Kylie Strom Will Be Needed To Help Fuel BU’s Offense in 2012
ACC – Clemson | Miami (FL) | NC State
Big XII – Iowa State | Kansas | Oklahoma | TCU | Texas | Texas Tech
Big East – Cincinnati | DePaul | Georgetown | Notre Dame | Pittsburgh | Providence | Rutgers | Seton Hall | South Florida | St. John’s (NY) | Syracuse | UConn | Villanova
Big Ten – Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota | Nebraska | Northwestern | Ohio State | Purdue | Wisconsin
Mid-Majors – Central Michigan | Denver | Florida Gulf Coast | Harvard | Illinois State | La Salle | New Mexico | Rice | Richmond | Samford | Stephen F. Austin | Toledo | UMass | Utah State | Western Michigan | William & Mary
Pac-12 – Arizona | Arizona State | Cal | Colorado | Oregon | Oregon State | USC | Utah | Washington | Washington State
SEC – Alabama | Arkansas | Georgia | Kentucky | LSU | Mississippi State | Missouri | Ole Miss | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt
WCC – BYU | Gonzaga | Loyola Marymount | Portland | San Diego | San Francisco | St. Mary’s (CA)
Different season, same story for a Boston University program that continued to stomp anyone and everyone in their path to more America East silverware. The Terriers completed another perfect league season and have now won twenty-four straight matches against league foes, including eighteen straight in the regular season. For once, BU also managed to avoid Boston College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for once and used it to their benefit, winning their first match in the Big Dance since 2005. Feldman’s Terriers have been the dominant force in the America East for the better part of the last decade, winning the double nine times in the last twelve years.
It took about half a decade for Feldman to build Boston University into a powerhouse, but once they started rolling at the turn of the millennium, the Terriers have hardly looked back. The current string of success for BU saw the Terriers enter 2011 having made six straight NCAA Tournaments and having done the double in the America East four straight times. The Terriers had enjoyed one of their best seasons ever in 2010, including thumping wins against Washington and UConn while also giving scares to the likes of Boston College and Stanford.
The club had been desperately unlucky to have been shoehorned into a first round NCAA Tournament match against BC but had actually led at one point in the rematch of a tight regular season contest. The Terriers would eventually slip to defeat, but they came into 2011 with a whole lot of respect from their recent exploits and were again a threat to be one of the mid-major elite going into the new season.
The club’s growth was immediately evident in the opener as they battled derby rivals Boston College to a 1-1 draw on the road and had more than deserved their share of the spoils. The club would then win their next five, including victories over Illinois State, Washington, and Portland. An untimely injury to offensive talisman Jessica Luscinski paralleled the team’s worst stretch of the season, where they lost back-to-back games to UConn and UMass away from home. But Luscinski would make it back, and the club found it smooth sailing from there, decisively winning their last two games before league play started.
The Terriers would roll over their league opposition in dominant fashion and won the title with an emphatic 3-0 victory over previously unbeaten Hartford in the regular season finale. BU needn’t have worried about any potential bubble trouble come Selection Monday, as they took out Binghamton and Albany in the America East to seal another trip to the Big Dance. They also got a bonus, avoiding Boston College in the opening round and even earning the right to host a first round game, against Ivy League champs Hartford. It wasn’t the most compelling derby, seeing as how BU had thumped the Crimson in the regular season, but the Terriers probably weren’t complaining.
They proved that the first encounter hadn’t been a fluke, posting their second 3-0 win over Harvard in 2011. Things got much, much harder in the next round though, as BU traveled to play ACC powerhouse Wake Forest. The Terriers were clearly outgunned but doggedly kept themselves in the game until the final quarter of an hour, when Wake’s pressure finally caused BU to break en route to a 2-0 win to the home side.
While the club hasn’t quite put together the NCAA Tournament run it needs to truly join the nation’s elite, there can be no doubting Boston University’s lofty position in the hierarchy of mid-majors. The question now after perhaps the program’s greatest season ever is whether the Terriers can keep on rising despite playing their league games on such a decidedly small stage.
That stage will be a different one next season though, with the shocking announcement that the club would be moving to the Patriot League as of the 2013 season. While some had linked the Terriers to a move to a bigger conference, there was very little indication that the Patriot League was in the market for new members. It’s safe to say that there’s some resentment from BU’s soon to be former conference rivals, as the initial shocking announcement was followed by an equally stunning proclamation that the Terriers had been banned from postseason conference tournaments by the league.
