After its victory over Holy Cross, Boston College women’s lacrosse head coach Acacia Walker talked about “climbing a mountain,” referencing the Eagles’ quest to constantly improve as they approach the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament. On Saturday, a 13-11 victory over eighth-ranked Duke showed that the Eagles have taken the next step on that journey.
It was a game that contained everything, from runs of continuous offense to a goalless final six and a half minutes and everything in between. The game began with a heated back-and-forth. Covie Stanwick kicked off the scoring two and a half minutes in when she converted on a free-position shot, but Duke scored just 22 seconds later to tie the game up-the beginnings of a see-saw battle between the two teams. The first seven goals of the game led to a 4-3 Duke lead, but that would be the first and last lead the Blue Devils would have.
After Duke took its lead, the Eagles quickly established the upper hand. Thanks to their three leading point scorers-Stanwick, Sarah Mannelly, and Mikaela Rix-the Eagles scored five goals in a row to go up 8-4 with 8:30 to go in the first half. At that point, it looked as if the Eagles were primed to take control of the game, but the Blue Devils would not go down so easily. In just four and a half minutes, Duke managed to tie the game back up with four goals from four different players, an impressive display of depth from the Blue Devils.
The Eagles responded to Duke’s toughness with their own resilience. Mannelly gave the Eagles the lead just before halftime, scoring with just 12 seconds to go before the horn. When the second half started, Brooke Blue was able to beat sophomore goaltender Kelsey Duryea to give the Eagles a two-goal lead. Four minutes later, Stanwick put the Eagles up by three.
Then, in a span of 23 seconds, Duke’s quick-strike offense would bring the Blue Devils back to within one. Mannelly scored again to give the Eagles a two-goal lead, but Duke’s Kelci Smesko beat Eagles goalie Emily Mata for her fourth goal of the game to bring Duke back to within one. That was with 10:48 left, and that would be the last time Duke would score. Stanwick added her fifth goal of the game with just over six minutes left to give the Eagles their final two-goal cushion, 13-11.
Offensively, BC was efficient, effective, and aggressive. The Eagles had 22 shots, 18 of which were on net. In the second half in particular, BC was ruthlessly efficient on offense. The Eagles took four shots, put four shots on goal, and all four hit the net. BC turned the ball over five times in the game, just once in the first half, and converted on six-of-nine free positions. Duke fouled the Eagles 31 times in total throughout the game.
Defensively, BC had its ups and downs, but by and large, it was a solid performance by BC. Duke was able to score twice in under a minute four separate times. The statistics show an otherwise steady performance from BC’s defenders-the Eagles forced six turnovers in the first half and eight overall, only fouled the Blue Devils 12 times, gave the Blue Devils just three free position shots, and collected 13 ground balls to Duke’s six. Duke tallied 17 shots in total and 14 on net, with Mata making three saves for the Eagles. Duke did beat BC in one category for which the Eagles generally maintain dominance-draw controls. BC has won 59 percent of draws on the year, but Duke managed to win 15 of the 26 draws in the game. Perhaps the most important aspect of the defensive performance, however, was the shutout the defense pitched over the final 10 minutes of the game to preserve the win.
All year, the Eagles have relied on a combination of their big-name scorers as well as contributions from key role players to power their offense. Against Duke, it was Stanwick and Mannelly who accounted for 10 of BC’s 13 goals on the day, each scoring five. Stanwick scored three in the first half, with Mannelly accounting for four. Rix refused to be left out, scoring twice, with Brooke Blue scoring to make it 13 for the Eagles. While BC has shown throughout the year that its scoring can come from anywhere in its lineup, the Eagles’ top scorers thoroughly dominated the Blue Devils.
Walker saw progress from the Eagles’ win over Holy Cross. Previously 0-3 against top-10 teams, the Eagles went to Durham, N.C. and beat the Blue Devils on their own turf. It’s safe to say that on Saturday, the Eagles took another step toward climbing that proverbial mountain.