Sunday, June 23, 2024

#AsForLax: Beat Boston U! – As For Football

After an exciting home win over Lehigh last weekend, your Army Black Knights remain the #1 team in the nation and one of just two undefeated teams in all of college lacrosse. This weekend, though, they’ll face arguably this season’s toughest in-conference test against a Boston University team that’s absolutely loaded with experienced senior, transfer, and grad student talent. Friendds, BU is 2-0 against Army in their last two meetings.

Can the Black Knights get back on the good foot on the road against a team that has had their number the last two years in a row?

Throw the rankings out this Friday. We’re in for a barnburner under the lights!

Boston University Terriers

BU closed out the 2023 regular season by defeating Army in a hotly contested, physical contest, thereby winning the conference regular season championship and snatching home field advantage for that year’s Patriot League Championship Tournament. That Terriers team matched up very well against last year’s talented Black Knights squad. Indeed, one might argue that Army caught a break when those same Terriers unexpectedly dropped their semi-final match-up to Loyola, thereby giving Army a perhaps easier path to the conference championship. Even so, BU still finished last year ranked 16th in the nation.

Though this year’s Terriers team (5-2, 2-1 in the Patriot League) has been less consistent, they look at least as talented on paper. 

Both USA Lacrosse and Inside Lacrosse ranked BU 18th nationally before the season started. The Terriers then opened play by beating St. Joseph’s, 14-10, and Vermont, 18-8. However, they then dropped a bad home loss to Bryant, 12-6, before beating Brown, 16-10, then falling to Navy, 16-9. Since then, they’ve rattled off good-looking wins against Bucknell, 13-10, and Loyola, 12-10.

As noted, this team has a lot of talent. Inside Lacrosse named grad student defenders Roy Meyer and Patrick Morrison preseason All-Americans. USA Lacrosse named those two plus grad student attacker Vince D’Alto as preseason All-Americans.

With all of that said, junior G Will Barnes might actually be the best player on this Terriers team. Barnes has saved fully 57.3% of the shots-on-goal he’s seen this season, putting him 8th in the nation in total save percentage. Barnes made *19* saves in BU’s loss to Navy and another *19* in last week’s win over Loyola. In that same Loyola game, Barnes saved an otherworldly 65.5% of Loyola’s total shots-on-goal. With that, he was — understandably — named the Patriot League Goaltender of the Week.

What to Watch

We’ve seen Army put up a lot of offense against a bunch of really good teams this season. Boston University has a really good defense and an outstanding goalkeeper, but it’s still hard to believe that the Black Knights won’t find a way to make it work on the offensive end.

This game’s real match-ups ought to come when Army is on defense. AJ Pilate and company will have to watch out for D’Alto, obviously, as well as for graduate student Louis Perfetto. D’Alto has 36 points this season on 22 goals plus 14 assists. More to the point, the dude has taken fully 69 shots! Perfetto, by comparison, has 41 points with 22 goals and 19 assists. BU’s offense hasn’t been remotely as consistent as their defense this season, but when these two guys get it going, they can score points in bunches. This then creates offensive opportunities for their teammates all over the field.

Army G Matt Chess made 13 saves (52%) this past weekend against Lehigh, marking his second-best statistical game of the season after his 89% save performance against Mercer. Several of the 12 goal Chess allowed this past week, though, owe more to clean looks Lehigh attackers generated from maybe 10 meters out from the cage. The Black Knights defense will need to improve this Friday if they want to get a win against this potent BU attack.

As has often been the case this season, Army’s biggest advantage in this game ought to come from FOGO Will Coletti. Terriers FOGO Matthew Fritz is 48/84 this season (57.1%), but when he struggles, BU struggles as a team. Fritz went just 2/7 against Bryant, and his team lost 12-6. He then went just 2/9 against Navy, and the Mids beat the Hell out of an otherwise much more talented BU team, 16-9.

Looking Forward

Friends, we got extremely lucky that this game was scheduled for Friday night. As of this writing, the forecast for Friday calls for clear but cold conditions with temperatures starting in the lower-40s and falling into the 30s as the evening progresses. With that plus the Terriers advertising this match-up as their first ever home game against a collegiate #1 team, we might see some fans in the stands.

Given that the alternative was for a Saturday monsoon game, the Lax Gods did us a real solid here.

Even so, this weekend’s contest starts a tough four-game set for Army Men’s Lacrosse. They’re at BU this weekend, at UNC-Chapel Hill next weekend, home against #20 Colgate on April 6th, and then home against Navy on April 13th. The good news is that Army’s strength-of-schedule ought to improve markedly over that stretch. Colgate working their way back into the rankings helps, and Navy will probably be ranked by the time they reach Michie Stadium as well.

Of course, that only matters if Army keeps winning. To do that, they’ll need to continue to play tough, detail-oriented team lacrosse, and as we’ve mentioned here a million times, playing with that kind of legit team consistency is incredibly difficult over the course of an entire season.

The Black Knights will need to play their best lacrosse over these next four weeks. If they can do that, though, anything is possible.

Army at Boston University will start at 6 pm, Friday, April 22nd. ESPN+ has the broadcast.

Cover image via Army West Point Lacrosse on Facebook.

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