By: Alex Smith
What a weekend for Sally Starr.
Just two weeks removed from a disastrous four game skid that saw BU lose to Lafayette and Harvard (and the top two teams in the nation), the Terriers are back on track after recording consecutive shutouts of Lehigh and no. 13 Boston College. The overtime victory over the Eagles is especially sweet, as the Terriers had fallen in each of the two previous meetings in sudden death OT.
Saturday’s conference clash went as expected. Lehigh (5-10) came into the game without a single away win this year, and the Terriers provided their first ranked foe of the season. The 5-0 scoreline didn’t do justice to just how thoroughly the Terriers controlled the game.
Outshooting the Mountain Hawks 24-1, the Terriers never lost their focus or energy. It did take 34 minutes for a breakthrough, which Amanda Cassera provided on a transition play. Receiving it near the midline, she exploded down the left flank, looped into the circle and rolled it into the cage after evading several defenders.
Cammy Jensen could have taken the day off as she wasn’t even required to make a single clearance, let alone a save, in the first half. BU would build on their lead in the second frame, first Kara Enoch, then Grace Boston, and Cassera again made it 4-0. Madeline McClain capped off a sweet team move with her first goal of the season to make it 5-0, and from there BU played keep away.
The lone Lehigh shot came with under a minute left, and backup keeper Kathleen Keegan wasn’t even required to make a save. BU did top Colgate 9-0 earlier this year, with all nine goals coming in the second half, but this victory was every bit as dominant and impressive.
Taylor Blood’s new role as a wide midfielder after being pulled back off the forward line has been a stroke of genius by coach Starr and her staff. Blood is an excellent all around player, but perhaps her best attributes are her speed and ability to beat defenders with the ball. Moving her deeper provides many more opportunities for her to use those skills in the transitional phases of play, as she showed repeatedly, churning and burning through the Lehigh defense effortlessly.
Sunday’s clash had implications bigger than even the Patriot League chase. The Terriers and Eagles are obviously Beanpot rivals, but in no sport has the rivalry been as hard-fought as it has been on turf the past few years.
Each of BU’s eight seniors has lost to BC three times. Those losses have all been by a single goal. Two of the last three had ended with the Eagles rushing onto the field celebrating a game-ending overtime score, which is what the Terriers were forced to watch last year at New Balance.
How fitting that one of those seniors would be the one to reverse the trend. When Madeline McClain scored seven minutes into the overtime period, she sent her teammates into a celebration they will remember for some time.
Even more impressive, the Terriers became the first team to shut out BC all year. Being in the ACC, The Eagles have faced a plethora of highly ranked opponents, and have been ranked as high as no. 9 this year (in fact, they were tied that week with BU).
This defensive stand comes just twenty four hours after allowing a single shot to Lehigh, and the Terriers have made tight, one goal wins over ranked opponents their signature this season.
BU now has wins over ranked opponents Maine (then 20th), Northwestern (then 16th), and BC this year, and only fell to #3 Duke 2-1 off a corner in the final minute of the game. They have been outclassed just once this season, by now #1 UConn, a modern day field hockey juggernaut. BU’s resume is as legit as any in the NCAA, and it could propel them back into the top ten next week.
Three regular season games remain for the Terriers, all three are crucial. This weekend, Holy Cross visits on Friday under the lights before defending National Champion and second ranked Syracuse comes to town on Sunday. Holy Cross shouldn’t offer much more resistance than Lehigh, but the Terriers have notably struggled in late games this season. Both losses to unranked opponents did occur in games that started at 6 p.m. or later, so the Terriers will be looking to fight off an evening snooze and buck the trend.
No. 2 Syracuse will be the true measuring stick, a perfect opponent at the perfect time for the Terriers. Plus, they’ll have the added comfort of playing at home.
In the final weekend of the season, BU will play no. 20 American University in D.C. for the last round of conference play. Barring any upsets this weekend, that game should be a winner-takes all clash, with the victor earning the right to host the four-team Patriot League Tournament.
The Final Four has been touted as a goal for this team before the season began. It seemed unlikely at first, with BU losing two elite players at the front and back. However, this weekend proves they’ve got the tools, offensively and defensively, to make it happen. The Terriers are among the nation’s elite in terms of defending, which keeps them in any game against any opponent. With Taylor Blood moving into midfield and doing her best Sofi Laurito impersonation, the sky is the limit for this group. This weekend they made a statement: Forget a four game losing streak. The Boston University Terriers are NCAA Tournament contenders.
Lehigh highlights and interviews here: