By: Andrew Mason
BOSTON — Just a few days after Allie Renzi’s clutch game-winning goal against Bucknell secured the Patriot League crown, Boston University Field Hockey pushes those memories aside in preparation for the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
BU’s 13th appearance in the big dance begins on Wednesday at New Balance Field against the Stags of Fairfield University, a suburban-Connecticut school that plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Stags (9-11) secured their spot in the play-in game after topping Monmouth University in the MAAC championship last Sunday.
Historically, the Terriers (13-7) hold a perfect 9-0 record against the Stags, the most recent BU victory coming in the 2015 NCAA opening-round game by a score of 6-1. The Stags only venture into the Patriot League this season came in a 4-0 September loss to Lafayette, a team that BU toppled 5-1 later that month.
Nonetheless, Fairfield has its share of weapons that every team needs to look out for.
Graduate student Hannah Pike leads Fairfield in scoring with 24 points (9g, 6a), in addition to three game-winners. Senior Andrea Soler (8g, 3a) also finds the back of the cage often for the Stags.
On the defensive end, Fairfield possesses the MAAC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year in Erin Buckley. In goal, junior Caitlin Gilligan leads the team with 63 saves and a 1.89 goals against average on the season.
After missing out on an at-large bid in 2016, the Terriers are back in the big dance. Junior Maika Akroyd spoke said that after a 1-6 record against Top 25 opponents this season, the National Tournament presents one last shot for mid-major BU to prove it belongs with the country’s best.
“We’ve had a great season of learning,” Akroyd said. “And to finally put what we’ve learned to the ultimate test is an opportunity not everyone gets to experience.”
And the test will be difficult. The winner of Wednesday’s game is set to play top-seeded UConn, a team that handed BU its worst loss of the year in mid-September, 8-1. The Huskies finished the regular season a perfect 19-0, and have scored 25 goals in their last six games while conceding just one.
“Rolling with the big dogs can be a bit nerve-wracking,” admits Akroyd. “But we’re confident in [ourselves] and excited [to cause] a major upset.”
But in order to advance to more difficult opponents, 37th year Head Coach Sally Starr is making sure her team first concentrates on their play-in game.
“[Coach] Starr has really been emphasizing nutrition, sleep and a focus on Wednesday’s Fairfield game rather than UConn on Saturday,” Akroyd said. “Game by game.”
The No. 20 Boston University Terriers take on the Fairfield Stags at New Balance Field on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The Round 1 play-in game is set to get started at 1 p.m.