Long-stick midfielder Roy Meyer leads all of Division I with 3.07 caused turnovers per game. As a team, BU averages a national-best 11.71.

As Patriot League's Top Seed, BU Primed for Breakthrough

Ryan Polley has been waiting for this version of Boston University lacrosse for a long time.

BU has sponsored men’s lacrosse for what Polley called “eight and a half seasons,” with 2020 being a wash due to the pandemic. Even 2021 was far from a complete schedule. The Terriers played just six games.

Polley, who has been BU’s only head coach, has tried to build a distinct identity for the Terriers since day one. They’ve alternated between a few on the field, but one unfavorable characteristic that has stuck to them as a young program is inconsistency.

Set to face Lehigh at Nickerson Field on Friday for a berth in the Patriot League championship game, this version of BU (10-4) is looking to do what no other team has done in program history.

“It’s just been wonderful,” Polley said. “Last year, coming out of the pandemic, there were so many challenges. Trying to be healthy and be competitive at the same time, I give credit to the seniors. They were determined to tweak the culture. I don't think we had a bad culture; I just don't think we had a championship one.”

“I don't think we had a bad culture; I just don't think we had a championship one.”

— BU coach Ryan Polley

Those eight seniors have had essentially two seasons stripped away, between 2020 being canceled and 2021 being incredibly restrictive. This season marked a return to normal, but the team has also taken something from the turbulent past two seasons and spun it into a positive.

“It was a way we could still be together,” senior attackman Louis Perfetto said. “We looked at it as an opportunity to play and shut everything from the outside. And it still even feels that way. It was big for us to be together.”

The Patriot League had some of the toughest COVID protocols of any conference, and BU specifically among the strictest rules of any school that fielded spring sports teams in 2021. That made the past couple of seasons even more challenging for a program where adversity has been the norm.

“Lacrosse was the most normal part of our day,” senior midfielder Jett Dziama said. “Lacrosse has been our release.”

BU has resided on the periphery of its own potential since its inception as a Division I program in 2014. From losing a transformative player in the transfer portal to having prospects decommit and suffering several near misses in the playoffs and on the outside of them, the Terriers’ story is one of almosts. They were projected to finish fifth in the Patriot League this season. Instead, they started 6-0, finished with the second-most wins in program history and earned a bye in the conference championship as the No. 1 seed. (BU clinched prior to a 15-14 loss to Army last Friday.)

Junior attackman Vince D'Alto is tied for 16th in the nation at 3.07 goals per game. The Terriers lead the nation in caused turnovers per game with 11.71, more than an entire turnover ahead of the next-best team. Most of that comes from long-stick midfielder Roy Meyer, who averages 3.07 per game by himself.

It’s a more mature version of what BU has spent nearly a decade building. The Terriers hope they can finally reap the benefits of their hard work.

“The only thing we haven’t done is win a Patriot League championship,” Polley said. “We’ve had teams that were talented enough. The only bummer has been we lost a couple of semifinal games. We lost a couple of games late in the season that took us out of at-large consideration. I'm really proud of where we are.”

BU has never hosted a semifinal game. It’s uncharted territory for a senior group that has taken pride in cementing a winning legacy for the team.

“A big reason why a lot of us came here to begin with was it is a new program,” senior attackman Timmy Ley said. “It didn’t have a lot of history. We have the chance to build something almost from scratch. We’ve been here a little while now, since freshman year, and we’ve seen it pay off.”

The Terriers’ identity has been wrapped around near misses. The first time they were in the Patriot League semifinals in 2018 — after having missed out on the postseason with final-game losses to Holy Cross twice previously — they fell to conference powerhouse Army.

That was Chris Gray’s freshman season. BU had landed the eighth-ranked prospect in the country, its first top-10 recruit. It was a sign the Terriers were on the map.

Boston University has been a potential destination lacrosse school since its inception. In an era of Division I men’s lacrosse expansion — Michigan, Furman and Marquette all added programs around the same time — BU had name recognition in the northeast in a big city. Massachusetts had been largely unexplored as a top Division I market outside of Harvard, an Ivy League school that had its own appeals. UMass was further west; Merrimack and UMass Lowell weren’t yet Division I, though the Riverhawks came soon after. The Terriers could lock down the New England market.

Then after an up-and-down 2019 season that included a one-goal loss to Lehigh in the Patriot League semifinals, things became difficult. Gray transferred to North Carolina at the start of the transfer portal gaining prominence. Then BU lost top recruit Anthony DeMaio to Maryland after he decommitted. 

By 2020, the Terriers were going into a tough schedule without Gray, without graduated top scorer James Burr and still without a trip to the NCAA tournament. The season got canceled when they were 3-3, coming off a one-goal win against Colgate.

With an abridged 2021 schedule, BU dealt with frustrations. It went 6-5, lost to Colgate in the conference quarterfinals and finished its last two regular season games with a combined 13 goals and two losses, including one against a Brown squad that hadn’t played all season.

Predicted to finish fifth in the conference this season, something clicked for the Terriers. Something that could bring them to a win at Loyola, where they had never won before, despite missing two starters. Something that responded to a brutal 22-15 loss to Yale, the type of defeat that would have derailed seasons when the program was younger.

Goalie Matt Garber, the successor to former top recruit Joe McSorley, was the conference’s top goalie. Meyer won defensive player of the year. Polley won head coach of the year for the second time and first since 2017.


Junior attackman Vince D'Alto is tied for 16th in the nation at 3.07 goals per game.

BU faced adversity this season as well; the difference has been its capacity to power through it. The Terriers have lost several starters, including top midfielder Jake Cates. That might have been a breaking point for BU teams of the past, but this group has been different.

“Each year there has been a little bit of, it seems like we trip up,” Polley said. “I could go year by year and say, ‘This is a moment we weren’t consistent enough.’ I’ve felt like a lot of that has been being a young program. People will be like, ‘You fall apart at the end of the year,’ and I look at it like, ‘Yeah, we’re playing Navy or Army late. Sorry, we lost to Loyola or sorry, we lost to Lehigh, a really good team, in the semifinal.’

“At some point, if we want to take the program to the next level, we need to win those games. We’ve been able to do it this year.”

The Terriers have been competitive from their inception. They’ve never been able to find that something extra. Whether it was late-game turnovers, poor clearing decisions or just a talent gap, BU has been one something away from being a threat for a long time.

Polley thinks some of the biggest competition-related challenges from the pandemic might not be known yet; the Patriot League doesn’t take grad transfers, and BU has a lot of seniors returning, which could make recruiting tougher.

This year, though, the Terriers have been rewarded for all their building. Perhaps that makes an uncertain future a bit less daunting.

“Some schools can pull off these super teams,” Polley said. “We’re a bit limited with what we can do in the Patriot League. From a competitive standpoint, some teams have made a big jump. The next few years are going to be really interesting.”

This is the best team BU has ever fielded. It doesn’t include Gray nor past program stalwarts such as Jack Wilson or Cal Dearth or Burr. But it does include that intangible quality, that feeling that this is the group that gives the Terriers a chance to accomplish what they’ve been a step away from for part of a decade.

“Look at Yale,” Polley said, searching for a comparison. “People forget it took Andy (Shay) 10 years to make an NCAA tournament or something like that. When you’re trying to get a program off the ground, you can't always be selective in your recruiting. You have to take some chances on some kids. There’s a maturation process when you start to be successful, and I think we're at that point in the program right now.”