Less than a year after Boston College field hockey’s season ended in the Final Four against UNC, the Eagles are ready for redemption. Despite improving from a 10-9 record in 2018 to a 15-8 season last fall, the Eagles struggled against ranked opponents—namely then-No. 1 UNC, who they went 0-3 against, including the ACC Championship game and the Final Four game of the NCAA tournament.
But while the Eagles look to continue their upward growth, an all-ACC schedule could halt them in their tracks.
“The other six ACC schools have had their preseason,” said head coach Kelly Doton. “Some schools started in June when they got players back. Some schools never left. They’ve been able to lift and train and use their field, and here at BC, we never had that opportunity for the right reasons.”
Doton said that due to BC’s complete shutdown, the team has been forced to play “catch-up” to the other ACC schools, only starting practice in late August. In addition to this late start, the ACC will have been playing for three weeks by the time the Eagles play their first game against Louisville on Sunday.
“Our players know we have a tough task ahead,” said Doton. “We have seven games against some really, really good teams. … I think first and foremost, the elephant in the room is we haven’t had as much preparation as the other teams in the ACC. With that being said, I still think that we can have a successful ACC season in the fall.”
The freshman class this year makes up one third of the current roster, with seven incoming players. There are only eight upperclassmen on this year’s team, most of whom are current seniors.
“I think if you combine the freshman and sophomore class, the majority of our players are underclassmen,” said Doton. “The sophomores went through just one season—there’s still a learning curve for them as much as it is for the freshmen.”
What the current sophomores lacked in experience last year, they made up for with talent. Forward Margo Carlin played 23 games for the Eagles in 2019, scoring 20 goals and six assists, just under double the amount of points scored by the second highest scorer, senior Fusine Govaert.
Govaert was named team captain by her teammates back in June alongside fellow senior Elizabeth Warner.
“Fusine and Elizabeth have been chosen by their teammates to lead the 2020 group and I couldn’t be more excited to work with them,” said Doton to BCEagles.com. “They are competitors, but they also are great people who have a tremendous amount of respect from the players and the coaching staff.”
According to Doton, the leadership qualities the two seniors possess outweigh the abundance of young players on this year’s roster, as they are making sure the team is still united and organizing socially distanced bonding to help the new student-athletes feel welcome on the team.
But what does this mean for getting back to championship-level play this year? Despite the disadvantages the Eagles face this season, Doton sees no reason why they can’t make a deep run in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
“As a head coach I don’t want to put any excuses out there,” said Doton. “This is it. We have four weeks to prepare and other teams have more, and that is what it is. But I love the underdog mentality. … I know they’re going to be prepared and they’re going to be ready to go.”
The ACC tournament will be held this fall from Nov. 6 to 8 at Duke, according to the ACC fall sports schedule released on Sept. 4. The NCAA tournament, however, is currently scheduled for the spring of 2021, with the semi-finals and finals set for May 7 to 9.
This delay in the NCAA tournament will give the Eagles an opportunity to practice and work on training that would have been completed during a normal summer offseason, according to Doton.
Another advantage for the Eagles is the fact that the ACC is the only conference continuing play this season, while all other conferences have been postponed to the spring. This fall gives the team a chance to get back into shape in preparation for a national tournament run.
As for the Eagles’ first game against Louisville this Sunday, Doton said she feels confident in her team.
“I think just preparing for every single tactical situation that we can is going to set them up for success and making sure our press and our defense is on the same page and ready to go,” said Doton. “Getting these guys connected with each other, both old and new members, is really critical.”
Doton and her squad have been utilizing their weekends for full-field scrimmages to acclimate the new players to full-field play and make up for lost time.
“We’ve been doing as much as we can,” said Doton. “On Oct. 4 we’re going to be as prepared as possible and we’ll see what happens.”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor