For the third consecutive season, the Boston University men’s lacrosse team is headed to Baltimore for the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament. The Terriers will take on the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks at 8:00 p.m. on Friday. The game will air on CBS Sports Network.
The season BU has had thus far doesn’t come as a surprise to lacrosse experts. BU was voted fourth in the Patriot League preseason poll, so at the moment they’re one rank above to where they were expected to be. Now, the question becomes—can they take the next step?
The Terriers have put themselves in a great situation to reach their first ever Patriot League championship game, but to do so they must avenge a 10-8 loss from earlier in the year against Lehigh.
“It’s a really evenly matched game,” BU head coach Ryan Polley said. “Our superstar power is a little bit higher than theirs.”
The Mountain Hawks will come into this contest with a full week of rest after earning a bye in the first round. The Terriers, on the other hand, come in on only two days of rest after having to take care of Bucknell Tuesday night in the quarterfinals.
BU will need to do a better job at the X than they did in the first matchup if they want any chance of beating Lehigh. That 10-8 loss was an off day for sophomore midfielder and faceoff man Sean Christman, who went 2-9 at the X .
Lehigh has the best faceoff man in the conference in junior Conor Gaffney. He dominated faceoffs all year long, finishing the season winning faceoffs 69 percent of the time. Gaffney went 14-22 at the X during the first game against the Terriers which was crucial in giving the Mountain Hawks extra possessions and allowed them to control the clock.
Stripping the ball away from Gaffney right after he wins faceoffs is a way the Terriers can combat his dominance, Polley said.
“[Gaffney] doesn’t handle the ball as effectively as an offensive player,” said Polley.
When comparing these two teams during conference play, they appear even. They both finished with a 5-3 Patriot League by playing to their respective strengths all season long.
The Terriers have the superior offense over Lehigh and will look to use this to their advantage. BU had the second-best offense during conference play, scoring 12.81 goals per game. Lehigh, on the other hand, only scored 10.93 goals per game.
The high powered offense of BU has been led by sophomore attack Chris Gray. His 108 points on the season leads all of college lacrosse. He has carried this Terrier squad all year and his team will depend on him heavily Friday night to keep the season alive.
The defensive side of the ball belongs to Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks played eight games this season that were decided by three goals or less but their defense was the reason they stayed in games when their offense wasn’t at its best.
Lehigh held their conference opponents to under ten goals a game but an area where BU may be able to exert their own defensive prowess is in their ability to force turnovers. The Terriers’ ferocious play caused conference opponents to turn the ball over more than eleven times a game which led the league.
“When we’re at our best we’re causing turnovers,” Polley said.
In just their sixth year as a varsity sport, it would be an incredible step for men’s lacrosse to play for a conference championship game. They certainly have the firepower to do it. A win on Friday night will come down to playing a full 60 minutes of clean lacrosse and staying true to who this BU team has been all year—relentless on the defensive end, good goalkeeping, and a heavy dose of putting balls in the back of the net.