Chandler Saves the Day in Overtime Thriller at No. 14 USC

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When Boston College lacrosse ended Southern California’s season in the Elite Eight last May, the No. 14 Trojans set their eyes on a potential rematch with the Eagles. On Wednesday, USC finally got its chance to avenge the postseason loss.

But, after months of build-up, the Trojans ended up swallowing another heartbreaking defeat, all thanks to BC’s Tess Chandler. The redshirt senior scored the tying goal at the end of regulation along with the game-winner in overtime, lifting the Eagles to a 13-12 victory.

The Eagles’ nationally renowned offense—the third-highest scoring unit in the country—  struggled for much of the first half. BC (8-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) put up just five goals, its lowest first-half output of the season, and entered the break trailing USC (2-3), 6-5, marking the first time that the Eagles have gone into halftime without a lead this season.

USC stifled Sam Apuzzo and Dempsey Arsenault in the first frame. The pair had combined for 55 goals in the Eagles’ first seven games, but Apuzzo couldn’t even muster a shot on goal in the first period, and Arsenault scored just one, converting on a free-position attempt.

After conceding the game’s first goal, BC rattled off three of its own, but the Trojans answered, hunkering down on defense and converting on scoring opportunities on the other end. They tied the game at three, as their strong defense continued to bend but not break.

BC needed free-position attempts to score two of its five first-half goals, as the Trojans continued to drive the Eagles further from the net in open play and pressure attackers, forcing 14 first-half turnovers.

BC took a pair of one-goal leads, but the Trojans always had a response, tying the game up and eventually opening up their second lead of the game at 6-5, going into the break. If it wasn’t for BC goaltender Lauren Daly, who came up with a few big saves, especially off USC free-position attempts, the Eagles’ deficit could have been much larger.

Chandler and Kaileen Hart were bright spots for head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein’s team in the first half—Chandler netted two goals, and Hart ripped twine and logged an assist to help keep BC in the game.

Yet it was only a matter of time before Eagles’ dynamic offense came out of its shell. BC opened the second half with four goals in the first eight minutes, cashing in on three more free-position attempts. Apuzzo finally got on the board 35 minutes into the game and immediately added her second goal just three minutes later. The nation’s leading scorer claimed her hat trick by scoring BC’s 10th goal, extending the Eagles’ lead to 10-8.

BC tightened up its defense in the second frame, allowing just two goals while it went on its own five-goal scoring run, winning draw controls and benefitting from more strong play from Daly. But, just as the Eagles scored five of their 10 goals on free-position attempts, USC’s Izzy McMahon cashed in on one of her own, followed by Kerrigan Miller’s fourth goal of the game to tie the contest at 10.

The Eagles typically thrive off passing to create scoring opportunities, but on Wednesday they had to rely on individual play more than they probably would have liked. The Trojans did a good job of getting in passing lanes, allowing just two of the Eagles’ first 10 goals to be assisted.

The pendulum continued to swing as Arsenault netted her third goal to retake the lead, but Miller continued to put the Trojans on her back by knotting the game at 11 with under 10 minutes to play.

Soon after, McMahon broke the tie for the Trojans, and with under two minutes to play, it looked as if the Eagles were about to suffer their first blemish of the season. Protecting a one-goal lead, the Trojans’ 10th-ranked defense fronted immense pressure, making the equalizing goal seem ever-elusive. Two free-position shots narrowly missed the back of the net, and another shot banged off the crossbar as the clock ticked under two minutes.

But the Eagles stayed resilient, and Hart found Chandler for her third goal of the day—the one that rescued the Eagles from their first loss and sent the back-and-forth contest into overtime. Heading into extra frame, the teams were as even as can be. When all was said and done, both teams recorded 24 shots, and Daly and USC netminder Gussie Johns each tallied seven saves.

The Eagles came out with an increased intensity in overtime, sniffing the chance to keep their undefeated season alive. Apuzzo found the red-hot Chandler, one minute and six seconds into the sudden-death period, who lit the lamp to secure the gut-wrenching win.

BC’s closest shave with defeat came on Wednesday against its fourth top-20 opponent in its first eight games. But it can easily be argued that the Trojans were an under-ranked squad coming into this game, having split their first four games, all of which were against non-conference top-20 competition, including a nail-biting loss to No. 1 Stony Brook.

Despite facing another elite non-conference opponent, BC showed poise in refusing to quit when its back was against the wall. The Eagles continue to justify their No. 2 ranking, but showed on Wednesday that even when the high-flying offense struggles, the defense has the talent to pick them up and lead them to victories. Another strong road win just adds to the Eagles’ top-caliber resume, and with just one more game before BC heads back into ACC play, it remains to be seen if anyone can take this team down.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Senior Staff