By: Greg Levinsky
Preceded by a conference match against Patriot League foe Lafayette, the No. 24 Boston University field hockey team faces its toughest opponent to-date on Sunday. A trip to Princeton, New Jersey to face the fifth-ranked Tigers marks BU’s first top-five matchup of the season.
The Terriers (6-3, 2-0 Patriot League) first travel for a Saturday matchup with the Leopards (2-7, 1-0 Patriot League) before a bout with the Tigers (6-3).
BU fell 2-1 in a shootout on the road in 2016, the last time they traveled to Easton, Pennsylvania.
“It’s still very clear in my mind when we stumbled at Lafayette two years ago,” said Boston University head coach Sally Starr. “They spoiled us in overtime in a game that we played really, really well. ”
Lafayette has split its last four games including a pair of overtime wins. Junior Lisa van der Geest is Lafayette’s leading scorer with four goals. Other offensive players to watch include sophomore Grace Anglella and freshman Molly McAndrew who have two goals apiece.
Leading the Patriot League with 143 more fouls than the next closest team, Lafayette plays an aggressive style. Starr said that was a point of emphasis in practices this week.
“I don’t think their record is indicative of the talent on their team and the hockey they’re capable of playing,” Starr said. “Our total focus is on Lafayette.”
Princeton has topped three top-five opponents this fall and play an Ivy League game against Yale on Friday to start its weekend. The Tigers are paced by a stellar sophomore class. MaryKate Neff leads the Tigers with five goals and one assist, and is tied for the team lead in points with classmate Clara Roth who has four goals and three assists.
Twins sisters Julianna and Sophia Tornetta have turned in stellar campaigns, with the latter collecting four goals and two assists and the former three goals and as many helpers.
Princeton topped the Terriers 1-0 in a matchup last fall and New Balance Field and lead the all-time series 10-3. BU trounced Lafayette 5-1 behind a trio of tallies by Ailsa Connolly to extend the all-time margin to 4-1.
Connolly, a sophomore, leads the Terriers in points with five goals and two assists. Classmate Petra Hall has four goals and two assists and leads the Patriot League with three game-winners. Seniors Ally Hammel, Allie Doggett, Kara Enoch and freshman Casey Thompson round out BU’s multi-goal scorers.
After splitting time last season and throughout the first two weekends of the 2018 campaign, senior goalkeeper Kathleen Keegan has taken the starting job. She earned the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week two weeks ago and has played the entirety of the Terriers last five contests and earned her first shutout of the season last time out.
“She’s really improved her ability to organize the defense in front of her and her communication,” Starr said. “She’s like the field general back there.”
Starr said the focus in practice this week has been on pace
“Really pushing the pace and getting game-like opportunities in drill play,” Starr said. “Keeping the work load realistic so they can play at a fast pace, both a physical fast pace and a mental pace.
“When we play fast and think fast we play some good hockey.”
Greg Levinsky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky