BOSTON — With their win against Bucknell two weeks ago, the #14 Terriers earned the right to host the Patriot League Tournament.
That time is finally here, and this weekend with feature three games between the league’s top four teams, all of which will be available on the Patriot League Network.
BU will host Bucknell once again at 11 a.m. on Friday, and the American University Eagles will face off against the Lafayette Leopards at 2 p.m. The winners will earn the right to play for an NCAA tournament berth on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Postseason Field Hockey returns to BU’s campus for the first time since 2000. Though the Terriers did host America East Conference Tournaments in that span, they were hosted off campus at Harvard and MIT. New Balance was opened in 2013 and this postseason marks the facility’s first.
The Terriers have already hosted all three other tournament teams, winning those games by a combined score of 14-4. They will be looking to defend the title they won last season, though they’ll be cast in a different role this time around. BU topped last year’s hosts Bucknell in the championship, upsetting the Bison 2-1.
This year, they started the season as the top team in the preseason poll, and their perfect 6-0 conference record certainly justified that selection. They’ll be favorites to advance to the NCAA tournament, and to coach Starr, anything less than that would be a failure.
“I feel that this is a program that can compete against the best. Our sights are to win a national championship, this year, next year, in the near future if not this year. That’s what we are looking at for right now,” said Starr.
Starr is right to demand much of her team, and she and 5 Terrier players were honored with team of the season awards. Sofi Laurito was named offensive player of the year, and fellow captain Rachel Coll earned the defensive player of the year. That earned them a spot on the patriot league team of the season along with Hester Van der Laan, and junior forwards Amanda Cassera and Taylor Blood earned second team honors.
BU vs Bucknell
Though the Terriers crushed the Bison 6-0, coach Starr isn’t taking victory as a given. “We cannot look at that score as 6-0,” said Starr. “We were three for three on our first corners, I mean that rarely happens. To me, that score is 0-0, they have a very good attacking team.”
I won’t go against the grain here, as I called BU’s win over Bucknell two weeks ago. The #14 Terriers dominated the game in all aspects, and it marked one of the best team performances of the season with 5 different Terrier goalscorers. They were coming off a loss to #2 UConn at the time, and now are similarly coming back from a loss to #6 Wake Forest to play this game.
“One thing I’ve found out with this team, is that some of our best games have followed the Syracuse and UConn games,” said Starr, referring to BU’s losses against the country’s top two teams. “We’ve definitely had their attention in practice after those type of games, and they are working hard, so I’m really looking forward to us coming out and competing on Friday.”
It isn’t hard to picture a dominant BU win. Though Starr is right not to assume a 3/3 corner performance next time, the Terriers could have won by an even wider margin. They dominated play and squelched out any Bucknell attacks. The Bison were even forced to change their keeper at half.
I’ll predict a 4-0 scoreline. Goals from Laurito, two from Cassera and an Altirriba strike. There isn’t any reason that the Terriers shouldn’t dominate possession again, as the only teams that have had success against BU are the ones who can afford to press Rachel Coll. Expect a more defensive approach by Bucknell after conceding six last time, which should give Coll the ability to dictate the game from the back.
With that possession, it should only be a matter of time before the BU breaks through. Their overall quality was simply too much for any Patriot League team this season, and against a previously defeated opponent, who have dropped two spots in the standings since the teams’ last meeting, a deviation from that trend seems unlikely. If the Terriers score early, it could get ugly for Bucknell.
American vs Lafayette
These teams met on October 17th, with the American Eagles routing the Leopards 5-2. The Leopards were outshot 19-8 and the Eagles earned 9 corners while holding Lafayette to 2. The Eagles scored three goals in the first and the sides traded goals in the second stanza.
I want to be bold here. Having seen both teams against the Terriers, I was more impressed by Lafayette’s defensive work. The Leopards may have figured out something in that even second half, and they could apply different tactics in the team’s second meeting. Take away American’s home field advantage and it is easy to see a neutral site upset in the cards. I’ll take the Leopards, 3-2 in OT. Lafayette’s Shanks and Magaden (2) will get on the scoresheet, and I’ll take a pair of goals from American’s Natalie Konerth.