The Boston University men’s lacrosse team has had a tough go of it in its first season as a varsity program, competing with all opponents it comes up against, but losing in all but one game. A large reason that the team has been able to stay close in games is its strong man-up offense.
This past week, as BU (1-9, 1-5 Patriot League) took on No. 18/20 U.S. Military Academy at Nickerson Field, the Terriers were almost able to complete a thrilling comeback, but fell to the Black Knights (7-3, 5-1 Patriot League) by a score of 8-7.
“All the Patriot League games were really similar where we play well enough to stay competitive, but not well enough to win,” said BU coach Ryan Polley. “We [have to] figure out why can we not get on the right side of the score board.
“We’re a new program, so we want to keep that in perspective, but at the same time we put ourselves in these positions,” Polley continued. “It would be nice if we could make a couple plays in the second half or in the second quarter so that the team doesn’t stretch the lead and put ourselves in a position to win a game and not come up a little short.”
Despite the loss, the Terriers put seven goals past the Black Knights, who boast one of the most stringent defenses in the country, allowing just 5.67 goals per game. Two of BU’s goals came on the man-up advantage after the Black Knights committed a penalty.
Throughout the season, the Terriers have been incredibly successful on the man-advantage. The team boasts a .441 success rate, good for second in the conference behind Loyola University-Maryland.
“We’ve got a bunch of unselfish guys,” Polley said about the team’s success on the man advantage. “We put a lot of time into man-up, it’s an important part. We struggle to score a little bit offensively so we try to capitalize when we get the man advantage.”
BU averages just 6.56 goals per game, which puts them at last in the conference. The Terriers can attribute a lot of their production to their success with the man advantage.
Man-up opportunities have accounted for 15 of the Terriers’ 66 goals, which accounts for 22.7 percent of their scoring total. Through 10 games, the Terriers average about 1.5 goals per game as a result of the man-advantage.
Polley noted that a lot of this success with the extra man has come from moving freshman midfielder Cal Dearth to the man-up unit due to his good stick, decision-making and height. Saturday, the 6-foot-3 midfielder registered assists on both goals that BU scored on the man-up chance. He has 12 points in his last five games with four of those points coming from man-up situations.
“Cal, being a taller player, can see over the defense,” Polley said. “[He’s] one of the guys that’s got some of the best vision on the team, and he makes a lot of good decisions, so he usually puts a pass right where it needs to be. Putting him up top has opened up some things for us.”
According to Dearth, part of what makes him such a large part of the man advantage is that he’s familiar with what the team is using now, but he was quick to shift the focus to his fellow Terriers.
“I got put on man-up recently so I got two or three on man-up so that was lucky,” Dearth said. “I ran the same thing in high school that we’re running now so I’m used to it, but my teammates are making great finishes and getting open.”