By: Greg Levinsky
DURHAM, New Hampshire – Underwhelmed by her team’s performance in preseason play, Ailsa Connolly felt determined to help the Boston University field hockey team begin the 2018 campaign with success.
Demonstrated by the sophomore forward’s selection as the Most Valuable Player of the Wildcat Classic, Connolly scored a pair of goals to help the Terriers defeat Northeastern University and host University of New Hampshire, in the season opening tournament.
Connolly and senior co-captain Ally Hammel scored in each contest, and four other Terriers found the back of the cage as BU outscored opponents 8-1 over the weekend set.
“We’re really happy with how it turned out,” Connolly said. “This opening weekend we came out with heaps of joy and really played as a team.”
Preseason scrimmages against Maine, Bryant, and Boston College were close, but Connolly and head coach Sally Starr saw a complete effort from the Terriers this weekend.
“We played more together,” Connolly said. “We were talking more. We had some things that we needed to sort out, and I think we really did that well to come out with two great victories.”
“It was a great opening weekend,” Starr said. “I just loved our energy and our enthusiasm. We competed hard and played together.”
The Terriers downed Northeastern 4-1 on Friday.
Hammel scored the first goal of the season on a penalty stroke just under seven minutes in, and BU cushioned its advantage with a three goal barrage over a 2:39 stretch to take a commanding 4-0 first half lead.
“A really front foot mentality in attacking the game and we scored some nice goals,” Starr said.
Freshman Casey Thompson scored the first goal of her collegiate career and assisted on senior Kara Enoch’s first tally of the year as part of the decisive ambush.
The Terriers limited Northeastern to just four shots on goal, and buried four of their 10 shots on net to win their fourth consecutive season opener.
BU jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in the first half of Sunday’s 4-0 win over New Hampshire, capitalized by another Hammel penalty stroke.
Allie Doggett, Hammel’s co-captain, redirected a score to open the second half and Connolly doubled the advantage with a blazing strike.
She dribbled down the left side off a pass from senior Maika Akroyd and unleashed an emphatic shot to close the weekend’s scoring.
“I was just crossing my fingers, crossing my toes and it paid off, I guess,” Connolly said.
She led the Terriers with 11 goals as a freshman last fall, and is a true end to end threat. In penalty corner situations, Connolly, who hails from Auckland, NZ, throws on the mask and runs the length of the field for breakaway goals.
“For me it’s just talking to the other strikers that I’m with and working right in there,” Connolly said. “Jumping in on defense and also offense, it just makes a huge difference.”
A team that employs a vicious press, Starr appreciates Connolly’s emphasis on all-around play.
“She has the heart of a lion,” Starr said. “She anticipates well, she’s in the right spot at the right time and she does the dirty work too.”
For her tenacious play, Connolly has a lot of opportunity in front of her. With a deep team around her, Starr has no problem with Connolly taking shots with the understanding that her teammates are there to provide additional chances near the cage.
“She has the ability,” Starr said. “As a striker, you like to say she has the green light, and you need that confidence to have the green light when there’s a one on one situation.
“I think she sees a one on two and it’s still a green light for her, and I’m fine with that.”
Greg Levinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky