As the Boston University field hockey regular season comes to a close, the Terriers play two of their final three games this weekend at New Balance Field.
This weekend will include two contests against tough non-conference teams in No. 8 Duke University and the University of California. Although these two games mean nothing in terms of BU’s (10-5, 4-1 Patriot League) standing in the Patriot League, they have huge implications for its NCAA Tournament hopes.
If the Terriers can defeat these two talented teams, they could bypass the play-in games to get into the NCAA Tournament, giving the team some much-needed rest.
First, on Friday afternoon, BU will take on the Golden Bears (5-9), who have had a rather inconsistent season.
“We have two outstanding non-conference games against Duke University and the University of California,” said BU coach Sally Starr. “California’s record is deceiving. They’ve played top competition in the country really closely, and you cannot only look at their record.”
The Bears started the season off with an exciting 2-1 win over Michigan State University in double overtime, but fell to then No. 4 University of Connecticut the following week by a score of 2-1.
Since then, they have taken on and lost to other ranked schools such as then-No. 12 Northwestern University, then-No. 8 Stanford University, then-No. 7 Duke University and then-No. 3 University of North Carolina.
“[California] is an impressive defensive team and we’ll have to be smart, aggressive, courageous and strategic when attacking against them,” Starr said.
The Golden Bears have also hit several rough patches along the way, suffering a three-game skid in mid-September and then a five-game losing streak that was just snapped Sunday against the University of California–Davis.
BU’s toughest matchup this weekend will come against the Blue Devils (11-4).
“Duke is always a top team in the country, one of the elite in the ACC, they are really well-coached,” Starr said.
The Blue Devils have been the polar opposite of the Bears, playing against ranked opponents and playing well against them. Duke’s biggest win this season came against then-No. 1 North Carolina on Sept. 27.
Since then, Duke has played against four ranked opponents, going 2–2 with wins against then-No. 14 Wake Forest University and Stanford (11-4), while losing to then-No. 3 Syracuse University and then-No. 6 University of Virginia.
“I see it being a midfield type of game,” Starr said. “They’re a solid hockey team. We traditionally play well against well-structured teams like this so I think we can match up well against them.”
When looking back on their 2013 campaign, the Terriers have done exactly what Starr has wanted them to do: constantly improve. Aside from their first game, scoring was scarce at the beginning of the season.
Now, as the team moves into their final games before the Patriot League Tournament next month, scoring is becoming a bit more of a constant, as the Terriers have scored 12 goals over their last seven games.
“I’ve been saying all along that our young attack has improved for us,” Starr said. “I think that’s a section of the field where we’re really improving.”
In terms of defense and goalkeeping, the Terriers are moving in a positive direction as goalkeeper Valentina Cerda Eimbcke continues to keep opposing shots out of the BU goal.
Eimbcke boasts a goals-against average of 1.30, which is 15th-best in the country, with a .789 save percentage.
“Her confidence and range are much better,” Starr said. “She’s much more aggressive and her instincts are really improved as well. She’s definitely improved her decision making, and it has been just a big improvement from last year.”