Just like Boston College lacrosse’s first meeting with North Carolina back on March 25, it didn’t take long for the Eagles to get on the board in Friday’s semifinal game of the ACC Tournament. In fact, in both contests, BC scored less than two minutes into the first half, taking an early lead. But unlike the first time around, head coach Acacia Walker’s group didn’t enter intermission on top. And it was far from doing so.
Shortly after Kenzie Kent scored the game’s opening goal, the Tar Heels’ offense exploded. In a span of about seven and a half minutes, UNC rattled off seven goals—four of which were netted by team-leading scorer Molly Hendrick. From that point on, it was an uphill battle for BC. Despite outscoring the Tar Heels by two goals in the second half, the Eagles had too much ground to make up, in order to complete the comeback. As a result, UNC booked its third-consecutive trip to the ACC championship with a 17-14 victory.
Two minutes in and Kent picked up right where she left off on Thursday. After Sammy Jo Tracy coughed up the ball, No. 12 BC (13-6, 3-4 Atlantic Coast) successfully cleared it out of its own territory. Soon after, Kent scored an unassisted goal—her 10th of the week. But it would only take No. 3 UNC (15-2, 6-1) 38 seconds to equalize.
Ela Hazar located Hendrick, who proceeded to send a shot right past BC goaltender Zoe Ochoa. Just like that, the game was tied. For the next few minutes, scoring stalled. One on hand, the Eagles were called for multiple fouls, and on the other, UNC was just missing shots. Every Tar Heels’ shot attempt during the three-minute stretch was either wide, blocked, or saved.
It took a BC yellow card for UNC to get back on track. Hannah Hyatt was penalized at about the four-minute mark, giving the Tar Heels a one-player advantage. Eventually, Marie McCool cashed in for her team’s second goal of the game. Not too long after, Hendrick added to her scoring total and the UNC lead with another goal.
Down two, the game was still in the Eagles’ reach. That was, until the Tar Heels tacked on four more goals in a mere minute and 20 seconds. Hendrick scored half of them, already giving her a hat trick on the day. Hazar and Carly Reed recorded the other two.
For the remainder of the first period, BC struggled to get back in the game. Every time the Eagles strung together a scoring possession, UNC responded.
Following a ground ball pickup and clear by Christina Walsh, Dempsey Arsenault scored BC’s second goal of the game. Five minutes later, Sam Apuzzo was fouled while scooping up a ground ball. Apuzzo—the nation’s 13th-leading scorer—was awarded a free-position shot. She took the ball to the net and scored.
But all momentum was halted when the Tar Heels fired back with three goals of their own. Once again, it was Hazar and Reed headlining the scoring plays. But Caroline Wakefield also got in on the field day. The two sides continued to trade goals until there was only about two minutes left in the half. By this point, UNC was up 12-5.
Fortunately for the Eagles, they finished the period strong. Kaileen Hart corralled Apuzzo’s missed free-position shot and whipped one past UNC goalie Caylee Waters. And with a bit more than half a minute left in the half, Arsenault scored her second goal of the game.
BC carried over its little run into the second half of play. Close to three minutes into the half, Kent was fouled twice. Both times, she received a free-position shot. On the second attempt, she hit twine, reducing the deficit to four. But before long, it was back to seven. Walsh fouled McCool in Eagles territory, and the junior made her pay, scoring on the free-position shot. Next, Hazar fed Tracy for her lone goal of the contest. To make matters worse, Gianna Bowe added another goal—only her fourth all season.
Even with the odds stacked against the Eagles midway through the second, they staged a legitimate comeback attempt. Kate Weeks was a major reason why. Weeks scored three of BC’s six goals in the final 15 minutes of play. She got things going when she took a Kent pass and flung it right by Waters. Laura Frankenfield and Apuzzo tallied another two goals, and suddenly the Eagles were back to within four.
An Arsenault turnover disrupted BC’s scoring streak. UNC cleared the ball, and seconds later, McCool scored. But Walker’s group was not thrown.
Combined, Weeks and Hart accounted for the next three Eagles’ goals. Having outscored the Tar Heels 6-1 since the 15-minute mark in the second half, BC trailed by just two goals with less than four minutes to go.
Although UNC had practically fallen apart in the heart of the latter portion of the game, it stepped up when it mattered most. The Tar Heels drew a series of fouls and even yellow cards, while shutting down BC’s offense. UNC even scored one more goal. With time winding down, Reed found Hazar for the junior’s third score of the day.
With the loss, the Eagles are out of contention for an ACC Championship. Ultimately, the seven unanswered goals proved to be too much to overcome. Statistically, BC was outmatched. But for the second time this season, the Eagles truly put up a fight against the defending national champions. Only two other teams in the conference—Syracuse and Louisville—have played the Tar Heels as close as BC has.
Now, it’s a waiting game. On May 7, the NCAA will release the 26-team field for the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles have made the tournament each of the past four years. If its national ranking and strength of schedule are any indicators, BC should earn a bid for a chance to play for a national title.
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff