The top two teams in the America East faced off Thursday night in a pivotal game to determine who will be top seed in the conference tournament at the end of the month. Boston University came into Hartford’s Al-Marzook Field with the confidence of an undefeated slate in conference play thus far and a five-game winning streak, while the Hawks needed a big win in order to be cemented in the tournament.
Boston University midfielder Shauna Kelleher floated a shot off the crossbar from about 30 yards out in the fifth minute. The ball bounced off the bar twice before falling perfectly for Junior Tiya Gallegos to head it into the back of the net and give Boston University a 1-0 lead.
The Terriers (9-5) dominated possession in the first half, allowing the Hawks (4-7-3) rare, short-lived attacks to which the visitors always countered with precise, thoughtful ball movement. Hartford was without their leading scorer, Breeanna Robinson, after she went down awkwardly in the 14th minute.
“We lost her about ten minutes into the game,” said seventh-year Head Coach John Natale, “she’s a hard forward for other teams to deal with.”
In the 31st minute, junior midfielder Jessica Luscinski lined up a free kick from the left corner of the penalty box, about 25 yards out. Curling toward the back post, she put the ball just out of the reach of Hartford keeper Lauren Brodeur as the ball scraped the net on its way in. It was Luscinski’s sixth goal of the year, and her second free kick, which made it 2-0 in favor of the visitors.
Hartford’s first shot on net didn’t arrive until early in the second half, and even then their build-up to goal looked disorganized and frantic. The first ten minutes of the second half displayed the Hawks’ best structure and composure.
Then on a counterattack by Boston University, Senior Corie Halasz crossed the ball in from the right side, which took a turn towards the opposite corner of the goal, making it 3-0 Terriers.
Boston University didn’t let up, dominating Hartford for the second half and pelting shots at will until the final whistle. One bright spot for the home team, though, was the emergence of sophomore midfielders Caitlin Alves and Amelia Pereira, who both showed speed and footwork worthy of starting positions.
“We’re in a pretty good position,” said Natale, whose squad remains in second place for the time being. “We just need to get healthy and prepare for our next conference game.”
With the Hawks’ upcoming away conference schedule, they will need to play well away from home in order to solidify their spot in the America East tournament. Their next game is at Vermont next Thursday night, with a 7:00 pm kickoff scheduled.
The Terriers look to close out the season undefeated in conference, as five of their next six games are against America East rivals. Barring the extraordinary, Boston University will seal up the top seed when the tournament starts on October 28th.