This weekend the Boston University field hockey team will have a Massachusetts-focused weekend, as it travels to Worcester for a Friday night bout against the College of the Holy Cross and then will return to Boston Sunday afternoon to take on the No. 13 University of Massachusetts-Amherst at New Balance Field.
This will be the first game since the 2010 season that the Terriers (6-3, 1-1 Patriot League) will play a game not as members of the top 20 teams in the NCAA rankings. The drop in these rankings is a result of the Terriers’ 1-0 overtime loss to American University last Saturday.
“I don’t really pay attention to that, and I don’t think the girls do either,” said BU coach Sally Starr. “Being in the middle season, it’s irrelevant to the goals we’re trying to set, so it’s a non-factor.”
Friday night will be the Crusaders’ (3-6, 0-1 Patriot League) second game against a Patriot League opponent this season. Sept. 21, they traveled to Washington, D.C., and fell to American (6-3, 2-1 Patriot League) by a score of 4-0.
The Crusaders’ biggest concern against the Terriers will be getting the ball past a strong defense and goalkeeping, led by senior backer Ysi Schieb and junior goalkeeper Valentina Cerda Eimbcke. Through nine games, Eimbcke boasts a save percentage of .804, averaging 1.17 goals against per game.
In the nine games they have played this season, the Crusaders have scored just nine times. Their largest offensive output came against Siena College, in their opening game of the season, when they scored three times. Meanwhile, against Providence College, Harvard University and American, the Crusaders have been shutout 4-0 each time.
Forward Molly Feit has done a majority of the scoring damage for Holy Cross, notching three goals this season.
The team has also struggled on the defensive side in front of goalies Kat Matchett and Maya Langman. So far this year, the Crusaders have allowed 14.1 shots a game, almost double the amount their offense is taking. The shots have translated into goals, as opponents have averaged 3.11 goals a contest.
“We’re really looking for our team to compete for 70 minutes,” Starr said. “Holy Cross is a team that is improving every game. I think we did a good job this past weekend getting quality shots off. I’m looking for continuous improvement and taking advantage of scoring opportunities but at the same time we have to respect Holy Cross’ ability to counter attack.”
The Terriers will see their first ranked opponent since losing to No. 9 Boston College Sept. 13th when the take on UMass (7-4).
Last season, the two teams faced-off as the Terriers were No. 12 in the nation and the Minutewomen were No 25. The Terriers made the trek up to Amherst that day and came away with a thrilling 3-2 double-overtime victory over UMass.
The Minutewomen have already played plenty of top-notch and ranked teams, including three teams in the top five in No. 1 University of Maryland, No. 2 University of Connecticut and No. 5 Syracuse University.
“UMass is an outstanding hockey team,” Starr said. “They played Maryland and lost but could have won. They’re the real deal. It’s going to be an outstanding challenge. I think our transition defense is going to be key.
“Their offense spreads the field really well and they’re fast. I think in a game like UMass we’re going to have to be more efficient with our goal scoring opportunities.”
The Minutewomen offense, which has scored 2.58 goals per game, is led by midfielder Brooke Sabia. In her second season, Sabia has scored 11 goals for UMass and was named the Atlantic-10 Conference Co-Player of the WeekSeptember 2nd.
Senior Alexa Sikalis has been a force on the offensive side as well, posting seven assists and one goal for the Minutewomen in her final season.
To be successful this weekend, BU’s offense must overcome its recent scoring struggles. Last weekend the Terriers broke their trend of scoring two goals or fewer –something they had not done since the first game of the season against Ohio University- when they defeated Hofstra University Sunday afternoon by a score of 3-1.
“What I like about Sunday is we can use it and see how much we’ve matured since the beginning of the season and how much the team has learned from losses like Northwestern, BC and American,” Starr said.