Obviously, the exclusion hits the dominant women’s soccer program exceptionally hard. It means that if BU wants to extend their NCAA Tournament qualification streak, they’ll have to earn an at-large bid. With potential big fish Dayton, Boston College, Stanford, Santa Clara, and UMass on the non-conference docket, opportunity is certainly there for the Terriers to make some waves. But BU’s league opponents will inevitably drag their RPI down into the mire come the later weeks of the regular season. It’s just a matter of winning big and winning often for the Terriers, who must surely know their margin of error is nil if they want to get back to the Big Dance in 2012.
Boston U has made a goalkeeping rotation work just fine for the past two seasons, with Alice Binns and Kelly King faithfully splitting duties in goal for the Terriers. While the duo tended to play a half each in 2010, Feldman tended to stick with one for a whole game for much of last year. The departed Binns got the bulk of the minutes in crunch time last season, playing all but one half in the club’s final five games of the season. After playing her first two seasons at William Smith College, Binns won the AE Goalkeeper of the Year honor in her first season with the club despite splitting time and ended up with All-America East Second Team honors last season despite starting just twelve games.
Her graduation also likely spells the end of the platoon with King set to take over full-time. Fearless off her line, King made a big splash as a rookie in 2010, winning the league’s Rookie of the Year honor after generally playing the first half for the club before giving way to Binns. She’d end up starting eleven matches last season but was relegated to backup status for most of the club’s postseason run. Given her talent and track record, there should be little hesitation in throwing her into a full-time starting position this year though.
There are plenty of options for the backup role. Junior Andrea Green has found minutes hard to come by with Binns and King ahead of her but has seen time in two games in both her seasons with the club thus far. Also in contention are sophomore Alyssa Parisi, who did not play last season, and true freshman Sarah Carrick. Binns was a fine keeper, but the club shouldn’t miss a beat with King’s return.
The Terriers’ defense packed a lot of bite last season, but the club may well face a harder road this season with the graduation of both of the team’s starting center-backs. Captain Lina Cords departs after an Third Team All-America season that also saw her win the league’s Defender of the Year crown. A four-year starter for the Terriers, Cords was tenacious and proficient in the air while also being a big asset thanks to her excellent deliveries on set pieces.
Center-back partner Katherine Donnelly was overshadowed a bit by Cords but was still a fantastic defender for BU. She began her career at Holy Cross, as one of the league’s best defenders before transferring to the Terriers and promptly slotting in as a starter at BU as well. Donnelly won All-Region Second Team honors last season and even chipped in with three assists for BU’s high octane offense. Also gone is reserve Emma Caringello, who played in fifteen games off the bench in two seasons.
The surest thing among returning Terriers on defense may be junior Erin Mullen. Mullen had fought her way into the lineup for much of her rookie season but only really nailed down a starting spot full-time last season, as she started every match for the club. The Texan could be in for a breakout season this year and may also be looked at as a central defender given her size and skill. Much needed senior leadership will come from one of the club’s two seniors this year, Jessica Morrow. A generally steady presence in the starting lineup for the club the past three years, Morrow hasn’t quite matched 2009′s excellent three goal debut, but she’s still been a mainstay on the flank and will be a vital source of experience for such a young side this year.
BU will also be hoping for a great second year from sophomore Ariana Aston. Aston was considered by many to be the club’s best recruit going into last season, and the New York native lived up to the hype, winning America East All-Rookie Team honors after a fine debut. Aston started nine games for the club and is a good bet to build on that number considerably this season. The likes of full-back Brea Hewitt, a senior who is a converted midfielder with great pace, and Kai Miller, one of the club’s top options off the bench last season as a rookie, will also be in the mix for starting minutes.
The club also brings in true freshman McKenzie Hollenbaugh, who has impressed with the SoccerPlus CT team in ECNL action. Hollenbaugh can fill in anywhere on the backline and brings a lot of pace to the equation for the Terriers, both attributes which should increase the odds of her seeing major minutes this year. There’s still a fine amount of talent on BU’s backline, but losing two standout center-backs in the same season could make for some growing pains this year.
There’s a big loss for the Terriers to overcome in midfield as well, as BU must replace the league’s reigning Midfielder of the Year in Brittany Heist. A top reserve and fine spot starter early in her Terriers career, Heist rounded into one of the club’s best players as an upperclassman. Bursting with creativity, Heist broke out offensively as a senior with five goals and seven assists, easily career bests in both categories. That included a brace against Yale and two assist performances against Loyola (MD) and Hartford, the latter in the huge league deciding showdown in October. Also departing is winger Tayler Nichols, a reliable option off the bench these past few seasons who saw action in nine games as a reserve last year.
The return of junior Kylie Strom does bode well for the Terriers this season though. Strom was a revelation as a rookie, coming in with three goals and nine assists despite only starting a handful of games for the club in 2010. That changed last year, where she was one of the first names on the teamsheet, starting all of BU’s matches as a sophomore. An All-Region Second Team selection, Strom turned into a lethal weapon in front of goal, finishing with eight goals, second best on the team. She showed a remarkable sense of timing as well, with five of those strikes going down as match winners. Strom could again be one of the club’s leading lights in attack, especially given losses further up the pitch.
