October 14, 2013

Boston University Opens New Chapter at Northeast Classic

by Kat Hasenauer Cornetta | LaxMagazine.com

Boston University kicked off its varsity career on Sunday at the Notheast Classic.
© Bill Daniliewski 

BRAINTREE, Mass. — On a crisp autumn afternoon along tree-lined fields on the grounds of Thayer Academy, the Division I men's lacrosse scene in New England took an important step.

With a gaggle of sweatshirt-clad and spirit-filled family and friends lining the sidelines, Boston University took the field for their first official fall ball action as a Division I varsity program at Northeast Classic. The Terries scrimmaged Sacred Heart and Hartford.

For Terriers head coach Ryan Polley, the anticipation heading into the five-year old fall ball tournament (formerly known as the Catamount Classic) was substantial. It was the first game action for the 33 freshmen and three transfers that make up the squad. Polley and his coaching staff were not exactly sure what they would see.

"I was very anxious," Polley said. "Not knowing what to expect, what we were going to be like when we actually faced a team wearing another color, and then getting off to a slow start. I thought, 'Oh my gosh, are we ever going to score?'"

BU went down early to Sacred Heart, 6-0. Early in the second quarter, attackman Ryan Johnston (Elora, Ont.) scored the first goal in program history, over the shoulder of the Sacred Heart goaltender. Both the Terriers' sideline and the fans cheered not just in relief, but in celebration. After two years of talk, of the handling the uncertainties of starting a team, the program was finally real.

"We got the first goal and got it rolling. Guys really responded," Polley said. "It was a long time coming, and a lot of people worked hard. It's really been a relief, just to get this over with, see what we've got and see where we can go from here."

As was to be expected, after dropping their two games, the Terriers' to-do list is long.

"Yesterday we talked about that the intensity was going to be picked up a lot more from high school and from practice," Polley said. "I talked to our transfers — we have a guy from Syracuse, a guy from Mount St. Mary's and a guy from Providence — and then let them talk for a few minutes to say what was it going to be like, just the intensity.

"Then we came out and we were a little flat — I don't even think we were flat, we just were unsure of everything."

Johnston definitely did not show any trepidation. He scored at least three goals on the afternoon, and took some of the Terriers' highest quality shots. Other highlights for the Terriers came from Brendan Barrett (West Caldwell, N.J.), who got his feet under him in the second game and scored two goals through perimeter pressure from Hartford. Jake Dansey (Clifton, Va.) showed strong footwork and intensity on defense against the Hartford attack.

The Terriers faceoff men showed mettle, with Syracuse transfer Elliott Burr (Hamilton, Mass.) leading the way and freshman Sam Talkow (Delray Beach, Fla.) battling hard.

One of the surprising notes on the day for the Terriers were their clearing skills. "Overall, we cleared the ball well, which can be difficult for a first-year program, but I thought we cleared the ball really well," Polley said.

Polley focused on the positives his team showed as they closed out their first Northeast Classic experience.

"[Moving forward] I think we clean everything up a little bit, but certainly this was a great foundation. The guys played really hard, and we're trying to create that culture that we play hard every time, of playing with intensity and at a high level. We know we're going to make mistakes, but we cleaned it up in the second game."

Sacred Heart Starts Basti Era

BU was not the only program using the Northeast Classic to mark a fresh start. Sacred Heart, who they faced to start off the morning, marked the beginning of Jon Basti's helm of the Pioneers program.

Sacred Heart demonstrated an up-tempo and vocal game, dominating both BU and Vermont. They jumped out to substantial goal leads in both games, and controlled possession. The Pioneers looked far from a team with a completely new coaching staff.

"We are excited with [our competitiveness]," Basti said. "That was our biggest thing coming in, we wanted to see how we competed against someone else for a day. I thought every one we put on the field did a great job. Was the lacrosse great? Not always, but the compete level and effort of every man we put on the field was tremendous, so we're really excited for the future."

Both attackman Cory Marquis (Londonderry, NH) and midfielder Alex Miller (Ridgewood, NJ) stood out for the Pioneers.

Basti, a Pioneers assistant coach from 2000-02, came back to Sacred Heart in July from five seasons as an associate coach at Hartford. He came into the day knowing that his new staff (Tom Compitello, Mark Miyashita, and Scott Bement) had prepared Sacred Heart well, no matter what was thrown at them.

"I think the guys reacted well to what we were trying to teach. They've done a really good job the whole fall," Basti said. "Our assistant coaches did a tremendous job preparing the guys on what they were going to see today, because you never know. You never know when you're going into game's blind, what you are going to see. They did a really nice job preparing them for everything they possibly could."

Basti's off-season and fall ball efforts have been focused on strength and conditioning, and it showed. The Pioneers demonstrated superb physicality, especially when playing man-on against BU and Vermont. Their size and speed threw both teams off.

"We believe [the weight room] is a competitive advantage for us," Basti said. "Our guys have done a really good job of picking new things and finding new ways to attack their challenges in the weight room. It was a nice thing to see, that against two good teams, that we were able to put out the effort we were able to put out consistently.

"The up-tempo game only happens because you can play that way because your body is prepared for it. At this point in the season, I thought we were really well prepared for it."

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