As the Boston University field hockey team watches the NCAA Tournament from home, it’s difficult to reflect on the 2008 season without wondering what could have been.
It’s tempting to simply label the season a failure, as the Terriers (10-10, 3-3 America East) finished with their worst record since 2003. But in a year of wild swings of emotion, from upset victories to embarrassing losses, the Terriers persisted and fought until the final whistle.
‘The girls held together, supported each other, enjoyed the process and had chemistry and energy all season long,’ BU coach Sally Starr said. ‘Even in hard times we didn’t fall apart, and that speaks volumes to our leadership. We felt that we could have easily played later into November. There’s a lot of work to be done, but the bar is set high to be the best and compete for a conference championship and NCAA championship successfully.’
Among those wins on the schedule, certain games hold a special significance: three victories over ranked teams stand out as a glimpse of the Terriers’ potential. Then-No. 19 Providence College and the then-No. 6 University of Connecticut fell to the scrappy Terriers, who also defeated a then-No. 8 University of Virginia squad that recently lost in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament to No. 2 Wake Forest University on penalty strokes.
But perhaps the most important and telling win of the season was the team’s final victory, a 2-1 overtime win over conference foe University of Vermont, which kept the Terriers’ season alive.
‘We had huge wins over Top-10 teams, but we also had a huge win at Vermont,’ Starr said. ‘It was a tough road victory in a must-win, exciting and difficult game. They had some big wins at home, including against [then-No. 15 ] Ohio State [University], so we knew they were capable of playing good hockey. I’m proud of them because of what it meant for the seniors and the program.’
Poor showings and tough breaks also stained the Terriers’ season, particularly at Jack Barry Field. The team suffered its first home loss in conference play in almost three years at the hands of the University of Maine. One-goal losses at home against one-win Old Dominion University and local rival Northeastern University also marked major lows in the season.
Final statistics and a glimpse at the season overview reveal the problem that plagued the team all season: lackluster offensive production. Due to the departure of a strong striking class and the injury bug, BU never scored more than three goals in a game, and tallied one or fewer in 10 games.
‘Our inability to score has been our Achilles’ heel,’ Starr said. ‘Up until the last game at [the University at] Albany, our not being able to finish and pressing could have been better. Not only losing forwards to graduations, but losing key players to injury hurt us. [Freshman] Paige Kelly and [sophomore] Ciara Corbett forced us to use youth in the frontline.’
Yet in this season of inconsistency, two things remained steady: the presence of upperclassmen and reliability in the cage. Junior Nikki Lloyd led the team in goals (7) and points (16), and senior Hayly Ross was effective in her fifth year with the team. Fellow senior Holly Wiles was recently named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Northeastern All-Region First Team, with classmate Lizzie Perreault earning a spot on the Second Team.
‘Hayly is a special young woman, and it’s fortunate that when we wanted her back she wanted to come back,’ Starr said. ‘She’s a wonderful individual, contributing in the locker room as well as the field.
‘Holly and Liz also had their best individual seasons and earned national accolades. And once Nikki got her game legs after missing a lot of time early, she was very effective. The quality of their hockey speaks to their persistence ‘- looking ahead, not behind.’
Doing her part and more, sophomore goalkeeper Kim Kastuk ‘- also an All-Region Second-Team selection ‘- had an outstanding season. The America East Goalkeeper of the Year and a two-time conference Player of the Week, Kastuk gave the Terriers a chance to win in every game. Her sparkling numbers included a league-best 1.54 goals-against average and a .723 save percentage to go along with six shutouts.
With both forgettable moments and flashes of brilliance, the 2008 Terriers ended their season much earlier than anticipated. Although they failed in their preseason mission and floundered in their postseason endeavors, the Terriers accomplished a much greater goal.
‘We had the least success in the win-loss column in five years, but a senior told me that this was her most enjoyable year because the team is so close and supportive,’ Starr said. ‘Years from now, you don’t remember the wins and losses or how many championships you won, but you remember the quality of friendships and walk away with lifelong friends and memories.’