The Boston University field hockey team punched its ticket to the postseason Saturday with a 2-1 overtime victory at the University of Vermont. The win awarded the Terriers the fourth seed in the upcoming America East Tournament, set for Nov. 7-9 at the University at Albany.
BU (10-9, 3-2 AE) needed a victory to clinch a winning regular-season record as well as its fifth consecutive 10-win campaign. One last regular-season conference game on the road against a difficult opponent stood in the way of those accomplishments.
‘It was an excellent win for this team and the program,’ BU coach Sally Starr said. ‘Something that we want to achieve every year is to have an opportunity to compete for the conference championship, which gives us the ability to compete in the NCAA Tournament.
‘We really had a tough task on our hands going up to Vermont and, ultimately, we got the win on an outstanding, hard-fought, well-played game for both teams. I can’t say enough about it.’
The Catamounts (9-9, 1-4) struck first in the 13th minute. Senior Maegan Luce lifted a backhand shot past Terrier sophomore goalkeeper Kim Kastuk, boosting momentum for the home team and its enthusiastic crowd of 245.
‘Vermont is a very scrappy, tenacious, aggressive team,’ Starr said. ‘They play very, very well on their home field. They have an outstanding crowd at the game that really gets into the game. We were in a hostile environment in a must-win situation against a team that is very talented.’
Nearly six minutes after the backhander, junior forward Nikki Lloyd tallied the equalizer ‘-‘- her team-leading seventh goal of the season ‘-‘- on a remarkable individual effort.
Escaping two Vermont defenders along the left side, Lloyd broke open into the circle and drew UVM goalkeeper Kristen Heavens out of the cage. Left with an almost wide-open look from a tricky left side angle, BU’s leading scorer lined up her shot and coolly put the ball in the back of the cage.
The game remained knotted at one throughout the second half, leading to an extra session. The Terriers controlled the ball from the start and finished the game allowing just one shot on goal.
In the second minute of overtime, Lloyd pursued a redirected pass on the right side and entered the circle before slipping the ball to graduate student midfielder Sheena Berry, who seared the ball into the top right corner of the cage.
‘We had two outstanding goals,’ Starr said. ‘Nikki’s first goal was just really athletic, showed a lot of poise and she just scored a great goal. And then the overtime goal was just perfect. Nikki had an excellent assist and a beautiful finishing shot by Sheena Berry to beat an excellent goalie and a very, very good team.’
Statistically, the teams were nearly even on offense. Though the Terriers had a 6-5 advantage in shots, each team had three shots in the first half and two in the second. The deciding factor was defense, a sore spot for the Terriers this season. Saturday, however, they earned five penalty corners while allowing none.
‘I really need to give accolades to our entire defense, because we did not give up one penalty corner,’ Starr said. ‘Vermont always has an excellent attacking team with some outstanding strikers, so we really had to contain that with how we were defending them and we did a good job at that.’
Despite the ups and downs of the season, the Terriers remained positive and executed when it mattered. Now, the team has a chance for its fourth straight conference championship.
‘We’re an excellent tournament team,’ Starr said. ‘Even though this was our last regular-season game, it really was a tournament game for us. They really thrive in these kinds of situations.
‘We really wanted the opportunity to continue the season and compete for the conference championship and the ultimate prize of gaining a berth to the NCAA Tournament. We’re exactly where we want to be right now.’