So far this season, the Boston University field hockey team has played a brand of defense that has kept the team in games all season long. One aspect of this defensive strength that has been noticeably weaker of late, however, is the team’s corner defense.
This season the Terriers (7-4, 2-1 Patriot League) have given up just 14 goals in the 11 games they have played to this point. Of these 14 goals, just seven have been off of an opposing attack penalty corner.
Recently, though, the corner defense that had been consistently stingy all year has cracked under pressure, with four out of the last five goals against BU having come via the corner, including three in Sunday’s 3-1 loss versus No. 13 University of Massachusetts-Amherst. In the two games where BU has dropped out of the last four, the decisive blow in each was a late corner goal by the opposition.
“We really need to look at our corner defense,” said BU coach Sally Starr. “Corner defense has been a strength all year and tonight UMass executed.”
The deficiency was glaring in Sunday’s loss, with all three conversions for UMass (9-4) taking place in the second half. The first two Minutewomen goals occurred within five minutes of each other, and both corner goals were replicas of one another.
On both occasions, midfielder Renee Suter took the setup at the top of the circle following the insert, and drilled low-liners at the right post for her first two goals of the season. The Terriers’ junior goalkeeper Valentina Cerda Eimbcke — and two-time Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week — never had a chance on either.
The Minutewomen’s third goal came when they were awarded the last corner of the game as time expired in regulation. Suter received the setup again, but her shot was blocked this time by the pad of Eimbcke, only to have the ball fall in front of the right post for an easy rebound goal for forward Molly MacDonell.
“All three goals were on a corner and they were going to our post side,” Starr said. “So we really need to take a look at that. Good for them to be able to hit that spot because it’s not an easy spot to hit, but they definitely executed when it counted.
“[Eimbcke] can’t take the entire cage, you leave a little bit for your post player, so we really need to make sure we’re training that player better. I think that’s a situation where we’ve got to get the ball machine and fire in balls at [the post player]. She can handle that situation better than we were able to handle it today.”
The Terriers’ recent struggles on corner defense could be due to the injuries that have plagued the backers and midfielders of late. Of the five regular BU backers that see game action, three have been hurt at some point this season. Two weeks ago when sophomore backer Katie Bernatchez returned to the starting lineup after sitting out two weeks with a concussion, fellow sophomore backer Rachel Coll went down with an ankle injury. When Coll returned to game action Friday against College of the Holy Cross, freshman midfielder Ellie Landsman took a high-stick to the face.
“Having her [Coll] back, it was big,” Starr said. “[Landsman] got hit in the cheek, so she’s not 100 percent. It almost feels like when we get one back, another one gets dinged up. They tend to take turns a little bit. But it’s definitely helping a whole lot having five players that can play those four spots for sure, and they’re all talented players.”
In Sunday’s game, Bernatchez was struck in the face by a stick once again, however, this time she was able to return later in the second half. With all of these injuries, it has been tough for BU to maintain a consistent chemistry on the backline. But with more and more Terriers returning to full health, the team will look to tighten up the screws in the coming weeks.