Before the Boston University lacrosse team knew it on Saturday, Stony Brook University scored four straight goals and took control of the battle between the top two teams in the America East.
In a battle to determine first place in the conference and home-field advantage for the conference tournament, BU coach Liz Robertshaw had to decide whether or not to stick with sophomore goalkeeper Christina Sheridan or change to junior goalkeeper Kim Elsworth.
With an almost reflexive decision after the fourth goal, Robertshaw picked Elsworth.
“I was ready to go with both keepers,” Robertshaw said. “I think they’ve been playing extremely well.”
When Elsworth came into the game, however, it marked a chance for her to get significant playing time for the first time in the 2012 season. Through the 13 games the Terriers played before hosting the Seawolves on Saturday, Sheridan dominated time in the cage, starting every game and playing through almost all of them.
Elsworth had come into only one game over the course of the season, a tilt with Saint Mary’s College in California over spring break, the second game of the Terriers’ seven-game win streak. She played 11:44 against the Gaels, allowing two of the nine goals they scored and making no saves.
Elsworth entered the contest and had to prove herself against a team considered not only one of the best in the conference, but also the country. The Seawolves won their previous six games, and were right behind BU in the America East standings.
But Elsworth flourished, making seven saves in the first half and allowing only four more Stony Brook goals in the period. She made two more saves in the second, while letting the Seawolves score twice.
After the game, Elsworth thought the early saves – including a few challenges where Stony Brook kept attacking immediately in front of the cage – allowed her to mentally get in the game and hold on throughout.
“Having the first save was a big momentum [move] for me and then just being able to control my nerves and you know, take care of the ball, get possession,” Elsworth said. “But I think I was able to look up for a couple of saves and get some confidence there.”
The first half performance also helped Robertshaw make her decision to stick with Elsworth in the game.
“I was going to be able to take a minute to see how Christina responds to being out and see how Kim responds and she played great and when a keeper is playing great you don’t take them out,” Robertshaw said.
Robertshaw said there was a tactical decision in going with Elsworth, a specific ability to play against the offense the Seawolves run.
“I just feel that Kim has that capability of holding against high shots and that’s something traditionally Stony Brook has done and I was really confident in [Friday’s] practice about Kim.”
Robertshaw made no indication as to which keeper will start Saturday against Canisius College, and although she has repeatedly said before games throughout the season that the starting job is not locked up, Sheridan has been the one in the cage at the start of most games.
For her part, Elsworth said she attempts to prepare herself for every game as if she will play.
“You never know when you’re going in,” Elsworth said. “I just try and go into every game ready to go.”