By: Alex Smith
On a bleak Sunday afternoon the no. 14 Boston University Terriers saw their bid for a Patriot League Tournament three-peat dashed by the American University Eagles.
Equipped with the league’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, and the Patriot League’s Coach of the Year, the offense never got going and the Terriers were shut out 1-0.
The Eagles, who entered the game after shutting out the lowly Holy Cross Crusaders 1-0, executed their game plan to perfection. Though they were outshot 10-4 by the team in red, they grabbed an early lead thanks to Rafeala Rubas’ goal off the first penalty corner of the game. They then sat back, absorbing pressure and frustrating the Terriers for the remaining 63 minutes.
No doubt that AU coach Steve Jennings took in the Terriers’ 2-1 victory over Bucknell on Friday, and set up his squad to defend in ways the Bison could not. The Terriers were fouled repeatedly and excessively, resulting in an ugly game that never developed a rhythm or flow. The frustration was evident as several Terrier players went down after taking hard hits from Eagle defenders, and fortunately BU didn’t lose a player to injury as a result.
A few of these takedowns seemed deliberate, which should have warranted at least a yellow cared and a five minute seat on the sideline. Taylor Blood and Hester van der Laan in particular found themselves deliberately impeded on multiple occasions, and Blood was clearly injured after one such play though she remained in the game. Several American players also grabbed at the sticks of their opponents multiple times, attempting to pull them down and stop any momentum upfield. This in particular frustrated BU, who had not previously seen an opponent muddy up a game to that extent.
BU had two clear chances to tie the game, one on either side of halftime. In the final minute of the first half, Grace Boston and Amanda Cassera had a 2-on-1. Cassera zoomed up the middle then found Boston out on the right side. The junior moved into the circle and sensed Cassera continuing her run, sliding it back across goal. The pass was tipped but Cassera made good contact, and the shot went directly into the left leg of AU’s Maura Jacobs who was positioned correctly.
It was unfortunate for the Terriers, who seemed destined to breakthrough before halftime. The second frame would bring more of the same.
The highlight of the game was undoubtedly Maura Jacob’s surreal save on a high shot from Allie Renzi. With 21 minutes remaining, Ellie Landsman flung the ball across the area. It bounced shoulder high to Renzi who was all alone just a few feet in front of goal. The junior connected on her baseball swing, and blasted the ball towards the upper left corner.
Jacobs, beaten, stretched her stick out in desperation. Somehow, she too connected, tipping away the game tying goal. It was a jaw dropping, one-of-a-kind save that just doesn’t happen. In field hockey, goalkeepers rarely use the stick, and to see a save like that in the context of a championship game was as unexpected as it was brilliant. The sense of awe was palpable as players, fans, and broadcasters all gasped, in disbelief that BU hadn’t equalized.
A sense of doubt seemed to come over the Terriers from then on. Amanda Cassera recorded a few shots before the final whistle, but the usual frantic energy of an attempted one-goal comeback wasn’t there. Again, credit American for their prowess at breaking up play in midfield, as they took several penalties rather than to let BU advance the ball.
Time ran out, and the Terriers stared down at New Balance Field in disbelief as the Eagles finally enjoyed the celebration that had been a year in the making. It wasn’t supposed to end like this, not for BU’s eight seniors, who serve as the inaugural class for New Balance Field. Not for Sally Starr, who’s sterling career continues to approach its end with each passing game.
There is still hope, though. BU could receive an at large bid, a chance rendered even more likely as the majority of the favorites in their conference tournaments did win out. They’ll have to wait patiently, though, and be at the mercy of the NCAA committee. The bracket should be released at 10 p.m. on Sunday night.
For more pictures of this game and other Terrier events, check out Terrier Shots run by Nicole Ericson on Facebook. You’ll find hundreds of high-quality action shots from the latest BU games.