The No. 14 Boston University field hockey team fell in the Patriot League Tournament’s championship game Sunday afternoon at New Balance Field, ending its two-year stint as conference champions.
The weekend started off strongly, with BU (13-6, 5-1 Patriot League) upending Bucknell University, 2-1, on Saturday in the semifinal game. But when American University came around, the Terriers met their match, falling 1-0 and leaving the squad dependent on an at-large bid to reach the NCAA Tournament.
While a sour taste lingered, one bright spot from the weekend was the play of senior midfielder Hester van der Laan, the 2016 Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year.
Van der Laan continued her noteworthy season against Bucknell (9-9, 3-3 Patriot League), firing home a picturesque game-winning slapshot, pushing the Terriers to their fourth consecutive conference championship game.
“On the last one, I just told Hester to do an upright stop and make a decision on the ball,” BU head coach Sally Starr said. “On that one, the fly broke down thinking that she was going to dish the ball, and Hester made the perfect decision to shoot the ball herself. It was great.”
The tally came directly off of a corner opportunity, as junior midfielder Kali Shumock found van der Laan at the top of the circle. The goal was van der Laan’s seventh of the season, coming directly after her first-half assist to sophomore midfielder Allie Doggett.
BU dominated the possession of the ball, releasing 24 shots to the Bison’s eight, all while limiting Bucknell to three penalty corners and garnering 15 of its own.
“[The key] was getting set well defensively,” Starr said. “We had to make sure that we had good shape in front of the ball. Limiting their corners was big, and [we had] really good double teams outside of the circle. Their corners are good, and that’s where some of their best scoring opportunities come from, so limiting that was big for us.”
Senior goalkeeper Cammy Jensen played strongly against the Bison, but the Terriers could not support her efforts by providing an insurance goal.
This would prove costly, as Bison freshman Allie Christopher got her team on the board at 59:17 by putting home a rebound directly in front of Jensen to even the score at one. Although its momentum had been halted, BU was unfazed, as they continued to pressure the Bison defensive front.
Despite failing to tally early, the Terriers’ persistence finally paid off as the clock ticked to under 60 seconds remaining. Van der Laan finally made Bison goalkeeper Emily Finn pay on a corner opportunity at 69:24, and Jensen clinched the victory with a crucial kick save with 13 seconds left.
Friday’s momentum didn’t continue into Sunday’s title game, though, as the Terriers fell to American (13-6, 5-1 Patriot League).
In the first half, the Terrier offense got off to a slow start, with American taking control of the ball early. Just seven minutes into the half, the Eagles were awarded a penalty corner opportunity and took a 1-0 lead. Midfielder Rafaela Rubas, the tournament’s MVP, beat Jensen on the left side after a pass from midfielder Samantha McCormick.
The remainder of the half featured strong possession by the Eagles, and clogged play in the midfield.
“I really felt we lost the game in the first half,” Starr said. “I think we came out tight, tentative. American brought it to us right away, and they brought it to us very fast. We were definitely on our heels in the first half.”
In the second half, the Terriers showed more offensive depth, taking six shots to American’s one. However, their efforts weren’t enough to overcome the Eagles’ lead, and BU couldn’t repeat as Patriot League champions.
“We played a little too tight for a championship game,” Starr said. “You’ve just gotta come out and play the game, and you can’t put yourself in a hole in the championship game like we did.”