The Boston University lacrosse team will open the America East Tournament on Thursday afternoon at Nickerson Field when they host the University at Albany.
The Terriers (11-6, 5-0 America East) enter the postseason with a perfect record against conference opponents and wins in 10 of their last 11 games. BU completed the perfect regular conference season on Saturday at Binghamton, where the Terriers emerged with an 18-16 victory.
Despite the win, however, BU coach Liz Robertshaw wasn’t entirely impressed with her team’s defense.
“We gave Binghamton way too many scoring opportunities, and I think we let their big goal scorers have good days, which is something that we can’t afford to do going into Albany on Thursday,” Robertshaw said. “We have to play better defensively and limit the amount of shots that they take in order for us to find success.”
In practice so far this week, Robertshaw said the team has focused on putting the defense in as many game-like scenarios as possible, hoping to make defending the goal almost reflexive when Albany (10-5, 3-3 America East) comes to town.
“We’ve just put the defense into a lot more situations where they need to play or they need to react to whatever attackers are doing,” Robertshaw said.
Last year, the Terriers exited the playoffs in the semifinals after a loss to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. BU led 5-4 at the half, but UMBC turned around to tie the game at 11 by the end of regulation. With 5:40 remaining in overtime, then-junior attack Emily Coady scored the winning goal for the Retrievers, ending BU’s season.
Still, the Terriers have tried to avoid focusing on last year, because doing so would be a mistake, the coach said.
“We’ve been promoting to our team that last year is over and done,” Robertshaw said. “This is such a new team, there is a new sense of fight in this team, there is a new sense of purpose, and we talked to the team about building the foundation of BU lacrosse for years to come.”
Looking at this year, the Great Danes compiled a 10-5 record on the season. They entered conference play 6-2 with a win over then-No. 20 Boston College and both losses coming to ranked teams, then-No. 3 University of North Carolina and against then-No. 17 University of Massachusetts.
But once those conference games began, Albany struggled. In its first game against an America East opponent, UMBC, Albany lost 8-5. In the end, the Great Danes went 3-3 in America East and squeaked into the conference tournament with a 12-10 win last Saturday at the University of Vermont.
BU and Albany met for their lone regular season game this season on April 7 in Albany. The Terriers found themselves in a 9-4 hole at the end of the first half, but went on to outscore the Great Danes 12-2 in the second for the 16-11 win.
Freshman attack Mallory Collins led all scorers in the game with five goals, followed by junior attack Danielle Etrasco with four goals. Sophomore Ariana Parker and senior Amanda Pollock led Albany with three goals each. Senior attack Catie Tilton had three assists for BU that day, matching Albany’s total as a team. Etrasco was right behind her teammate with two helpers.
Sophomore goalkeeper Christina Sheridan played the entire game for BU, making four saves. Albany began the game with sophomore goalkeeper Anna Berman in goal, but replaced her with senior goalkeeper Brett Yenger after the former allowed 15 goals and made six saves. Yenger allowed one goal and made no saves in her 2:41 of play.
On the season, Parker leads the Great Danes in goals with 35, but junior Jess Antelmi tops the assists and points charts with 23 and 48, respectively. Junior Rachael Burek trails Parker on the goals list with 30. Burek does, however, win the most draws for Albany, with her 59 putting her well above her teammates.
Berman has dominated time in goal, playing in all 15 of the Great Danes’ games and starting 14 of them. She has allowed a total of 140 goals and made 78 saves during her 842:38 in cage on the season.
Despite the natural pressure that comes from playoffs where every game could be a team’s last, Robertshaw said her current team is one of the least tense of her coaching career.
“It’s been nice,” she said. “It’s been pretty loose. There’ve been some teams I’ve coached in the past where, when you make it to the postseason, get pretty tight. I think this team has done a good job of staying loose and staying focused on what our goals are.”