Providing a little balance to the midfield equation is classmate Emma Clark. Despite her role in shielding the back four, Clark proved quite proficient in front of goal as a rookie in 2010 as well, scoring five goals despite starting just sixteen games. She was more restrained last year, scoring just once but made fourteen starts and will likely be a prime contender for a starting spot again this year.
Another controlling player in midfield is sophomore Jamie Turchi, who looks to be another fine find for Feldman and co. after the second-year player took home America East All-Rookie Team honors last year. Turchi scored just one goal in her rookie season but made it count, netting the winner against Stony Brook. She made just nine starts last season but has a chance to build on that number significantly this year.
Junior Megan McGoldrick will be looking to continue her comeback from a serious injury that cost her all of 2010. The Reading native had had a brilliant rookie season in 2009 with five goals and four assists before being sidelined. She was more of an impact sub last year, not logging a start but still had a pair of goals and assists each for the club. Sophomore Alejandra Diaz could also be in line for more minutes after seeing time in six games last season as a rookie. The club also adds more firepower with a big freshman addition in Rachel Blauner. Long a mainstay of the Region I ODP team, Blauner’s stock got another big boost with a call-up to the U.S. U18 team at the turn of the year. The East Bridgewater native has loads of potential and could be the club’s next big offensive star. Heist’s a big loss, but with the likes of Strom and Clark still in tow, along with additions like Blauner, this should still be a potent group.
The deadly duo of Jessica Luscinski and Tiya Gallegos both depart this season, leaving a serious goalscoring void for Feldman to try and fill. Luscinski leaves as a true BU legend, having earned All-America Third Team honors, along with her second straight AE Striker of the Year award. She had had a brilliant junior season, tallying twelve goals and seven assists while terrorizing opposing defenses. She and BU were looking a very dangerous prospect early on in 2011 as the club raced out to a 4-0-1 start, but an injury against Washington kept her out of the next three games, of which the club would lose two. She returned in mid-September and kept up a consistent goalscoring pace, finishing with nine goals and eight assists in a fine senior season.
Gallegos was a player who really exploded onto the scene in her final few seasons with the club. After just three combined goals in her first two seasons, the Californian busted out with eight goals in 2010 to raise expectations significantly going into 2011. Though she began her senior year in stuttering form, she promptly went nuts in league play, scoring in four straight and six out of seven, while recording a point in seven straight games to fuel the club’s title run. Replacing both looks like a heavy chore, while top reserve Krista Minto also departs.
Likely leading the line for the Terriers will be Madison Clemens, who had a breakout campaign last season. The junior had barely made an impression off the bench as a rookie but then netted six goals in her sophomore season. Clemens was another who heated up late, scoring four in five at the end of the league and in the AE Tournament to help fuel another BU double. The signs are promising, but it’ll be interesting to see how she responds to potentially being the top option here.
One likely strike partner is the reigning AE Rookie of the Year, Taylor Krebs. Krebs was mostly used off the bench last season but still managed six goals for the Terriers as a rookie. Most impressively, those goals came at big times for BU, with five going down as game winners. Feldman will undoubtedly be hoping the magic continues in her second season in Boston with more minutes likely to come her way. Depth is a little thinner than hoped though. Sophomore Ana Cuffia could be one of the main beneficiaries of the upheaval, having been used off the bench in all but a few matches last season, tallying three assists as a rookie.
Newcomer Lily Creighton also will be a prime contender for major minutes early, likely to be utilized out wide. Touted as dynamic and explosive by Feldman, Creighton could well be a threat to get down the line and pump balls into the area for the club’s dangerous center forwards to latch onto. Though replacing all of the lost production straight away might be tough, there’s some nice talent still in Boston, meaning this group should still score their fair share of goals.
Boston University might have picked a bad season to need an at-large bid. That’s not to say this team won’t be good (they could be very good) or that they won’t win the league title (they should open up as firm favorites). The problem is, the Terriers are going to have to win a whole lot of games with relatively few slip-ups thanks to the likely unspectacular RPIs of their conference brethren. While the BU sides of the past few years have looked relatively bulletproof to banana skins, this year’s club is quite young, with just a pair of seniors on the current roster.
While that means the Terriers could take the Patriot League by storm next season, it also means that this season, the club may not be immune to slipping up on a bad day at the office. While a big win or two early on could mitigate some of that damage, the Terriers almost have to win big early to increase their profile should they be near the bubble. It means that BU will likely be one of the most interesting cases to watch this season come Selection Monday, even if they bring home another league title, as expected.