While the hockey playoffs and that little thing called the “Big Dance” have dominated the Boston University sports scene lately, another team has begun its season with high hopes and a national ranking.
While other students were basking in the sun in places like California and Cancun, the women’s lacrosse team, currently ranked No. 20 in the nation, was hard at work in St. Petersburg, Fla., where it wrapped up training camp with a game against Temple University on Friday. After trouncing the Owls, 16-4, the Terriers made a Sunday pit stop on the way home for a matchup with the No. 3 team in the nation, the Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina.
After perhaps being caught off guard by the highly touted Heels and falling behind 10-2 in the first half, the Terriers were a different team in the second, scoring eight goals before falling 17-10.
“Confidence is going to be a big issue this year,” said first-year head coach Liza Shoemaker. “We played UNC in our second game, and we let it get to us. But when we came back in the second and outscored them, we proved that we can hang with them and beat them.”
Shoemaker also noted her team was not content with just making a good showing against a top-ranked team.
“You could tell that they weren’t happy,” she said. “They definitely wished they had come out to play a little better in the first half.”
Senior tri-captain and 2001 All-American attacker Kristin Abruzzese agreed. “We were all a little disappointed, but we fought hard to come back and showed a lot of heart,” she said. “We will make it a point to not let that kind of loss happen again.”
Shoemaker, who graduated from former-America East school University of Delaware in 1998, has brought in some new young assistants, such as Kristen Baer and 2001 BU alum Kyle Rutkowski, who finished her Terrier career in fourth place on the all-time scoring list.
“We have a lot of new people playing, and we are going into games with a new mentality,” Abruzzese said. “We are all about BU this year, and we want to go into games with a ‘no fear’ attitude. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
In Friday’s rout of Temple, the Terriers showed a little of the old and a little of the new. Abruzzese led the way with four goals and two assists, while freshman midfielder Alyssa Trudel added four goals and an assist in her collegiate debut.
“Our game against Temple was a total team effort,” Abruzzese said. “We did not hold anything back. We proved to ourselves what we are capable of doing.”
In the game against UNC, senior attacker Ericka Hergenroeder led the Terriers with four goals and one assist. This was the third straight year BU has played the Tar Heels and the third time UNC has been in the top five in the nation. But BU entered the game looking for three straight upsets, having beaten the fifth- and fourth-ranked Heels in 2000 and 2001, respectively.
Even with the loss, Shoemaker was pleased with her team’s early-season performance. “In both games,” she said, “we were successful when we were playing as a team with good passing sequences down the field.”
According to Abruzzese, who shares the captaincy with two All-Americans in senior midfielder Gabby Juocys and senior goalkeeper Brooke Barrett, team chemistry will not be a problem. “I have never been so excited to play with my teammates as much as I am this year,” Abbruzzese said.
The strategy this season will be a little different than before. The Terriers were the preseason favorite to win the America East Conference, but this year, that title does not bring with it what it has in years past.
Because of the defection of Hofstra University, Delaware, Drexel University and Towson University to the Colonial Athletic Association, the America East champion does not receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament this season. The Terriers will have to fight for one of the nine at-large positions. Even in a somewhat weakened five-team conference, Shoemaker said the team must still come out as the champion, and also knock off a few of the Northeast region teams on the schedule.
While the Terriers are No. 20 in this week’s Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll, many of the teams ahead of them can be found on the BU schedule. Including the game with UNC, the Terriers will play six more games against teams currently ranked in the top 25: two on the road, at Syracuse University and Dartmouth University; one at a neutral site, against Stanford University at Loyola College; and three at home, against Yale University, Old Dominion University and Cornell University.
For Shoemaker, the formula needed to produce the NCAA bid is simple. “We can’t lose to anyone that’s unranked,” she said. “Unfortunately, a lot of the games we play are unranked teams. We have to go undefeated in the America East in the regular season, and we have to knock off some other top teams.”