After just for games, only seven undefeated teams remain in all of Division I Field Hockey. Friday’s 4 p.m. tilt at New Balance Field will feature two of them.
No. 13 Boston University (4-0) will host no. 20 University of Maine (4-0), who entered the season unranked but coasted to a 24-6 goal differential in their opening contests.
Despite BU’s 29-6 all time series lead over Maine, they will not be taken lightly.
“It’s always a good game, they are always well coached,” said BU head coach Sally Starr. “Maine kids play hard. I love recruiting kids from Maine, having them on my roster. They are a team that takes their coach’s personality, and they work hard and play fast.”
Though Maine’s roster does include several players from within the state, foreigners outnumber US natives on the roster. As is often the case in collegiate field hockey, Maine’s coach has helped them land plenty of foreign talent. Josette Babineau, in her tenth season at the helm, has coached extensively in the Canadian U-18 and U-21 set ups. Nine Canadians appear on the U-Maine roster, and just one of them comes from outside British Columbia.
“They are always a dangerous attacking team but more so this year, we’ve got to defend with outstanding integrity to be competitive tomorrow,” said Starr.
That defending will be done for the most part by the Terriers’ all new backline, which features a trio of players making their first starts of their careers on the backline. Sophomores Maika Akroyd, Ally Hammel and junior Jordyn Beesmer are amongst the team leaders in minutes played, and their constant presence on the field is in stark contrast to the minutes BU’s forwards have seen.
“The strikers are being subbed every six to eight minutes, the mids about seven to ten. For the backs, particularly with the injury to Bea, we are lean in that position, Renzi could play in that back line if we needed to. They’re young, but I’m very pleased with how they are doing. Gaining experience every game, and they are the only three that are staying on the field,” said Starr.
The back line average 282 minutes between them, having missed a combined twelve minutes of the 840 available, contrasted with BU points leader Amanda Cassera’s 119 minutes played. Much of this is down to the differences of positional play with the additional running required of the forward line, but such a drastic difference is no less remarkable. With the defense looking increasingly solid and Cassera bagging a goal per game, it certainly appears to be yet another stroke of genius from BU’s veteran coaching staff.
The midfield has also impressed, though the success thus far has originated from unexpected sources. Preseason offensive player of the year Hester van der Laan has been relatively quiet with just a point on one assist so far, but her deeper-lying teammates have compensated, especially sophomore Allie Doggett, who has registered two assists off the bench this year.
“Allie can be really dangerous on the ball. She’s very fast, very skilled. She’s starting to understand that she’s got the green light to go, so she’s really creating a lot of goal opportunities. She’s taking the ball into the circle with a lot of pace, a lot of danger. She’s an outstanding player, a high school All-American, and she can do a lot of great things for us,” said Starr, heaping praise on the sophomore from Watertown.
Indeed, it was her speed and dribbling ability on display in Sunday’s win over Miami University (OH.). Credited with the assist for Cassera’s second after an epic run toeing the touchline, she also sparked the move up field that created BU’s first in the 2-1 win. Still without a goal to her name at the collegiate level and without a start this season, it seems to be only a matter of time before she establishes herself as a pillar in BU’s midfield after seeing time at the outside back position in last year’s squad.
Goalkeeper Cammy Jensen has continued her strong start to the season, and despite a relatively low workload managed a few highlight-reel saves at New Balance last weekend. Maintaining her form will be crucial against a Maine side that has hung four or more goals on its’ opponents in each game so far.
As BU seeks to continue its’ climb up the coaches poll this weekend, be warned that Friday’s 4 p.m. will likely be played in the extreme heat. The forecast reads 90 degrees, so don’t forget your water bottle to this one.