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BU women’s soccer caught in penalty area

The Boston University women’s soccer team is once again on the verge of an America East regular-season championship. But because the Terriers are moving to the Patriot League next season, they are ineligible for the league’s postseason tournament, a doubly difficult blow since that means they could miss the NCAA Tournament, as well.

BU (11-5-1, 7-0-0) clinched at least a tie for the regular-season title by defeating Binghamton, 1-0, Sunday. The Terriers have won 31 successive conference games and five straight America East tournament titles. But no BU teams are eligible for league tournaments.

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“When we found out in June, it was really disappointing,” said coach Nancy Feldman. “But, honestly, once we started going, we could only control winning the next game. And we feel very, very strongly about going out this year and winning the America East [regular-season] championship because that’s what we can do. So we’re very motivated to try make that happen.”

They might be going out of the conference on a high note, but having no postseason could be a letdown. BU has played in the NCAAs the last seven years.

“We still hope if we’re successful the last [two] games, we can be a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament,” Feldman said. “We got in at-large before and will just be hopeful we’ve done enough.

“You know, there’s a lot more to the season than just playing one or two or three games in the NCAA Tournament. There’s a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction from the season. That’s how I’ve tried to think about it and that’s how the kids are thinking about it.

“So if it happens, that would be great. And if it doesn’t, we’re going to try to leave the America East Conference with a good memory of what BU women’s soccer is all about.”

The Terriers visit Dartmouth in a nonleague game Wednesday and conclude the conference season at home against New Hampshire Sunday.

“If anything, we were more fired up for every America East game,” cocaptain Megan McGoldrick said. “Just knowing that this is the last time we’re ever going to play these teams and we can’t play them in the tournament. This is our tournament.”

BU, which was a charter member of America East in 1979, has compiled a 111-18-8 league record in women’s soccer.

“We were very surprised and it was very disappointing to find out in the middle of summer, just knowing that there was nothing we could do about it,” McGoldrick said. “But it doesn’t change our attitude toward the season — we come out to win every game, regardless of the end results. So we just had to stay positive despite the disappointment.

“We were really disappointed because we felt that it was a little unfair. We weren’t sure where they were coming from as to why they made this decision. And for our seniors, it’s just too bad they don’t get to play in the tournament in their last season.

“We talked about it preseason. We sat down as a team and said, ‘Listen this is their decision and there’s nothing we can do about it.’ But it doesn’t change how we come out for every practice and every game.”

The league ruling did not lead to an exodus of players, as it might have in another sport.

“The only group that was at risk was the seniors,” Feldman said. “And, really, they’re here for the education. And it would have shocked me because of how committed they are to their studies and to the team.

“We’ve had some players play for the Breakers — but our players are not going to get professional contracts and they don’t need to be seen to get a multimillion-dollar contract or be drafted.

“Maybe that’s what’s different about women’s soccer compared to basketball or ice hockey. So, who has this hurt? Our senior student-athletes.

“I have my feelings about whether the conference did the right thing or not. Our opinion is they didn’t. There were different ways they could have penalized us without hurting the kids.”

BU started the season 3-5-1, including 1-0 losses at Santa Clara and Stanford. Now, with an eight-game winning streak, the Terriers’ postseason hopes likely rest on winning the final two games. Even then, they could be excluded from the NCAA Tournament, though they would likely be the only team with a double-digit victory streak to be left out.

“This is a really young team,” McGoldrick said. “We have only two seniors [midfielder Brea Hewitt and defender Jessica Morrow], a lot of new players. We’ve been really good, we’re a cohesive group on and off the field.

“Everyone is so hard-working. We try to carry on the tradition for each year and it’s definitely being seen in the team this year.

“We have had success in the past and I think if we get to the tournament we’ll be ready to come out and compete. And I think we have a good chance.”

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at dellapa@globe.com.
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