel like I deserve to be here gave me confidence on the field.”

She goes on to say that when she joined the team this year, she was impressed by how close everyone was. “It really does make a difference on the field. Everyone is pushing each other, but also supporting each other and wanting to make each other better.”

For cocaptain Rachel Blauner (COM’17), this season’s success has been particularly hard-won. Blauner had three concussions in high school and a season-ending injury as a BU sophomore, but has rebounded to become an integral part of BU’s success and the team’s culture of accountability.

“I think that taking heading out of the game would be like taking tackling out of football,” Blauner says. “I just try to spread the message to the team that we have to be accountable for each other. I think our team has been pretty good about that.”

Nancy Feldman, now in her 22nd year as women’s soccer head coach, is quick to commend Blauner’s determination. “I think how her injuries have shaped her is how she has an impact on the team,” Feldman says. “Rachel has an appreciation for every single day she gets to play a game she loves, and she expresses that very openly.”

Leading up to today’s semifinal matchup, the team has tried to find a balance between “being excited and knowing what’s at stake,” Bloznalis says, and the one-game-at-a-time attitude that has allowed the Terriers to flourish after their slow start.

“It’s a one-game-at-a-time mind-set more than usual, because it actually is—if we lose this game, we’re done,” she says. “It makes it a lot more nerve-racking knowing that this could be the last game if we don’t win it. While everyone knows it’s super-important, we want to keep it positive and keep our confidence up.”

The Boston University women’s soccer team faces Navy in a Patriot League semifinal matchup today, Friday, November 4, at 7 p.m. at Emmitt Field at Holmes Stadium, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pa. The winner goes up against the victor in the Bucknell-Lafayette game at 4 p.m., also at Emmitt Field, in the Patriot League Championship on Sunday, November 6, at 1 p.m., at Emmitt Field. The Patriot League Network will broadcast both games live.

Taylor Raglin can be reached at traglin@bu.edu.

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