One of the biggest problems facing the No. 19 Boston University field hockey team as it enters the third week of its 2013 season is health. Injuries are a part of any sport, and no team is safe from unfortunate accidents that may cause a player to be out for quite some time.
On Sept. 2, when the Terriers (3-1) took on the University of Delaware at New Balance Field, a cluster of players all crowded near the BU goal at the end of the first period as Delaware (3-1) was trying to extend their 1-0 lead. Unfortunate in the matter was sophomore backer Katie Bernatchez, who received a mild concussion when she was hit in the head right in the middle of the crowd.
Bernatchez left the game immediately and was tended to by trainers. Her concussion kept her out of last weekend’s games against Northwestern University and Miami University (Ohio).
Losing the sophomore comes at a horrible time for BU coach Sally Starr, who does not have many reserves out of the backfield and who has had to be creative with the team’s defensive gameplans going forward.
“[Saturday] was a really fast paced game and it was hot,” Starr said about Bernatchez’s absence during the Terriers’ 4-1 loss to the Wildcats (4-1). “Not having Katie limited our ability to substitute and Northwestern was substituting freely,”
The aforementioned creativity that Starr employed during BU’s weekend games in Evanston, Ill., involved the use of two freshmen backers. When Bernatchez was still healthy, Starr split time between freshmen Ellie Landsman and Bea Baumberger Altirriba at the right back position.
Following Bernatchez’s injury, Starr filled the empty slot with Landsman, leaving Baumberger at right back. The two played the entirety of both games this weekend, earning some valuable experience.
The freshmen backers are not the only ones performing well on this year’s Terrier squad, as freshman forward Amanda Cassera and midfielder Hester van der Laan have played crucial roles in this year’s offense.
During the Terriers’ first game of the season — which was also Cassera’s first game — the New Jersey native showed why she was one of the Garden State’s top players last year by recording her first career hat trick against the Bobcats (1-3).
Three days later, when the Terriers took on Delaware, van der Laan knocked in a backhanded goal while falling three minutes into the overtime period pushing BU past the Blue Hens.
“I just feel they’re getting better every opportunity they get to play,” Starr said. “They’re showing good improvement, and I think that’s all you can ask. They’re starting to understand our press more and they’re in the right places at the right times, and that really helps the team.”
Year in and year out, the Terriers have had great goalkeeping that has kept them in close games, and goalkeepers have usually been the deciding factor when the Terriers play an evenly matched team. In the 2012 season, it was senior Jess Maroney who stepped up and played lights out. Maroney’s outstanding play was a big reason why BU finished as one of the top 20 teams in the country last season.
This year, junior Valentina Cerda Eimbcke picked up right where Maroney left off. Through four games, Eimbcke has racked up 24 saves, earning an 80 percent save percentage with a 1.48 goals average per game.
Eimbcke’s success is a result of better health and greater confidence, as she was battling a knee injury all of last season. This year, she is injury-free and had non-stop field hockey training during the summer while playing with the Chilean National Team — and it is all coming out on the field.
“I think the Northwestern game could have been a lot worse had [Eimbcke] not have played so outstanding,” Starr said. “We put her in situations where she had to come up with great saves, and when we cut the score to 2–1, she put us in the situation to try and come back and win that game because of her great saves.”