The No. 10 Boston University lacrosse team has four consecutive America East crowns and four trips to the NCAA Quarterfinals under its belt, but BU coach Liz Robertshaw expects her team to reach even greater heights this season.
With 10 returning starters and a promising group of freshmen, Robertshaw said she thinks that this team has the ability to shine on the national stage and venture into the NCAA Final Four this spring.
‘We’re at the point where we want to become consistent performers at the national level,’ Robertshaw said. ‘Now we’re at the point where we need to build . . .’ Bringing back so many people that understand our goals, our philosophy and our work ethic puts us in the right direction.’
Captaining the Terriers are senior midfielder Sarah Dalton, senior attacker Steph Walker, senior defender Kelly Munroe and redshirt junior goaltender Rachel Klein. With a captain at each position, Robertshaw is confident that this leadership will help bring the Terriers bigger and greater things this season.
Last year, the Terriers finished fourth in the nation in total points scored, averaging an impressive 14.3 goals per game. Although BU lost scorers, Robertshaw looks to improve the high-flying offense.
‘We have more goal scorers who have more confidence,’ Robertshaw said. ‘We have more scoring attackers. They just need to learn to play together. When they do, you’re going to see more scoring outputs.’
A key to the attack this year will be junior Traci Landy, who was an all-conference and all-region selection as a midfielder last year. This season, Landy will be a full-time attacker, in part to take pressure off an injured shin.
Fellow juniors Erica Baumgartner and Xan Weitzel also expect to be a large part of the attack. Baumgartner earned all-conference honors last year after leading the conference with 33 assists and Weitzel is already off to a hot start this season, leading the Terriers with 12 points in two games.
The attack also features the leadership of Walker. Although Walker does not put up the point totals of Landy, Baumgartner and Weitzel, she has an important presence in the lineup.
‘She’s someone who’s worked very hard,’ Robertshaw said. ‘She does the little things well on and off the field, and she’s just great. She’s a spark plug for us, and that shows in her captain leadership.’
The Terrier midfield revolves around the powerful play of Dalton, a 2008 All-American who was the Terriers’ leading scorer last year, notching 71 goals and 84 points. Dalton has already kick-started her senior campaign with 10 goals in two games.
In addition to Dalton, junior Jenny Martin and sophomores Rachel Collins, Corcoran Downey and Mandy Rogers return this year as forces in the Terrier midfield. Robertshaw considers Collins last year’s most improved player, and expects big things from her this season.
‘You’re going to see her become more of an offensive threat this year,’ Robertshaw said. ‘She’ll compliment the attack because she goes very hard, and when she is disciplined in her shooting, she’s a fantastic shooter.’
The Terriers also have two newcomers to the midfield. Freshman Hannah Frey has started both games for BU this season and has two goals in each of those contests. Freshman Annie Stookesberry provides energy off the bench, and has already recorded a goal.
With such a prolific attack, it is easy to overlook BU’s defense. The unit gave up just 8.32 goals per game last season ‘-‘- good for eighth in the nation ‘-‘- and its performance contributed to the team’s conference championship and NCAA run just as much as the offense.
‘I don’t really feel that the defense is in the shadow [of the offense],’ Robertshaw said. ‘I think teams are seeing that we can adjust to anything they throw at us, hopefully, and you’re going to see, the better they play defensively, they’ll give the ball to our attackers and let them do their job.’
Leading the defense is Munroe. She has started every game for the past two seasons, and the unit will depend on her experience and ability to cause turnovers – she registered 27 last year.
‘[Munroe] is going to bring that high-intensity aggression to her markups,’ Robertshaw said. ‘She’s a good one-on-one defender, so I need her to step up big.’
Of course, defensive effort is worthless without a strong presence in the cage. Fortunately for the Terriers, Klein dwells between the posts. Playing every minute last season, Klein recorded a program-record 181 saves, and ranked in the top 10 in the country in both save percentage (.514) and goals-against average (8.32). But Klein’s full contribution cannot be captured in statistics.
‘I think the more confidence the defense has in our goaltender, the better and more aggressive our defense can be,’ Robertshaw said. ‘It’s not always making saves. Being loud, having confidence, doing great clears and just really talking to the defense, it will boost the confidence of our defense and it will really allow us to take charge of more games.’
This year’s schedule will test BU from the start. Their third game of the season is scheduled against No. 3 Syracuse University tomorrow afternoon, followed by games against No. 11 Vanderbilt University and No. 6 Penn. Later in the season, the Terriers face the No. 14 University of New Hampshire and No. 15 Dartmouth College.
‘It’s a tough start to the schedule, facing those ranked opponents and facing them on the road,’ Robertshaw said. ‘I want this team to be battle-tested by the time we get into conference [play]. I want the team to know and have confidence that we’re going to win those games.’