Though plagued with inconsistency of late, the Boston University women’s lacrosse team can rely on sophomore midfielder Jill Horka to bring her dynamic style of play to every game, even if it causes a few miscues.
Horka came into BU (6-8, 4-3 Patriot League) as a highly-touted prospect and she immediately lived up to expectations as a freshman. After leading the team with 22 forced turnovers and finishing top-three in both draw controls and ground balls, Horka was named to the America East Conference All-Conference Second Team and the All-Rookie Team.
Following her standout freshman campaign, Horka has only refined her skills this season. The Westborough native is tied for third on the team in goals, is fourth in points and leads the squad in ground balls, draw controls and caused turnovers.
On the offensive end, Horka is a force due to her speed and agility around the 8-meter arc, which allows her to create scoring chances for herself and teammates. Horka has scored in each of the last five games, including a four-goal outburst in the 9-8 victory over Lafayette College. She has also been especially timely this season, scoring two game-winning goals in 2014.
Defensively, Horka plays an aggressive style which allows her natural athleticism to take over. She has caused 20 turnovers this season, six more than her fellow midfielder, senior Becca Church. With 23 draw controls and 27 ground balls, Horka is crucial in BU’s possession game, facilitating successful clear attempts.
“I love it when she makes those athletic plays whether it’s causing a turnover or taking a great shot,” said BU coach Liz Robertshaw of Horka. “That’s awesome for us. But, sometimes her athleticism dominates so much that it gets difficult for her to stay in that system.”
Despite Horka’s playmaking ability, she often disrupts the Terriers’ flow due to her recklessness. Horka has two times as many fouls as the next closest Terrier with 67 and she has turned the ball over 28 times, which also leads the squad. During BU’s three-game losing streak, Horka has turned the ball over eight times.
Facing No. 14 Loyola University-Maryland Saturday, Horka played her typical game, only this time she matched up against a team of comparable athleticism. She scored the Terriers’ final goal, cutting the deficit to four, before the Greyhounds (11-4, 7-0 Patriot League) finished out the game on a 7-0 run to cap off a 19-8 drubbing.
Though she kept her goal streak alive, Horka fell prone to a swarming Loyola defense that took her out of her element. She committed four turnovers, all of which occurred near midfield during the transition into the offensive zone. To add insult to injury, the referees targeted Horka for six fouls where one of them resulted in a yellow card and a two-minute stint on the sideline.
“I think Jill is playing a really tough game right now,” Robertshaw said. “I was happy to see her take more chances today. For Jill, she just has to find the balance between playing the team game plan and bringing her athleticism to it.”
With a matchup against crosstown rival Harvard University coming up on Wednesday, Horka and the Terriers will get the chance to control possession. The Crimson (7-5) play a more conservative defense than BU has seen in recent weeks as they force less than eight turnovers per game. Though Horka has struggled of late in possession, the stage is set for her athleticism to take over as the season winds down.