On Saturday afternoon the BC field hockey team will take the field and begin their NCAA tournament run. The team earned an at-large bid and no doubt has a brutal section of the bracket with defending back-to-back champions Connecticut possibly meeting them in the second round. But before the Eagles get there, they have to win their first round game against Albany. But how good is the Albany field hockey team? Well, really good. Like really, really, good. Let's break them down.
It's impossible to talk about this years Albany team without talking about last year first. The Great Danes from the America East Conference absolutely shocked the field hockey community with their final four run. To get there they took down perennial powers Wake Forest and Maryland before their run was cut short against the eventual champions UCONN. The 2014 tournament no doubt showed their strengths, and because of that Albany was ranked #7 heading into this season.
#8 Albany is 17-2 this season and no doubt deserving of their ranking, but despite their 17 wins they did not have a particularly strong schedule. Their two losses this season came to North Carolina and conference foe Maine. Boston College also lost to UNC, and lost by one goal in their second meeting with the Tar Heels. Looking at the schedule, Albany's biggest win came over then #8 Maryland, a 2-1 win for the Great Danes. The Great Danes are also good at revenge, beating Maine twice after losing to them in early October. Overall, Albany is a great team, but Boston College faced tougher competition this season by virtue of being in the ACC.
What Makes Them So Good?
You can only play the games that you are given, and Albany going 17-2 is a clear indicator that they have talent. But what makes this team so good? Albany gets the job done on both offense and defense. They have a quick attack that creates plenty of chances and a star goalie that's allowed one goal in the last three games. Let's start with the offense. Albany had 355 shot attempts this season and 199 of them were shots on goal. While they did not convert as frequently as others, they still averaged 3.33 goals per game, which no doubt will help you win 17 games. Albany also took 162 penalty corners this year, which is well above average. Getting and creating chances is what has made Albany's offense so good this season, and Leah Settipane is going to have to make saves on Saturday to stop the Great Danes.
Unfortunately for BC, Albany also has a great goalie in junior Maxi Primus. Last season Primus lead the nation in goals against average and win percentage. Primus was also named to the All-American Third team last season. This year she will no doubt win awards again because she kept up the pace this year. She averaged 1.65 goals allowed this season and made 63 saves throughout the season. If BC wants to win the game, they have to put pressure on Primus.
Who Should We Watch Out For?
#8 Paula Heuser, Midfield. This superstar Junior is a goal scoring machine. Heuser has 33 goals this season and and has 77 career goals already. What makes her dangerous is that she is not afraid to shoot when she's in range. Heuser has taken 129 out of Albany's 355 shots and it has clearly paid off for her and team. She's also been lethal from Penalty Shots, taking 6 and making 5 of them. Last year she was an All-American First Team player and was named player of the year, which were both well deserved awards. Watch for Heuser on Saturday, because she is going to be a handful for BC.
#18 Fiori Van Rijswijk, Midfield. If Heuser is the team's goalscorer, Van Rijswijk is the set up girl. FVR (from now on) takes the teams corners and had 16 assists this season, which led the team. The sophomore from the Netherlands is a huge part of Albany's success these last two seasons and stepped it up big time in the NCAA tournament last season with a goal and assist against Wake Forest and an assist against Maryland.
Albany has a strong team and there is no doubt about that. They've got a strong offense and one of the top goalies in the game. But how does BC stop that? All season long Boston College has spread the ball around and has many offensive threats. While the McCoy twins are leading the team in goals, no one takes as many shots as Heuser does and BC relies on the entire team to get the job done. Boston College also had to face stiff competition all season long and 6 of their 8 losses were only by a goal. If BC can stop Heuser and play a team game they can no doubt beat Albany and advanced to the next round.