This was not how the 2011 season was supposed to go for the Boston University lacrosse team.
Perpetually in an enviable position come NCAA Tournament time and routinely the team to collect America East Conference championship after championship, Liz Robertshaw’s lacrosse program has perhaps been the most proven and consistent winner over the last decade on a BU campus that features one of college hockey’s most storied programs.
This season was supposed to follow that familiar script. Sure, there was some turnover and some key pieces to replace, most notably three-year starting goalkeeper Rachel Klein who graduated last year, but roster overhaul is nothing new to the Terriers. It’s nothing new to any program that’s sustained a certain level of success over a considerable period of time. Important and notable players exit to make room for new cogs who will keep the proverbial machine running efficiently and properly.
Even though the 2011 season began with uncertainty and doubt as to whether this team could emerge as a winner, many questioned whether this team would struggle all that much with the task – simply put, whether this would just be a new chapter in something of an on-going narrative.
However, at this late juncture in the season, it appears as though this narrative may have hit a bookend.
After a 16-6 loss to cross-town rival Harvard University on Wednesday night at Nickerson Field, and with a 6-8 overall record and a 2-2 record in AE play, the BU lacrosse team is in a position that is equally uncomfortable as it is unfamiliar.
The reigning champ has been pushed up against the ropes, boxed into a corner.
In fact, the lopsided loss to the Crimson demonstrated much of what has gone wrong for this season for the Terriers, with even a quick look at the game’s box score indicating as much.
For one thing, the BU offense has struggled, with a mere six goals against Harvard being evidence enough in this case. The Terriers undoubtedly boast strong players in their offensive arsenal – sophomore attack Danielle Etrasco has emerged as a star for this BU team with a team-high 41 goals. Junior attack Hannah Frey has continued what has already been a strong career in a BU uniform with 28 goals and 32 points this season. And senior attack Erica Baumgartner cemented her legacy in the BU record books just a few weeks ago by eclipsing the program’s all-time assist record.
However, it is also an offense that has failed to pool this talent together and, as Robertshaw has repeatedly stressed throughout the season, has been a unit that has failed to properly and adequately capitalize on the offensive opportunities it is presented.
Not only did Harvard outshoot BU by a 27-17 margin, but the Crimson scored 16 goals on their 27 shots (59.2 percent) while the Terriers only put six of their 17 shots (35.2 percent) in the back of the net.
Additionally, BU was not able to capitalize on perhaps the most cherished offensive opportunity in the game of lacrosse – the free-position shot. The Terriers didn’t get a single goal from their three free-position shots while the Crimson tallied three goals on their five free-position shots.
The problems have extended beyond offense too, into more rudimentary and fundamental aspects of the game that can over time, work to destroy or make a season – namely fouls and turnovers. BU came up short in each of those statistical categories on Wednesday night, more than doubling Harvard on fouls, 32-14 and losing the turnover battle as well, 17-13.
Battered as they may be, however, the Terriers are far from finished, even if the Wednesday night game didn’t seem to symbolize as much.
There is certainly talent on this team, with players like Etrasco, Frey and junior attack Molly Swain, among others, in place to form what could be a dynamic attack anchored by a strong, solid midfield featuring proven veterans like Baumgartner and senior midfielder Rachel Collins.
Furthermore, the Terriers still have AE games remaining against Stony Brook University and University of Vermont, two of the conference’s three worst teams. Following that is the conference championship, something that stands as a chance for the Terriers to string together wins and secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.