NCAA, Sports

Division I Terriers welcome recruits, coaches instill values ahead of fall season

Even in the offseason, Boston University’s NCAA Division I athletes work to improve their game ahead of the upcoming fall season. While coaches and current players drill team values into their training, the recruiting classes look to build upon those principles to fit and thrive in the group dynamic.

Nickerson Field. Boston University’s NCAA Division I athletes work to improve their game for the upcoming fall season by training new recruits to thrive in a group dynamic. RACHEL FEINSTEIN/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

“It’s obviously a pretty big jump from high school soccer to college soccer,” said freshman midfielder/forward Olivia Avellar, one of eight recruits joining the BU women’s soccer team this fall. “But we’ve all been training in the offseason playing club soccer, so I think I’ll be ready, and just like the rest of the team, I’m going to continue to try to improve myself.”

Although the fourth-seeded Terriers (7-7-6, 4-3-2 Patriot League) lost to Bucknell University (12-4-5, 5-1-3 PL) in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals, Boston University scored a cumulative 31 goals and 91 points — the most in a single season since 2015.

Two athletes were appointed to the NCAA Division I 2023 NEWISA All-New England Team, with sophomore midfielder Giulianna Gianino recognized on the Second Team and senior forward Abigail McNulty claiming Third Team honors.

Building on these accolades, the Terriers are training vigorously to strengthen resilience and problem-solving skills as a unit.

“This is a team that’s very hungry,” women’s soccer head coach Casey Brown said. “Our training environments have gotten even more intense, and I think there’s a real fire in their bellies and a real clear vision of what we want to achieve this fall.”

The same is true for the BU men’s basketball team (16-17, 10-8 PL), which finished second in the conference. Similarly to women’s soccer, men’s basketball felt the heartbreak of elimination in the PL semifinals.

The team finished third in the PL’s overall team defensive rebounds. Graduate wing Anthony Morales tied for first in 3-point field goals made, and graduate guard Miles Brewster finished third in 3-point field goal percentage with over 40% for the season.

After dribbling enough to build solid momentum, the team looks to add to that drive in the fall with two recruits, Azmar Abdullah and Ben Defty, and a walk-on, Quinn Nielsen.

“We understood our team a little bit better,” said men’s basketball head coach Joe Jones. “I thought we really started to surge, and hopefully [we can] bring some of that momentum into next season.”

When scouting out recruits, Jones looks for selflessness, accountability and competitiveness. Brown agrees, as one key factor illuminates those qualities: alignment.

“We want alignment with our values and our identity,” Brown said. “We’re looking for … people who want to be pushed, who want to be coached and who want to ultimately grow into the best version of themselves.”

Brown saw those traits in Avellar, who was a captain for her team at Nauset Regional High School and a three-time All-State and Eastern Massachusetts First Team selection.

“[Avellar] is a fighter,” Brown said. “She has this quality where she’s going to make something happen out of nothing, and I love when players have that. She doesn’t need it to be this kind of perfect game. She’s going to go get the game.”

As Avellar gears up for the preseason, she reflects on what value she brings to the team.

“The only thing you can control is your effort,” she said. “No matter what I’m doing, even if it’s off the field, I need to be giving 100% effort, and it’s helped me so far.”

Although the BU men’s soccer team was eliminated in the NCAA opener against Syracuse University, the program typified Avellar’s mindset by tallying 16 NCAA appearances and clinching its first-ever Patriot League title this past season.

Entering the PL Tournament as the No. 3 seed, BU’s field hockey team also looked to claim a PL title, which they last earned in 2018. Like men’s basketball, field hockey fell in the PL semifinal as Lafayette University scored in the fourth minute of overtime.

Similarly to women’s soccer, men’s basketball, men’s soccer and field hockey, the women’s basketball team, which ranked third in the conference, looks for passion, coachability and collective effort.

“Those are all big signs of, ‘Is this going to be a really good culture kid?’” said head coach Melissa Graves. “We look for those little details, and every single person that we’re bringing in has all those attributes, so that’s really exciting for us.”

Just as the program welcomes five recruits, star senior forward Caitlin Weimar breaks from BU to join the North Carolina State University basketball program — leaving BU’s new and returning players to step up their game.

“The biggest piece is just trying to figure out collectively: How can we replace what Caitlin Weimar did for the program?” said Graves. “She’s an incredible leader and incredible on-the-floor player.”

Following a stellar three-season career at BU, Weimar is now ranked 11th in program history with 1,277 points. She became the program’s first-ever Patriot League Player of the Year, ECAC Division I Player of the Year and two-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.

Freshman guard Hildur Gunnsteinsdóttir and the other recruits look to improve upon Weimar’s efforts — as a collective.

“I don’t think that one player, or that I, will fill [Weimar’s] shoes,” said Gunnsteinsdóttir. “I do think that we [need to] work together. Teamwork will definitely be a large part in that.”

As the athletes prepare physically in the offseason — drilling, running, lifting —  coaches across the board emphasize the equal importance of character and cohesion.

“We’re going to do a lot of team bonding this summer for [the recruits] to not only acclimate to BU, but [to] each other,” Graves said. “I expect a lot of energy, a lot of positivity, just to compete and not give up.”

Jones sees the team’s bond as their “superpower.”

“Our character and the way [players] feel about each other are the two things that will continue to set us apart, and we can’t lose sight of that,” he said. “That’s more important than anything. That’s more important than how we play, our talent. Really, it comes down to how connected we are and how much they care about each other.”

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