There’s an invitation to the big dance (a.k.a. the NCAA Tournament) with the Boston University women’s soccer team’s name on it. The Terriers have their dancing shoes laced and shined. They are so close they can feel the music’s baseline pumping up their adrenaline.
Unfortunately for BU, there’s one test left before the invite is sent.
According to BU coach Nancy Feldman, the top-seeded Terriers (14-5-1, 8-0-0 America East) are just sitting on the wrong side of the tournament bubble, meaning tomorrow’s 1 p.m. America East Tournament championship showdown with second-seeded Stony Brook University at Nickerson Field is, in essence, a play-in game.
The game will be the second contest between BU and the Seawolves (11-7-0, 6-2-0) this season. The Terriers dominated SBU in the teams’ last showdown, out-shooting the ‘Wolves 25-6 in a 2-0 victory.
BU controlled the contest from start to finish, putting 17 shots on goal compared to SBU’s two. Junior midfielders Mara Osher and Emily Pallotta let fly six shots on goal apiece, with Osher and senior midfielder Marisha Schumacher-Hodge supplying the Terriers’ goals.
Feldman said the key in that contest was the Terriers’ ability to maintain possession. Keeping the ball away from Stony Brook’s potentially explosive offense – the ‘Wolves scored three goals or more three times during conference play – is always a key against SBU. If the Terriers can replicate their careful handling of the rock, their spot in the NCAAs should be safe.
‘They’re really aggressive defensively,’ Feldman said of the Seawolves. ‘They’re a really high energy defending team. They’ll put our backs under pressure, they’ll put our midfielders under pressure and they’ll look to jump the double.
‘We just have to try to move the ball quickly to get ourselves out of pressure, but safely. We need to get the ball into the attacking third with possession. That’s what we’ve done all year, and against Stony Brook on Saturday that’s what we’ll need to do to have success.’
The Terriers have benefited from a deep squad with plenty of options on the offensive end, but when a fan sits down to watch BU play their eyes will undoubtedly be drawn to Schumacher-Hodge. Her ball skills are among the best in the conference, and her team-leading 12 points (five goals, two assists) are a clear indication of her ability.
Schumacher-Hodge will have plenty to remember her senior season by. The Pittsburgh, Penn., native has been named to her third consecutive All-Conference First-Team selection in addition to earning her second AE Midfielder of the Year award and the inaugural AE Fan’s Choice Player of the Year award.
Additionally, she has been recognized for her excellence in the classroom with a spot on the 2008 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 1 Second Team.
Feldman said the talent that separates Schumacher-Hodge from the rest of the conference comes from the midfielder’s early passion for the game.
‘[Schumacher-Hodge] is a very, very skillful player, and that didn’t happen when she got to BU,’ Feldman said. ‘That happened when she was a youth player and she was kicking the ball around with her dad, who I know is a big soccer hero of hers and is a big reason why she played the game starting at such a young level.
‘She probably went outside a lot when she was little and played with a ball. She’s skillful, and that happens when you’re young and you play with a soccer ball.’