It is one thing for a sports team to get into the habit of winning. That would be like the Boston University men’s basketball team and their 11-game win streak en route to the America East Conference Championship last year or the Green Bay Packers and their string of wins through their first seven games of the 2011 NFL season.
But, it is an entirely different realm of success for a team to forget how to lose.
Based on the way that the Boston University women’s soccer team has been playing of late, losing is no longer a part of its vocabulary.
Really, it never was.
As the Terriers prepare for the America East Championship game against the University at Albany set to take place on Saturday at 1 p.m., there is simply no conceivable method by which they can imagine themselves walking off of the field that afternoon without BU’s first piece of America East hardware in the 2011-12 season.
It’s because they’ve never had to actually do it.
Most of the members of the Terriers’ 2012 senior class are finishing their fourth season playing in a BU uniform, and a grand total of zero of them have experienced an America East tournament loss.
The seniors boast not only a perfect 7-0 record in America East tournament games, but an overall record of 62-20-4 and an unprecedented 38-1-0 overall record against America East competition. In recent years, if you beat the Terriers in conference play, you had best keep the game ball for your trophy case.
BU has been the top team in the conference for quite some time. Since head coach Nancy Feldman took the reins at the beginning of BU women’s soccer in 1995, the team has garnered a 222-101-29 record. The Terriers have won eight America East Championships and have made nine NCAA Tournament appearances, winning opening round games on two occasions.
But recently, the Terriers have been outdoing even themselves.
As if earning the first clean sweep of America East games since 2000 wasn’t enough for BU in 2008, the team has repeated the feat twice more since then in 2010 and 2011. Of the four seasons in which the Terriers have swept the conference slate in their history, this senior class owns three of them.
Even in 2009, the year that BU lost their only conference matchup in the last four years to Stony Brook University 2-1, the Terriers turned around and tossed the Seawolves in the ensuing conference tournament with a 2-1 overtime victory.
In comparison to other sports teams in America East, Feldman’s squad’s recent dynasty is still unmatched. The only teams to win the conference tournament in their sport for the last three years in a row are SBU’s women’s cross country team, BU’s women’s tennis team, Binghamton University’s men’s tennis team and BU’s women’s soccer team.
The seniors on Feldman’s squad also lay claim to the conference’s regular season crown four years running. In the last three years, only 16 of the 30 regular season champions of any sport in America East went on to claim the tournament championship as well. The women’s soccer team accounts for three of those teams, going on four.
While the Terriers have set themselves high atop the pedestal of a lowly conference, their utter domination of their opponents has earned them recognition on the national level.
Who could forget last year’s 1,260:38 straight minutes of shutout soccer, the second-longest streak in NCAA history?
The stellar defense of 2010 has carried over to 2011 led by senior goal keeper Alice Binns, whose .379 goals against average is good for seventh in the nation. The team has posted a 1-0-1 record against ranked teams after struggling against the nation’s best in 2010 with a 1-4 record against ranked foes. Despite the smaller sample size, the ranked teams that BU has played in 2011 average a rank of 6.0 while the ones that it played in 2010 averaged a rank of 10.8.
When the Terriers have won, they have done so convincingly, as 12 of their program-record 17 wins this year have been by more than one goal.
Standout senior midfielder Jessica Luscinski has directed the charge by leading every offensive category for the Terriers despite playing in only 16 of 20 possible games, and when it comes to game-winning goals, the team need look no farther than freshman striker Taylor Krebs, who has a knack for the big score. Five of her six goals on the year have been game-winners, tied for 22nd in the nation.
Over the course of four years, Feldman’s squad has carved an identity for itself. Sure, it is the group that neared shutout records and has been very successful in conference play. But in the end, the Terriers have built an identity based on winning, and there are perks that come with it.
In consulting the fresh, new RPI rankings that was released for women’s soccer on Wednesday, it may come as a surprise that BU is ranked 36th in the nation while the NSCAA Coaches Poll has them in the 13th slot. Of the 12 teams ranked higher than the Terriers in the NSCAA Poll, the largest discrepancy between the two polls’ rankings is 12 spots, as West Virginia University is ranked 12th in the NSCAA Poll and 24th in the RPI.
BU’s rankings nearly double that discrepancy, as the Terriers fall a whopping 23 spots worse in the RPI than in the NSCAA Poll.
While the RPI poll takes into account wins, losses and strength of schedule in the form of opponent’s records and opponent’s opponents’ records, all smashed into a mathematical formula, the NSCAA Poll is based on the opinions of living, breathing people.
In other words, while BU is dragged down to the 36th slot in the RPI because of the poor play of America East teams like the 0-14-3 University of Maryland-Baltimore County, the fact that they crushed UMBC by a score of 8-0 does not go unnoticed by the NSCAA Poll.
Instead, the four dominant years that the Terriers have put together turn out to mean a lot more than the conference in which they play. The Terriers are a legitimate No. 13 team because they are just so good at winning.
And with one more win, they can work toward the one goal that has strangely eluded them for three years: earning real NCAA Tournament win(s).
With one game standing between the Terrier seniors and their fourth-straight America East title, they will have to do what they have done so many times before just once more on Saturday against the Great Danes, and in the end, BU’s culture of winning will carry the day.
It has to. After all, a win by the Great Danes on Saturday would be more than an upset – it would be the biggest upset in the history of America East women’s soccer.