After a first half that saw junior attacker Avery Donahoe and senior attacker Taylor Hardison score hat tricks, the Boston University women’s lacrosse team seemingly had all of the momentum when it began the second half against the University of Loyola Maryland with an 8-3 lead.
However, the script was flipped when both teams returned from the locker rooms for the final 30 minutes. Loyola (3-6, 2-0 Patriot League) scored six straight goals to take the lead and went on to outscore the Terriers (3-5, 1-1 Patriot League) 13-3 in the second half en route to a 16-11 victory in Baltimore.
“We played a great first half and I was really impressed with both offense and defense,” said BU head coach Liz Robertshaw. “We were takings risks, we were playing loose, we were really aggressive. The first three draw controls [in the second half], Loyola took advantage of.”
While the BU defense and senior goalkeeper Caroline Meegan (13 saves) withstood most of the Greyhounds’ pressure in the first half, the Terriers soon found themselves overwhelmed by the volume of possession by Loyola. Winning draw controls allowed the Greyhounds to harvest momentum and remain on the offensive.
“Against a team like Loyola, [draw controls are] huge,” Robertshaw said. “It’s a momentum changer. And I don’t say that in all games, but against Loyola it really did happen that way.”
The lopsided draw control results prevented BU from getting a chance to catch its breath.
“They absolutely controlled the first 10 minutes of the second half,” Robertshaw said. “We didn’t have the ball, it was even challenging for me to call a timeout.”
While the struggles on draw controls did BU no favors, the starkest contrast between the two halves was the play of BU’s midfielders and attackers.
As Loyola controlled the ball and began to mount its comeback, Robertshaw felt that her players were beginning to feel the pressure about blowing the lead.
“I just think the youth and inexperience of our midfield and attacking units, really, unfortunately showed through,” Robertshaw said. “I don’t think mentally we handled it as well as we could have.”
BU started out firing on all cylinders, but when the Greyhounds landed the first punch in the second half, the Terriers were unable to get back on their feet.
As each Terriers’ mistake piled up and Loyola inched closer on the scoreboard, self-doubt began to creep into the minds of the younger players.
“I think when mistakes started to happen, mentally, they wore themselves out,” Robertshaw said. “All of a sudden, within two to three minutes into the second half, our midfield looked slow. And it’s not because they’re not in shape, it’s because mentally, they started to think, ‘Oh god, what if we lose? What if Loyola comes back?’”
Though most of BU’s goals came from upperclassmen, the play of younger midfielders and attackers such as freshman midfielder Mickenzie Howe (one goal) and freshman attacker Kailey Conry (three assists) helped open up the field for the Terriers and gave their playmakers chances to find the back of the net in the first half.
When things began to go south and the younger players were intimidated, Robertshaw was hoping to see her best scorers take initiative. Despite four goals from Hardison and three from Donahoe, Robertshaw said she needed more from her leaders.
“I think they had OK games,” Robertshaw said of the two attackers. “I know they had a lot of points, but I talked to them and I said I need them to be confident taking over a game. So, Taylor Hardison had six points, but if I need her to have eight, she’s got to have eight.”
During the final 30 minutes, the audience saw a BU attack that was clouded with indecisiveness. While the Terriers were the aggressor in the first half, Loyola’s strong response to being down five goals clearly shook BU, and it was never able to recover. Going forward, Robertshaw hopes to see her team respond to adversity with confidence.
“I felt that the attack was not on the same page as each other,” said Robertshaw. “I felt that too many times, they looked for someone else to take a shot, for someone else to drive to cage, for someone else to make a play. The coaching staff was constantly prodding them to go to cage. So that was a little frustrating and something we need to fix quickly before Colgate [University] on Wednesday.”