Playing in its last conference matchup of its inaugural season, the Boston University men’s lacrosse team snapped a five-game losing streak Saturday, hanging on for a 9-8 victory over the College of the Holy Cross.
The Terriers (2-11, 2-6 Patriot League) showcased their aggressiveness early, when freshman midfielder Sam Talkow won the opening faceoff. On the first possession, BU’s offense fired shot after shot at Holy Cross (3-11, 1-7 Patriot League) goalkeeper Michael Ortlieb, but attempts by redshirt freshman midfielder Sam Tenney, freshman attack Adam Schaal and freshman midfielder Craig Zebrowski fell off the mark.
Neither team found the back of the net until Crusader midfielder Frank Gaul launched a shot past freshman goalkeeper Christian Carson-Banister, who returned to the lineup after missing two games due to injury.
Talkow won the ensuing faceoff and BU responded quickly when freshman attack Schaal made a darting move around the crease to score his 10th goal of the season, tying the score.
After forcing a turnover from the Crusaders, the Terriers successfully cleared the ball and freshman attack Ryan Johnston notched a goal that put BU up 2-1 with 2:15 remaining in the quarter.
From there, both teams picked up their defensive efforts, causing a scoring drought that extended midway through the second frame. Finally, following a save from Carson-Banister, freshman midfielder Cal Dearth put one past Ortlieb at the 7:31 mark to extend the visitors’ advantage to 3-1.
With just over a minute to go in the half, the Terriers were given a man-up opportunity thanks to a slashing call on Gaul. BU continued its strong man-up play when freshman midfielder James Clarke scored on the advantage to push the score to 4-1.
However, the Crusaders answered back almost immediately, as midfielder Ben Williams collected the faceoff, blew by the BU defense and fired a shot into the net.
The Terriers would regain the three-goal advantage on their last possession after Schaal passed the ball to Zebrowski, who scored with eight seconds left in the half.
Through 30 minutes of action, BU exerted its dominance on both the scoreboard and the stats sheet. The Terriers outshot the Crusaders 21-12, collected 14 ground balls to the Crusader’s 10 and went a perfect 5-for-5 on clear attempts.
Ortlieb made seven saves in the half, while Carson-Banister was relatively untested, only having to come up big once for the BU defense.
“We might have played our best half of lacrosse in the first,” said BU coach Ryan Polley of his team’s effort to start the game. “We were up 5-2 and held Holy Cross to only two shots on cage. We were playing at a really high level… We were really in control of the game.”
At the start of the third frame, it looked as if the Terriers were going to cruise to their second victory of the season. Dearth and Talkow scored just six seconds apart to make the BU lead 7-2 with 13:16 left in the quarter.
Holy Cross would come roaring back though, scoring three unanswered goals to head into the final quarter of action down just 7-5. The Crusaders would then tie up the game at 7-7 just over three minutes into the fourth.
After his team had let the Crusaders score five straight goals, Polley called a timeout to gather his team.
“[During the timeout] we talked about playing through adversity and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Polley said. “We had talked about in pre-game to rise to the occasion and play like sophomores. We’re almost through the whole season so we’re kind of taking that step where we’re not freshman anymore. We wanted to play above our youth and make plays.
“We didn’t really make any significant adjustments, but it was just a time to re-gather and regroup and refocus.”
The young Terrier squad benefited from the break, as freshman midfielder Sammy Davis came straight out of the time out to put BU back on top 8-7.
“The Davis goal coming out I think really rejuvenated us and got us the momentum back which was huge,” Polley said.
Redshirt freshman midfielder Patrick Donnelly would then make it a 9-7 game on a great individual effort. Carson-Banister and the BU defense tried to keep the Crusaders at bay, but freshman Kevin Lux’s shot found its way into the net to bring Holy Cross back to within one goal of the lead with 3:39 to go in the game.
The final minutes of the contest were filled with suspense, especially when Carson-Banister turned the ball over in BU territory, causing Polley to take another timeout. On the Holy Cross possession, Lux’s effort went wide of the mark and freshman defender Greg Wozniak scooped up the ground ball.
A two-minute cross-check penalty was then called against the Crusaders with 1:59 to go. BU failed to capitalize on the man-advantage as Schaal turned the ball over, allowing Holy Cross a possession with a chance to tie up the score.
BU, still with a man-up advantage, battled with the Crusaders, forcing turnovers but failed to successfully clear the ball. With 27 seconds to go, the Terriers were penalized for having too many men on the field. A pushing penalty on freshman defender Dominick Calisto with just nine seconds remaining in the contest meant Holy Cross would be a man-up and have the ball with a chance send the game to overtime.
Carson-Banister then came up huge for the Terriers, making a save on junior Terry McKenna’s shot with just one second left on the clock to secure the program’s second victory.
“I was really proud of how we responded,” Polley said. “For a first year program, we could have easily let the game get away, but we made some plays down the stretch and we’re very happy to get a big Patriot League win.”
After the game, Polley praised Carson-Banister’s ability to make big saves in crunch time.
“In the beginning of the game, he was making saves, but nothing was really clean and he let in a few that he wishes he had back,” Polley said. “In the fourth quarter when we needed him most he was terrific. All five of his saves were high quality saves including one with one second left that was basically a 1-on-0 that saved the game.
“I was really proud of him because those are the type of games where you really see the maturity of a player and the growth of a player when you’re not having your best game but you can really rise to the occasion and make the saves when your team needs them most.”
The win puts the Terriers at seventh place in the final Patriot League standings, just out of playoff contention. As such, BU ended its inaugural season in the Patriot League with two key wins, something that Polley said he is happy about.
“I’m very proud of the fact that we got two wins,” Polley said. “I’m probably even more proud of how competitive we were. I think we played four top teams including the No. 1 team, and we were in every game aside from the [Loyola University-Maryland] game that got away from us in the last seven minutes.
“For a first year program, keeping everything in perspective, to get two wins and to be as competitive as we were, it’s something that we’ll certainly build upon and look to continue that growth.”