April 24, 2009

UMBC Women Bank on the Improbable

by J. Jude Hazard | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

It all comes down to Saturday for America East women's lacrosse, with one playoff spot up for grabs and several possible seeding scenarios pending the action on the field.

Boston University has rolled through the conference so far, going 5-0 in America East play during a 10-game winning streak. The Terriers have clinched the regular season conference title for the fifth year in a row, but coach Liz Robertshaw said BU had no plans of letting up against UMBC on Saturday.

"There's no way we're going to back off at all," she said. "It's actually really nice that we have senior day against UMBC, because I think it adds that extra oomph for the team."

The Retrievers, meanwhile, need a win at No. 12 BU or a loss by Vermont to secure a playoff spot. Vermont advances to the postseason with a win and a UMBC loss.

Heading into Saturday's play, Boston University has clinched the top spot, with Albany and New Hampshire also clinching playoff berths. If UMBC defeats Boston University and UNH defeats Binghamton, the Retrievers would finish as the No. 2 seed.

"You can't help but know what's at stake, but in the same tense, our team is just getting ready to play another game," UMBC coach Courtney Connor said. "We do know that if we win on Saturday, we definitely have a spot in the tournament."

Connor said that while she wasn't disappointed with UMBC's 9-7 record so far this year, she believed the Retrievers are a better team than the record shows.

"You can play your best and still come up with a loss, and we're prepared for that. But what we will not take is leaving that field with any regrets, leaving Boston [thinking] there's something more we could have done," she said.

Defeating Boston University at home will be no easy task. The Terriers defeated Albany, 15-9 at home in March and beat Binghamton, 19-5, earlier this month.

"The girls are really clicking," BU's Robertshaw said. "I feel like we always play our best lacrosse towards the end of the season, as you should."

BU's 10-game winning streak began after three consecutive losses to ranked teams early in the season, including a narrow defeat at home against No. 10 Vanderbilt, a disappointing 13-7 loss at No. 3 Penn and a nine-goal defeat at the hands of No. 8 Syracuse.

 "We had to make some adjustments to our team after those three games," Robertshaw said. "We asked our junior class to step up more as leaders."

BU has 10 juniors on the roster, including attack McKinley Curro, who is second on the team with 53 points behind senior Sarah Dalton. Junior Traci Landy is third on the team in points.

"We're enjoying what the juniors are bringing to the table this year," Robertshaw said. "We know when we come back next year it's going to be a whole new ballgame."

Robertshaw said she expects her juniors to play hard against UMBC on Saturday in an effort to send the team's seniors out in style in front of the final regular season home crowd.

"This season, I thought, in the America East there were a lot of upsets in games I didn't necessarily expect," Robertshaw said. "It's a big weekend for the America East."

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