By: Alex Smith
Coming into the weekend undefeated and ranked ninth in the nation, the Boston University Terriers record-setting start seemed to be coming to boiling point as they were set to take on no. 3 UConn on Sunday.
Friday’s conference tilt at Lafayette seemed more of an afterthought on a weekend that would feature New Balance Field’s first top ten clash. For the Leopards, though, it was their biggest game of the season, and it showed.
The Terriers never got anything going offensively against their conference foe, and if not for Hester van der Laan’s ferocious strike as regulation wound down, they would have fallen 1-0 in regulation. Instead, they battled on for two fruitless overtime periods before eventually falling in a shootout.
Twice the Terriers hit the post in the shootout, and as the home team shooting second the Leopards had a chance knotted at 2-2 to clinch the winning shot. Cammy Jensen saved Aliza Fourneaux’s initial attempt. Had Jensen laid on the rebound it would have resulted in a penalty stroke, so when the rebound was kicked out Fourneaux’s way she didn’t have much more to do than dump the ball into an empty net.
It was an extremely unlucky conclusion to a poorly played game, the Terriers had dominated the scoring chances especially in overtime. The defense looked strong as it has all season, conceding just the one goal on a fortunate deflection.
The defeat to what could be considered their easiest opponent of the year is troubling for the Terriers, who waltzed to a undefeated 6-0 conference mark last year en route to hosting (and winning) the Patriot League Tournament. Should they slip up again, it would put their bid to host two straight in serious jeopardy.
Sometimes, the ball doesn’t bounce your way and that seemed to be the case on Friday for BU. Conceding early is uncharacteristic for this squad and they allowed themselves to simply be bogged down between the 25s for much of the contest. BU’s frontline will be frustrated they weren’t able to do more against a Patriot League opponent.
Sunday, though, was a different story. Featuring a host of returning stars who were part of their back to back titles in 2013 and 2014, the Huskies were an embodiment of class on grass (turf) as they tore through the Terriers with brilliant speed and technique. Charlotte Veitner, one of the most prolific goal scorers ever to grace the NCAA, got the Huskies started in the game’s eighth minute.
Senior back Anna Middendorf smashed a restart into the circle which took a deflection off of Kara Enoch’s stick, before Veitner pounced on the ball, turned, and launched a ferocious shot that had Cammy Jensen picking the ball out of the cage before she even saw it. The German-born forward wasn’t done there.
In the thirteenth minute again off a restart UConn went through the air with a lofted overhead dropping beautifully for Veitner. The junior showed surreal touch to control the ball out of the air before motoring down the right sideline, beating Maika Akroyd for pace and forcing Cammy Jensen to rush out of the net and close down a possible cross. Veitner sensed the BU keeper bearing down and slid the ball across the area, where it was stabbed home by Amanda Collins.
The remainder of the opening frame featured chances on both sides but the Huskies were far more clinical. Darby Smith opened up her account with her first goal of the season in the 23rd minute, and that scoreline held until the half.
As the second half picked up it was the Huskies who struck first once again, this time through Casey Umstead as she converted from a corner following a brilliant Jensen save. All night long Jensen found herself surround by swarms of Husky forwards, as head coach Nancy Stevens, D1 Field Hockey’s winningest coach, employed goalkeeper screens to great effect.
BU finally did register a goal through Allie Renzi in the 51st minute, as the junior midfielder slid home a cross from Taylor Blood, but it would only be consolation as UConn tacked on a final goal from a penalty stroke with just second remaining.
Outclassed and outplayed, the better team prevailed on Sunday. BU rarely looks overmatched but as they witnessed what Veitner was able to do to an incredibly solid backline early on in the game it seemed to affect BU’s confidence. BU found space in midfield and in the circle, and finished with ten shots to UConn’s 11, but just couldn’t create enough clear openings. They also notably ended the game with a whopping ten corners (UConn had 3) but were unable to convert a single one and often failed to even get a shot away.
Whether it was a lack of confidence, fatigue or just a demanding start to the season catching up with them the Terriers made several uncharacteristic errors, and their touch and ball control seemed off. Credit must be given to UConn where it is due, but the Terriers have put together and executed game plans with much better success than they had on Sunday.
A loss to a strong UConn squad would not likely have affected BU’s spot in the national poll, however Friday’s blunder will almost certainly cost them. I wouldn’t expect them to appear outside of the top twenty, and with several of the other undefeated teams losing this weekend UConn could shoot straight up to number one. The Duke Blue Devils stand in elite company with the Huskies as undefeated teams in the NCAA, and the rankings should reflect that come Tuesday.
Coach Starr’s squad has a great chance to get back to winning ways this week, as they face a rare unranked non-conference foe in Harvard at home on Thursday. That game is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be seen on the Patriot League Network.