The Boston University men’s soccer team closed out its 2015 season Thursday afternoon, falling 3-1 to the University of Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
For BU coach Neil Roberts and his young team, it was a disappointing end to a promising season.
“The fact that we’re really, really disappointed we didn’t get a better result out of this game shows where we’ve come from,” Roberts said. “Where we are right now, we thought that we outplayed them. We thought that we pinched them in and kind of did what we wanted to do. We forced them out of their game and just conceded some silly goals, and I credit them for taking them well.”
The Terriers (12-6-2, 6-1-2 Patriot League) faltered last Friday in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament against eventual Patriot League runner-up American University, losing a 2-0 contest in Hamilton, New York.
Despite that defeat, BU was chosen for an at-large bid and made its first appearance in the 48-team tournament since 2008.
Junior forward Felix De Bona notched his team-leading ninth goal of the season to give the Terriers the 1-0 lead in the 30th minute of the contest, but it was all Huskies (10-5-6) after that.
Junior goalkeeper Matt Gilbert, recently named the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year, made both his saves in the first half. A key stop on freshman DeAndrae Brown’s shot in the final minute helped BU enter the half with the lead in tact.
“It was good to get the goal, and we got out of the half 1-0, which we felt good about,” Roberts said. “We regrouped and thought we were okay in the second half. We knew they were going to come out strong, and they did, but we withstood it.”
The Huskies soon tallied the equalizer on a controversial play in the 54th minute. It appeared as though the Terriers had forced the ball out of bounds, but play continued and midfielder Kwame Awuah found Brown inside the box to tie the score.
BU controlled possession following Brown’s goal, but it was the Huskies who capitalized again on the counterattack in the 76th minute on Awuah’s second goal of the season. He would score again just seven minutes later, as the Terriers pressed to tie the score.
“We thought we had the thing where we wanted it until we gave up that first goal,” Roberts said. “The guys thought it was out of bounds, we stopped, the referee didn’t call it and it’s history. But even after that when it was 1-1, we really took the game to them at their place, and felt good about that. Even though it looks bad that we lost 3-1, I think we played well.”
In Roberts’ 14th appearance in the tournament, losing a game like this after playing so well all season never gets any easier. However, BU’s leader ensured that there are a number of great things to take away from this season.
“I think in the end, we’re starting to get our identity,” Roberts said. “They’re starting to realize the possession part of it, moving the ball, and we saw it at times today. This all started last year with Nick Thomson and Jordan [Barker] and those guys that really put a good leadership into the group and we took it another step this year.”
The buck doesn’t stop there, though, as BU is set on continuing to progress when the spring season and 2016 season roll around.
“Now we’ve got to bring it another step forward, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a lot of returning players coming back if they don’t get better,” Roberts said. “I just think that we need to take a break, relax, and thank the seniors that are graduating, and then we’ll start looking forward to the future.”