The Boston University men’s soccer team played in the semifinal match of the Patriot League tournament this past Friday. A win would punch its ticket to the championship game. However, in a contest that was tied at zero after two overtimes, the Terriers (7-8-4, 6-2-1 Patriot League) fell to the College of the Holy Cross by way of penalty kicks.
BU’s loss to the Crusaders (7-9-4, 4-3-2 Patriot League) was the first defeat against them since 2013.
The Terriers were able to generate several chances against Holy Cross’s defense in the first half, outshooting the Crusaders 7-4.
Junior midfielder Nicki Wieners came close to getting the Terriers on the board in the 41st and 42nd minutes, but junior goalkeeper Henry Stutz made diving saves to keep the score tied at zero.
This match also marked the third consecutive game in which the Terriers didn’t score a goal and BU head coach Neil Roberts said the offensive struggles weren’t necessarily a surprise.
“We knew goalscoring was going to be difficult, but we had to stop the bleeding at the other end,” Roberts said. “We really had to make sure that we did not give up a lot of shots on goal, especially quality shots. To give one thing, you have to take somewhere else. We knew we had to be opportunistic in getting goals when we got chances
, and we had to make sure we took them well.”
Few chances came for both teams in the second half, as sophomore goalkeeper Michael Bernardi made the lone save of the stanza following a shot from Holy Cross’s leading goal-scorer senior forward Arno Rupp.
In the overtime periods, the Terriers were unable to generate many offensive opportunities, as the Crusaders kept the ball on BU’s side of the field for most of the stretch.
When the game arrived at penalty kicks, Stutz made his first two saves against shots from sophomore midfielder Satchel Cortet and sophomore forward Matt McDonnell. This enabled the Crusaders the take the lead and eventually get the win, outscoring the Terriers 4-1 in penalty kicks.
It was familiar territory for BU, as the team lost in last year’s quarterfinal match of the conference tournament in penalty kicks against Bucknell University.
Despite the disappointing finish, the Terriers performed very well in conference play, bouncing back from an 0-5 start.
“I’m proud of the guys. We were under a lot, and there was a lot going on within the team and they just focused and did what they needed to go,” Roberts said. “We definitely didn’t go three games in a row with the same starting lineup. We kept changing things. The fight and the effort from the young and inexperienced group that we had, I thought they put themselves in a position to win the league and to do a lot of things.”
BU continued to improve and got off to a great start in Patriot League play, going 4-0, and outscoring its opponents 9-0 during the first four games of league play.
The offense was led by McDonnell, who scored four goals, while freshman midfielder Toti Knutsson led the team with 11 points, three goals and five assists.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior back Adam Sheikali was a strong presence on the backline for the Terriers. He also provided a goal and assist of his own for the season.
BU had to deal with its fair share of injuries throughout the season. The team began the year without senior midfielder Anthony Viteri, who had played a key role in his previous seasons with the team. Senior midfielder David Amirani and junior back Ben Valek were also sidelined for much of the season following injuries.
With many of the upperclassmen of the team out, the Terriers relied on their less experienced freshmen and sophomores to get the job done for much of the season.
Roberts explained that many freshmen did a good job this year, and that now they have experience needed to be prepared for next season.
“We still have to improve in certain areas, but I think when we get some guys back that were out this year, offensively we’ll be better,” Roberts said. “I think this group will be more mature. I think their work ethic is good and their best days are ahead of them.”
BU’s appearance in the semifinals marked the team’s fourth consecutive year in the tournament, and Roberts hopes the more mature team he expects to have next year will advance all the way to the championship.
Roberts also added that the seniors this year proved to be strong leaders and helped to shape the team into what it was.
“I have a lot of respect for the group of seniors we had for the way they handled themselves,” Roberts said. “They showed the younger guys how to study and play and work, and how to make a commitment. It’s a really unselfish group of individuals and I think that’s the legacy this group will leave … it’s something that I’ll never forget about this group.”