For the second time in its three-year history, the Boston University men’s lacrosse team has entered the national rankings.
On the tail end of an upset victory over a previously ranked United States Naval Academy team, BU (4-1, 1-0 Patriot League) was picked for the 20th and final spot of this week’s Inside Lacrosse media poll. While humbled by the recognition, BU head coach Ryan Polley cautioned that his team won’t “get caught up in it” even though “it’s an important step for the program.”
Rather, he’s advising his players to not take two steps back, much like it did in a narrow win over the University of Massachusetts Lowell and a reality-check defeat against the University of Hartford. Instead, through a solid week of practice and lessons learned, the Terriers will focus on bettering themselves ahead of a crucial game at Canisius College Saturday afternoon.
“Nothing against Canisius, but certainly they don’t have the publicity that Navy has or High Point [University] had,” Polley said. “We just have to get back to what we do, have a great week of practice and not worry that much about Canisius or the rankings. We have to worry about us, get better and then have a great game come Saturday.”
Cal Dearth returns to the fold, stars in midfield
The Terriers are off to their best start in program history, and they’ve accomplished that with arguably their best player playing a limited role. That narrative changed, however, in this past weekend’s victory over Navy (2-2, 0-1 Patriot League).
Junior midfielder Cal Dearth, who was named an Inside Lacrosse Preseason All-American, returned to the lineup after missing BU’s contests against High Point (2-3) and Hartford (1-1). His impact was felt immediately, as he scored a crucial goal on the stroke of halftime and chipped in two assists.
Polley said Dearth’s presence also causes other teams to reassign their D-poles, thus freeing up the likes of freshman midfielder Brendan Homire to create more offense. With everyone’s matchup “bumped back one,” the Terriers were noticeably more “relaxed” and “calm” than previous games.
“He’s our most prolific offensive player and does so many things for us in the clearing game and getting ground balls,” Polley said. “… He just helped with so many goals for us and made some great plays. We’re so excited to have him back, and he was probably the difference in the Navy game.”
Defensive midfielders growing in importance, recognition
An often unheralded aspect of lacrosse is the work defensive midfielders put in, and that held true against the Midshipmen.
As guided by assistant coach Stephen Toomy, BU’s midfield group of junior Brian Badgett, junior Jack Beall, junior Allen Winkoff, junior Craig Zebrowksi and sophomore Conor Okmin often kept Navy’s own midfielders out of striking distance.
Polley noted that the drills Toomy employs in practice are likely the difference, and even though Navy’s Casey Rees “got off a little bit,” the group’s contributions were crucial.
“They’ve been terrific,” Polley said. “I thought they were really good in the clearing game this week, they got a lot of tough ground balls and Navy’s midfield was really scared about them … They communicate with one another, are really tough on the ball and I’ve been really pleased with their progress under Coach Toomy’s tutelage.”
Adam Schaal returns to attack role
After thriving in attack last season, junior Adam Schaal has spent a big chunk of the season in BU’s midfield corps. However, this past weekend’s game saw him return to his more familiar “X” position, operating behind the goal and facilitating offense.
He also switched roles with classmate Pat Myers, and Polley said the move was a logical coaching decision. It paid off for both players too, as Myers picked up two ground balls and Schaal scored his first goal of the season and assisted on another.
“We just thought with Navy’s athleticism on defense that we had to get a little more athletic,” Polley said. “[Adam] did a great job, got a huge goal for us, a big assist and did a really good job at quarterbacking play in terms of getting guys the ball in timely situations.”