Bucknell University’s senior midfielder Kayla Kisthardt lined up for the penalty corner with just over 10 seconds remaining in the contest. The ball pierced through the brisk autumn air and into the swarm of players congregating in front of the goal.
The ball eventually met the stick of Bison sophomore forward Lily Neilson, who lifted a shot on goal. However, Boston University’s senior goalkeeper Caroline Kelly swiped it away, and the Terriers (9-8, 5-1 Patriot League) walked off the field as the 2022 Patriot League regular season champions.
On Sunday morning in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, the Boston University field hockey team defeated Bucknell (5-12, 3-3 PL) in a crucial 2-1 contest that determined the seeding for the Patriot League tournament. With the victory, the Terriers took home their sixth regular season title in eight years.
“It’s just a real gritty game for us today,” head coach Sally Starr said. “It really was a really hard-fought game. We had to compete. We had to stay mentally tough and stay together, and that’s what we did today.”
The match opened with a strong Bucknell press keeping the ball in their offensive half of the field. Boston University, however, was able to take advantage of an opportunity on a fast break.
Junior midfielder Thalia Steenssens found junior forward Tess Csejka streaking down the sideline. Csejka brought the ball into the circle and shot it past Bison senior goalkeeper Clara McCormick to break the deadlock. Csejka, who leads the team in points and goals, added her 10th tally and her 21st point with that mark.
In the final three minutes of the quarter, the Bison peppered Kelly with a couple of shots, but she recorded both saves en route to a seven-save performance. The reigning Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week improved her save percentage to .791, which ranks in the top 15 of the entire NCAA.
“I have confidence on the sideline because of Caroline,” Starr said. “Bucknell’s corners are outstanding … Caroline came up huge with some really big saves again on their (corners).”
Bucknell’s offensive pressure finally paid off at the start of the second quarter when a penalty corner led to the equalizer. Senior forward Mackenzie Kile set the ball on a platter for sophomore forward Lily Neilson, who ripped a shot into the net, adding to her division-leading goal total.
The teams entered halftime knotted at one apiece. Coming out of the gate in the second half, Boston University moved to a more aggressive attack, which ultimately led to the victory.
“We needed to anticipate more, initiate more. Just really felt first half we were playing very reactive,” Starr said. “The second half we really started playing our game.”
Their aggressiveness led to a number of opportunities for the Terriers in the third quarter. A penalty corner early in the half led to sophomore forward Payton Anderson burying the ball in the back of the net. However, officials deemed the pass to be “dangerous,” and the goal was disallowed, according to Starr.
That did not slow Anderson, as she notched a legal goal off of a penalty corner just over seven minutes into the third quarter. The reigning Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week scored what would end up being the game-winning goal, making the score 2-1.
Coach Starr praised her team for their level heads after the disallowed goal, not allowing it to disrupt their momentum.
“We talk about being blueheads, not being reactionary, not being redheaded, not being overly reactive to situations in the game,” Starr said. “The team did a good job with that.”
With under two minutes remaining in the match, more controversy arose. Bucknell scored what appeared to be the equalizer. However, freshman forward Amalia Preece showed the official a bruise above her knee, which deemed the shot “dangerous,” disallowing the goal, according to Starr.
With one final chance, the Bison lined up for a penalty corner, but Kelly recorded the save, giving Boston University the regular season crown and, therefore, the top seed in the postseason.
The Terriers also ended a three-game skid against the Bison that began in 2019. This extended Boston University’s lead in the all-time head-to-head to 11-4.
Boston University will rematch against the No. 4 Bucknell Bison on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 11 a.m. in the semifinals of the PL tournament. Despite having the top seed, the Terriers will play in Washington D.C. due to their lack of a home field.
“This championship means a lot for all the reasons. (We didn’t have) a home field, not being picked in the top four and it’s just a team that believed in themselves and believed in each other and won a great game today,” Starr said. “Now there’s a bigger trophy to be won.”