In a rematch of last season’s Patriot League championship, the Boston University men’s soccer team tied Bucknell University 1-1 in double overtime Sunday afternoon at Nickerson Field, marking the start of league play for both teams.
The second match of a three-game homestand, Sunday’s tilt marked the fourth meeting ever between the Bison (3-3-2, 0-0-1 Patriot League) and the Terriers (4-2-1, 0-0-1 Patriot League). And despite a strong effort on Sunday, BU is still winless against its Patriot League rival.
The last meeting between the two ended in agony for the Terriers, who had gone undefeated against conference opponents during the regular season. In the championship last November, BU’s season ended with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Bison, while Bucknell coach Brendan Nash and his squad advanced to the NCAA tournament.
“Before the game we were telling the boys, ‘We haven’t beaten Bucknell in three years since being in the Patriot League,’ and last year they took away the Patriot League championship from us,” said senior defender Jeroen Blugh. “So we were definitely coming out for revenge.”
Offense was the highlight of the Patriot League final last November, but despite a barrage of shots, only two found the back of the net on Sunday. Bucknell held a 15-12 shot advantage in the Patriot League final, but BU dominated possession in this matchup, holding a 28-9 shot advantage.
The two teams are ranked second and third, respectively, in the conference in goals per game, with the Terriers averaging 1.83 and Bucknell right behind them at 1.71. Additionally, BU sophomore midfielder Anthony Viteri and Bison senior Jesse Klug hold two of the top five spots in the Patriot League points rankings.
The Bison showed their own offensive prowess early on Sunday, with an onslaught of opportunities on net in the first 20 minutes of play. BU endured an early scare in the fifth minute when junior goalkeeper Matt Gilbert slipped in the box, but sophomore midfielder David Amirani was there to keep the ball away.
In the 11th minute, Klug, went down and did not return for the rest of the game.
Following the loss of Klug, Bucknell responded well and got the scoring going in the 15th minute off a penalty kick from senior Chris Thorsheim, who netted his third goal of the season. Gilbert guessed right on the play, but the ball just barely escaped his reach to the left side of the net.
Blugh proved to be the difference-maker for the Terriers on Sunday.
Off a corner kick in the 24th minute, the San Juan, Trinidad, native leapt over all Bison center backs and headed in his first goal since Oct. 29, 2014.
“You know we joke a lot, threatening to take him off corner kicks because every time he went up, he got a cramp and that was the end of it,” head coach Neil Roberts said of Blugh. “Luckily we didn’t, but Jeroen’s starting to play well. If we can keep him healthy, it’ll be key for us.”
There may have been a little extra motivation for Blugh in this one, besides seeking redemption for last year’s critical loss, because his parents were visiting from Trinidad for this match. After the goal, he pointed to his family in the crowd.
Blugh and his fellow defenders held the Bison attack in check, as they did not manage a single shot over the final 30 minutes of the first half.
Defense was not a problem for BU, but missed opportunities on the offensive end hurt it. The Terriers outshot Bucknell 11-2 in the second half, but a number of those shots came from outside of the box and were easy saves for Bucknell goalkeeper Mike Lansing.
Both overtime periods were characterized by strong play from each goalie. Lansing has split time with senior Clarke Fox in net this season for the Bison, but when his number was called Sunday, he answered to the tune of a season-high 11 saves. Gilbert, who has a .788 save percentage on the year, made a key save in the 96th minute to keep this game knotted at one.
Roberts and his team would have liked to secure the two points on Sunday, but against a tough conference opponent like Bucknell, points come at a premium.
“I’m happy with our play,” Roberts said. “We gave up the penalty off a giveaway which is disappointing because we’ve been working on that all week and it’s something we need to get better at. Obviously, I’m not happy with the result. I thought we deserved a little better, but we didn’t get it so credit Bucknell for that.”