Halfway through the regular season, both the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams are sporting successful records. The men (6-3) have dominated at home with an impressive 4-1 record, and the women (5-3) got off to the program’s best start since 2012.
Both teams will look to continue their winning ways in a doubleheader against Lafayette this Saturday, March 23. The men kick off at noon, and the women follow suit at 4 pm.
The men’s team began the season auspiciously, winning five of the first six games. Many players trace that success to the preseason, when they shared their life stories with one another.
“Hearing what guys had to say about the struggles they’ve been through, how we can relate to that—those types of things got us closer together,” senior attacker James Burr (Questrom) says.
That bond translated to the field. The team has been notable for its unselfish play this season, and the impact was immediate: by the time BU faced Michigan for an October scrimmage, says head coach Ryan Polley, he knew the team had the potential to be successful.
“Very early, I felt that this team had a good vibe,” Polley says. “I really liked how hard they practiced.”
Leading the charge this year are the program’s seniors, who the coach says have been the driving force behind the players’ strong work ethic. “This group of 10 has just done a great job from the first day at practice in the fall, getting this team mentally prepared for the ups and downs of the season,” he says. “They’ve led by example and by holding everybody accountable.”
Sophomore attacker Chris Gray (CGS) says that along with their hard work on the field, the seniors have instilled a sense of urgency in the rest of the players. “They want to make it a special season and take this program to places it’s never been,” Gray says. “All the underclassmen are on board with that. We want to follow their footsteps. It’s really a formula for success.”
On the board, the Terriers are led by Gray and Burr. After receiving a round of honors—All-Patriot League First Team and Rookie of the Year and USILA and Inside Lacrosse All-American honorable mentions—as a freshman, Gray now ranks third in the country in both points (6.22) and assists (3.67) per game. Burr, the program’s all-time goals leader, leads the team once again this season, with 26 goals.
Despite their strong showing, the players know there are still areas where they need to grow, namely the ability to play a consistently strong 60-minute game. BU has had great quarters and halves, but Polley says a strong performance throughout the game has been sporadic.
“It’s been a little inconsistent,” he says. “I’d say that’s the one thing where we haven’t put it all together yet.”
Case in point: Tuesday’s heartbreaker, a triple overtime loss to Harvard. Heading into the fourth quarter with a strong 9-5 lead, the Terriers allowed 6 goals in the fourth quarter before the eventual defeat.
With only conference games remaining in the regular season, Gray says the Terriers are approaching each game with a “110 percent” effort. “We want to get as many wins as possible to set ourselves up for success down the road when we get closer to the playoffs,” he says.
The team has one overriding goal: winning the Patriot League championship.
“It’s not gonna be easy,” Gray acknowledges. “Every game in the Patriot League is going to be a close one, and there are going to be some hard-fought games, but we’re just playing hard every game and giving it our all.”
When the women Terriers blew away Lehigh, 16-8, last weekend, it meant much more than an opening win in conference play.
“It was a big, emotional game for us seniors,” senior defensewoman Tonianne Magnelli (CGS, Questrom) says. “We’ve never beaten Lehigh since the seniors have been here. That game is always the one that we play and say, ‘We can beat them. They’re a beatable team.’ But for some reason, the past three years we just haven’t been able to come out on top.”
This season marks the beginning of a new era for BU women’s lacrosse. The Terriers welcomed back Lauren Morton (CAS’08) as the new head coach, the first alum to helm the program. She heads up an entirely new coaching staff, and all indications are that it’s a good fit: the Terriers are off to their best eight-game start in seven seasons.
Players acknowledge that the change at the top took some adjustment. “For those of us here for three, four years, it was a huge change, culture-wise and playing-wise, how she wanted to coach the team,” Magnelli says. “But everyone came with an open mind. Everyone was ready to do whatever she wanted and work with her.”
Morton was a BU assistant coach for two season, from 2010 to 2012, and most recently was the associate head coach at Duke.
“The word we’ve used is progress,” Morton says of her inaugural season as head coach. “There’s been a lot of growth.”
That growth has been twofold, she notes. While there is certainly the on-field piece, the new coaching staff has pushed the mental aspect of the game as well, emphasizing the importance of mind-set, attitude, and body language. The “intangible pieces I think play such a big factor in your success,” Morton says.
Players like junior Kailey Conry (CGS, CAS) say that as a result, the team feels comfortable in competition this season. The coach has “done a great job building us up and working us into the season,” Conry says. “We’re ready for any challenge.”
Named to the All-Patriot League First Team last season, Conry has continued her dominant play as a junior, and is now only a point away from passing Morton (179) as the program’s 10th all-time scoring leader.
As a team, the Terriers rank third in goals per game (13.25) and second in goals allowed per game (9.96), for the best scoring margin in the Patriot League. What makes the team’s success all the more impressive is its youth. With 10 freshmen and 9 sophomores, the 30-women roster is underclassman-heavy. But ask tricaptain Magnelli and she’ll tell you that hasn’t been a liability this season.
“They don’t act like they’re underclassmen,” Magnelli says. “They’re not scared out there. They’re fine demanding the ball and with being a leader out there.”
The younger players’ confidence and competitiveness have not only impressed the upperclassmen, but also challenged them. “They push everyone around them to be better,” Conry says, “and that’s helped not only them, but also us.”
“They’ve really stepped up and have been willing to be vocal,” Morton says. “I think that that kind of fearlessness is what we want out of everyone.”
Players say that this team is capable of a playoff run—but for now, Morton is focused on something else: “Having a great practice today,” she says. “We’ve talked about taking things one game at a time, but we’ve shortened that to one practice at a time.”
The BU men’s lacrosse team hosts Lafayette on Saturday, March 23, at noon. The second game of the doubleheader follows at 4 pm, when the women’s lacrosse team plays Lafayette; both games are at Nickerson Field, 285 Babcock St. Tickets are free for students with a sports pass, $5 for faculty, staff, and students without a sports pass, and $8 for the general public.