After shutting out Binghamton University 1–0 on Sunday to clinch at least a share of the America East regular season title, the Terriers need to win their game Sunday against the University New Hampshire, or have Hartford University lose its final regular season game Sunday against the University Stony Brook, to claim the outright regular season title.
Before the Terriers (11–5–1, 7–0 America East) can celebrate their sixth consecutive America East championship, they must go up against a very tough Dartmouth College (9–4) team tonight in Hanover, N.H.
The Terriers have won eight games in a row and are surging at the perfect time. Thanks to the offense and junior forward Madison Clemens, more consistent play from the backline and the rock steady play of junior goalkeeper Andrea Green, the Terriers have put themselves in prime position for a possible at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
“Were a little bit more cohesive in how we’re playing. Defensively, more organized, so each of the lines are more connected. So as a team, we’re defending better,” said BU coach Nancy Feldman. “Our timing is better. Our use of space is better. The variety of different ways to attack is better. Just being a better unit in attack and defense.”
This team is led by its upperclassmen, but it cannot be understated the importance of the underclassmen.
Freshman forward Clare Pleuler scored the lone goal of the game against Binghamton, and has become more of a contributor as the season has progressed. She and sophomore midfielder Ana Cuffia have taken big steps to take their games to the next level. Both will play key factors tonight in attacking and getting penetration into Dartmouth’s backline.
The game on Wednesday against Dartmouth, although not an America East conference game, is still a pivotal game for the Terriers. Every win means a more impressive resume to give to the NCAA Tournament committee. The ones who will be deciding the Terriers’ fate.
Feldman said the thought of getting an at-large bid should be in her players’ minds.
“We want to put ourselves in the best position possible,” Feldman said. “Given that’s our only entry into postseason play, then of course they’re thinking of it. While we do that we set goals if we want to put ourselves in a position to get an at-large bid. The way we do that is to focus on the next game, and the next game is Dartmouth. Fortunately for us, their RPI is higher than ours, so it’s a game that if we’re successful it’s going to help us.”
The Big Green come into Wednesday’s game playing well, having won three games in a row and outscoring their opponents 6–2 in those three games.
The Big Green has a highly productive offense that is led by junior midfielder Chrissy Lozier and senior midfielder Emma Brush. Each leads the team in goals with seven and are second and first, respectively, on the team in points (14 and 17).
Dartmouth has scored at least two goals in eight games this season, and has gone up against nationally ranked teams such as the University of Central Florida, Rutgers University and Pepperdine University.
The Big Green also rely heavily on the play of sophomore goalkeeper Tatiana Saunders. Saunders has been crucial to Dartmouth’s success this year, starting all 13 games and posting an impressive 0.84 goals against average. Saunders has four shutouts this season, and has not allowed more than one goal in her last four games.
“[We need to put] their line under pressure so they can’t get into a rhythm,” Feldman said. “It’s a commitment to defend. It’s all the players. It’s forwards, midfielders, backs and goalkeepers. That’s how you control the tempo of the game and also how you control possession.”