The No. 22 Boston University field hockey team won the Patriot League conference title, capping off an undefeated season by defeating Lafayette College Friday afternoon and American University Sunday afternoon in the championship game.
This is the Terriers’ (12-7, 6-0 Patriot League) fourth Patriot League conference title in program history, having won the league tournament in all but two years since they joined the Patriot League, and will move the team onto its 14th NCAA Tournament appearance.
In the opening round, they will face Miami University Nov. 7 on New Balance Field at noon.
“[Miami is] an outstanding team,” BU head coach Sally Starr said. “[They have] great team speed, compete hard, play with great energy and pace and will challenge us to be our best to succeed.”
When the Terriers last faced Miami (15-6) Sept. 8, they pulled off a 2-1 win during a weekend series in Evanston, Illinois.
The RedHawks will enter the game off of a five-game winning streak, with their last two wins earning them the Mid-Atlantic Conference Tournament Championship.
The team’s 15 wins throughout the season tied the NCAA record for single-season wins since its establishment in 1981.
Miami’s roster has an award-winning midfield. The MAC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, seniors Paula Portugal and Mariona Heras, respectively, both spend time in the position, while three other midfielders were named to the All-Mac First or Second Teams.
Opponents have been limited to 1.10 goals per game on average, while the RedHawks have scored 3.19.
Likewise, they have averaged over 10 more shots per game than the opposing team.
When BU faced Miami, it outshot the RedHawks 13-5 and dominated penalty corners 10-4.
To get to the NCAA tournament, the Terriers first earned its automatic bid by earning the Patriot League Tournament Championship.
BU first beat Lafayette College (8-11, 4-2 Patriot League) 2-1 in the semifinals after its last regular season conference win left the team with a perfect regular season.
Despite outshooting the Leopards 13-8 in the game, Starr said Lafayette’s efforts bettered the Terriers.
“It was a hard-fought competitive game that made us play our best hockey,” Starr said.
Particularly in the first half, both sides pushed hard, with BU leading the shots 9-6 after 35 minutes.
The first goal was by sophomore forward Petra Hall, who scored off a rebound from a corner, sending the ball into the upper right corner past the goalkeeper.
Her seventh goal of the season, she was assisted by redshirt senior fullback Jordyn Beesmer and sophomore forward Ailsa Connolly.
Just over five minutes later, the Leopards answered through junior forward Caroline Turnbull. The equaliser also a rebounded in off of a corner.
An opportunity to gain the lead before the end of the first half was missed when senior fullback Ally Hammel’s penalty stroke was saved by Lafayette goalkeeper Hailey Abbott.
In the second half, the Terriers and Leopards continued to trade opportunities until the Terriers finally broke the deadlock due to Hall’s second goal of the game.
Starr called a timeout midway through the game, saying she “felt like we just needed to stay calm and take better care of the ball.”
Lafayette answered with its own timeout not long after, and Starr noted, “They pushed up some higher strikers and went much more direct [with] their passes.”
Hall came in from the left side with yet another goal to make her eighth of the season and give BU the lead — one which they would hold onto — to advance to the finals.
Starr praised Hall’s performance and said, “She has gotten better and better all season as her confidence has grown.”
By upping its defense and outplaying the clock, narrowing the Leopard’s shooting opportunities to two, the team moved on to the finals to compete with the semifinal winner for the conference title.
Two days later, the Terriers would meet American (9-9, 4-2 Patriot League) in the conference finals and win 2-1.
BU played with aggressive offense, especially in the first half where they outshot the Eagles 6-2.
“I thought we came out on our front foot and played exceptionally well,” Starr said. “[We] moved the ball well and created a lot of attack.”
After an initial attempt by Hall was blocked, senior fullback Maika Akroyd knocked in a rebound off of a corner to start off the game with her second goal of the season.
To tie up the game, American midfielder Rafaela Rubas was assisted by senior defender Annaka Groschinski off a corner.
Sophomore midfielder Maggie New ultimately landed the winning goal for her team — and her second of the season — when she gave BU the lead just over a minute after the tying goal was scored.
With the lead, the Terriers committed to a fortified defense, fending off the Eagles’ last-ditch efforts to push for goals.
The final stop in BU’s defense has been senior goalkeeper Kathleen Keegan, who Starr commended for her ability to prepare for games.
“[Keegan] really mentally prepares well and as a result has come up big in the big games,” she said.