Notebook: Apuzzo, Ngai Help BC Take Down No. 3 Tar Heels

Saturday afternoon brought us quite the heavyweight matchup between No. 1 Boston College lacrosse and No. 3 North Carolina—a rematch of last year’s ACC Championship, which, to BC’s dismay, went the Tar Heels’ way. The game was anticipated to be a high-scoring and tightly fought contest, with UNC being the Eagles’ highest-ranked opponent and consequently their toughest test thus far in the season.

That was not the case, though, as the Eagles’ dominant performance in a 14-8 victory further warranted their ranking as the top-ranked team in the nation. The rest of the season will feature plenty of more challenges—the Eagles return home to face No. 8 Virginia next Saturday—but they overcame arguably the toughest one.

Here are five things that stood out in BC’s win:

1) Sam Apuzzo

It goes without mentioning that the Eagles have yet to encounter much trouble in finding the back of the net. If there’s one single player to prove that best, it’s the reigning All-ACC Attacker of the Year, Sam Apuzzo. Netting five of BC’s 14 goals against the Tar Heels, the senior surpassed her season average in goals per game (4.80), a mark that ranks third in the nation. As the Eagles’ most consistent and reliable goalscorer, Apuzzo has been a cornerstone of BC’s offensive power in her four years with the team. It was evident in Chapel Hill, N.C., that the Tar Heels made it a focal point of their defensive gameplan to faceguard Apuzzo—and that strategy failed. With 53 goals through 11 games this season, she is currently on pace to comfortably surpass her already impressive 88-goal 2018 season that nabbed her the Tewaaraton Award.

2) Abbey Ngai

Apuzzo and the Eagles can score as many goals as they want, but without a strong netminding presence, they would not be able to find as much success as they have. So, when Lauren Daly was sidelined a few weeks ago, BC had to turn to sophomore Abbey Ngai—and she has more than risen to the occasion. With her nine-save performance against the Tar Heels, Ngai improved to a perfect 7-0 record when starting in between the pipes. The Eagles are averaging just 10 goals allowed per game with Ngai as their netminder, as she’s more than proved her ability as an understudy for Daly.

3) Lopsided Score

If you’re looking to see a close fight with both sides trading back and forth strikes, BC is usually not the team to watch—and the matchup against UNC was not the game to watch either. The Eagles have been doubling their opponents’ goal scoring, averaging 18.18 goals per game and 9.73 goals allowed per game, the second-highest scoring margin in the country. In other words, the majority of their games aren’t ever close. Keeping their opponent in the single digits––UNC only put eight goals on the board through 60 minutes of gameplay––has been a recurring theme, having done so in five of their previous 10 contests. Additionally, the fact that UNC trailed BC for 58 of the 60 total minutes of regulation further proves this point.

4) Quick Strikes

UNC drew first blood less than two minutes into the game, as Jamie Ortega was set up by Kara Klages. However, it took BC’s second-ranked offense no time to respond, going on a 5-0 scoring run in the period’s ensuing 10 minutes. The ability to win draw controls, extend possessions, and score seemingly at will at times was too much for the Tar Heels. The second half began with the Eagles leading by three, but that slim margin didn’t last long, as BC opened up the second half with three straight goals. The ability to put the ball in the back of the net before its opponent can get set on defense is yet another recurring theme of the fast-paced offensive attack that BC brings to the table.

5) Defense

As previously stated, the matchup with UNC was BC’s biggest test thus far this season––and a victory over the Tar Heels proved that their spot on top of the nation’s polls was more than warranted. BC definitely delivered, riding the strength of a cohesive defensive unit that has shown no signs of cracking. The Eagles held the Tar Heels to eight goals, despite the fact that their hosts are averaging 16.11 per game this season. BC’s rigid defense was also able to create 12 turnovers, forcing its opponent to play sloppy when UNC most needed stability and scoring opportunities.

Featured Image by Andy Backstrom / Managing Editor