While struggling to find its identity in its first year as a program, the Boston University men’s lacrosse team has had to endure battles with some of the nation’s premier teams.
In their last three games, the Terriers (1-11, 1-6 Patriot League) have played No. 16 the U.S. Military Academy, No. 20 Harvard University and No. 1 Loyola University-Maryland.
BU’s 8-7 loss to the Black Knights (8-3, 6-1 Patriot League) on April 5 was the only one of these matchups the Terriers got to play at Nickerson Field. Army has challenged for the top spot in the Patriot League all season, and it stands second only to the Greyhounds (11-1, 7-0 PL). The Black Knights have achieved impressive results this season, including a 6-5 win against No. 17/20 Lehigh University and a close 7-6 loss on the road to the nation’s top-ranked Loyola.
The Crimson (7-5) posed no less a challenge, as they topped the Terriers 14-9 in Cambridge on April 8. Harvard is tied for first place in the Ivy League, and strengthened its reputation with a 14-9 win at No. 12 Cornell University on April 5.
Finally, BU met its toughest opponent of the season on April 12 in Loyola, which dominated the Terriers at Nickerson Field, 15-6. In addition to being the country’s top-ranked team, the Greyhounds still lead the Patriot League without having lost a game in conference play. Loyola has rolled over top teams such as Towson University, No. 2 Duke University and Lehigh (10-4, 5-2 Patriot League) with an average winning margin of 10 goals per game.
“Army’s terrific, and they’re a very complete team, the same with Harvard,” said BU coach Ryan Polley. “But Loyola is just at another level as far as their skill level and their athleticism and their speed. That was certainly a challenge, and our guys battled for a full game. Their depth took over and they made some plays.”
Tenney valuable in latest efforts
In his last two games, redshirt freshman attack Sam Tenney has recorded four goals, eight shots and four ground balls to boost his already impressive first-year campaign.
“The most impressive thing to me is that he [Tenney] was ready to go,” Polley said. “He never complained about the situation early in the season when he wasn’t getting a ton of playing time, and when he got the opportunity he took full advantage of it.”
Tenney has grown into a focal point for the Terriers’ offense, as the Providence, R.I. native now leads the team in goals with 15, and shot percentage at .385. He is also tied for second in the conference in man-up goals with 0.42 per game.
“When [freshman attack] Pat Myers went down, Sam immediately stepped up,” Polley said. “He’s very efficient on our man-up unit. He’s done a great job, he’s got a real knack for scoring.”
Zickel transitioning to starter role
In the absence of the injured freshman goalkeeper Christian Carson-Banister, Polley and the Terriers have gone to freshman backup Tyler Zickel as a temporary replacement.
Zickel has struggled to keep BU in games, as he has allowed 29 goals in the two games he has started. His average of 13.51 goals allowed per game has put increased pressure on the Terriers’ defense. Carson-Banister’s mark was just 10.21 goals allowed per game. Zickel’s save percentage, .448, is also a step down from Carson-Banister’s coverage of .531 percent.
Yet while his statistics do not match the performances that Carson-Banister delivered, Zickel has stepped in at the roughest stretch of BU’s schedule. The Hudson, Ohio native has had to defend the net in front of the country’s most potent offenses, including that of Loyola and Harvard.
Despite the contrast in statistics between his two goalkeepers, Polley said he is optimistic about Zickel’s play.
“He was terrific against Loyola,” Polley said. “At Harvard he was in a tough spot, he only had one real day of practice. He’s been the backup, so after Christian got hurt he only one day with the starters.
“[Harvard] shot the ball really well. [Zickel] battled and had a nice game. Against Loyola, I thought he played terrific. He kept us in the game in the first half, and I was really proud of the way he played.”