By: Andrew Mason
For the fifth year in a row, top-seeded Boston University Field Hockey is set to compete in the Patriot League title game, coming off a 4-0 shutout win over No. 4 Holy Cross on Friday. Joining the Terriers are the No. 3 Bison of Bucknell, who defeated second ranked American 2-1 in a shootout.
Semifinal Game 1: No. 1 BU vs. No. 4 Holy Cross
All four teams in the PL Tournament were on display at New Balance Field on Friday afternoon. Host BU played Holy Cross in a rematch of a regular season mid-October match in which the Terriers annihilated the Crusaders 8-1 in Worcester, the largest margin of victory for BU all season.
Both sides held each other off for the beginning portion of the first half, until sophomore Kiley Gallagher of BU scored on a bouncing shot off a penalty corner in the 16th minute of play. Gallagher’s first career goal at home seemed to be all the Terriers needed to get going on Friday.
As is the case in many playoff scenarios, veterans such as captain Grace Boston stepped up to guide the Terriers in this semifinal matchup. Before the half came to an end, BU extended its lead to four with two goals from Boston and one from junior Maika Akroyd.
Head Coach Sally Starr for the Terriers spoke after the game on her captain’s aggressive scoring attitude against Holy Cross.
“I’d love for Grace Boston to be a little more greedy in the circle,” said Starr. “But that’s Grace Boston, she’s always looking more to help her teammates, get the assist.”
On the defensive end, goalkeepers Millie Baker and Kathleen Keegan were perfect. Only one shot on goal headed in their direction all day, which was swept up by Keegan in the second half.
In one-game-elimination tournaments like this, earning penalty corner attempts is vital to survival. The Crusaders were unable to see even one corner throughout the full 70 minute game, drastically decreasing their chances to put one through the cage. On the other hand, BU converted two of its eight corners into scores.
Semifinal Game 2: No. 2 American vs. No. 3 Bucknell
The two middle seeds offered what was almost a complete opposite spectacle from Game 1. Where BU and Holy Cross had the pleasure of clear skies, the rain set in for defending champion American and Bucknell. Where BU took control of the game early, the victor of game 2 took not just regulation, but two overtimes and a shootout to present itself.
This 100 minute deadlock performance can be credited to the contrasting style of play of both sides.
Coming into the contest, American was a squad heavily dependent on its offensive firepower. Both Rafaela Rubas, Patriot League’s Offensive Player of the Year, and Noor Coenen, the conference Rookie of the Year, can score at will for the Eagles.
Meanwhile, the Bison present a slower paced style of play. They do not put up a lot of points, 10 throughout PL play this season, but do not give up many either. Anchored by goalkeeper Emily Finn, Bucknell conceded just eight goals to league opponents heading into Friday’s game. Ironically, the only league game in which Bucknell gave up more than one goal came in a 4-0 loss to American.
Emily Finn’s intense performance on Friday, which included 11 saves and perfect protection throughout the shootout, led the Bison to a 2-1 win and their first appearance in the title game since 2014.
Bucknell’s defense was able to keep American’s most deadly weapons at bay, most notably Rubas and Coenen, whose seven combined shots on goal were all stopped by Finn. Only forward Haley Bowcutt found the back of the cage for the Eagles on the day.
After two 15 minute overtime periods, and the brief spits of rain had stopped, the game was called to a shootout – five shots for each side. However, only three were needed, as Chloe Poltonavage, M.C. Evans, and Kaelyn Long scored for the Bison on their first three attempts. Finn kept up her miraculous defending, swiping away all Eagle shots that came her way.
The Title Game: 1 BU vs. 3 Bucknell
These squads faced each other on Oct 28, a match that resulted in a 1-0 BU victory. The Terriers are at home and have eliminated the Bison in each of the past four Patriot League Tournaments, including the 2014 title game. Since 2011, BU has won nine of 10 matches overall against Bucknell.
However, the Bison’s battle against American proved they can compete with any top Patriot League team. Where BU has the clear advantage is on the offensive end, with efficient scorers Grace Boston, Ailsa Connolly, and Petra Hall all leading the way for the scarlet and white.
That being said, BU’s defensive backline, built by Ally Hammel, Kathryn Scheerer, and senior Jordyn Beesmer, support a unit that maintained a league-leading 0.83 goals-against-average versus conference foes. The clashing of these top defenses could call for another low scoring nail-biter.
The Patriot League Tournament title game between Boston University and Bucknell University is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5 at New Balance Field. The winner of the game receives an automatic placement in the 2017 NCAA National Tournament.