Up to this point, Boston College lacrosse’s (21-1, 7-0 Atlantic Coast) road to the National Championship has mirrored that of its 2018 campaign. The Eagles rolled through the regular season with an undefeated record, claiming the ACC regular season title, only to lose to North Carolina (17-3, 5-2) in the conference tournament title game and then rebound in the NCAA Tournament, en route to the Final Four. What’s even more remarkable is that, both seasons, BC handily defeated the Tar Heels in the regular season before falling to the Tar Heels in the ACC Championship.
This year, however, the Eagles aren’t reaching the National Championship—what would be their third straight appearance—without avenging their conference tournament final defeat. Second-seeded BC will square off against third-seeded UNC on Friday evening in Baltimore for the teams’ third meeting of the year.
The programs have quite the history—in fact, they’ve played each other 21 times. But, until last year, it wasn’t much of a rivalry. BC is 4-17 all-time against the Tar Heels, and two of those four wins have come in the past two seasons. Yet the last four matchups between the Eagles and Tar Heels, lopsided or not, have been nothing short of exciting.
1) March 24, 2018: No. 2 BC 17, No. 5 UNC 11
The first 2018 meeting between the ACC foes was much closer than the final score indicated. After BC got off to a two-goal lead, UNC strung together a 5-1 run. It was then that Sam Apuzzo, who was held scoreless for the first 20-plus minutes of play, kicked it into gear and rattled off a pair of goals, tying the game at 5-5. Taylor Walker tacked on another just before the horn, giving the Eagles a one-score halftime lead. After trading goals through the first half of the second period, Kaileen Hart jumpstarted a 6-0 BC run that turned a nail-biter into a seven-goal blowout. UNC cut the deficit to six in the waning minutes, but BC had already locked up its first win over the Tar Heels since 2015, making its bid for a perfect regular season all the more believable.
2) April 29, 2018: No. 2 UNC 14, No. 1 BC 11
BC entered the 2018 ACC Championship having racked up 36 goals in its first two games of the conference tournament. The Eagles then recorded the first five shots of the title game, two of which found the back of the net. It wasn’t long before UNC stole the momentum, though—in fact, in the span of four minutes and 49 seconds, the Tar Heels turned a two-goal deficit into a three-score lead. Jamie Ortega, who beat Lauren Daly for five first-half goals, orchestrated the scoring surge and continued to extend UNC’s lead after BC countered with a pair of scoring plays. With a 9-6 advantage at the break, the Tar Heels kept their foot on the gas in the second period, scoring three of the game’s next four goals. The Eagles stitched together a last-ditch effort in the final 10 minutes of play, but it wasn’t enough to preserve their undefeated record.
3) March 23, 2019: No. 1 BC 14, No. 3 UNC 8
The Eagles traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C., in March and avenged their 2018 ACC Championship defeat with relative ease. Seven BC players etched their names in the scorecard, most notably Apuzzo, who tallied a game-high five goals. Ortega opened the scoring gates, but less than a minute later, a Jordan Lappin scoring play marked the beginning of a 5-0 Eagles run that set the tone for the rest of the day. From that point forward, UNC never came closer than within two goals of BC, and goaltender Abbey Ngai held the Tar Heels to just eight goals. To put that in perspective, head coach Jenny Levy’s team currently averages 15.25 goals per game—good for 12th in the nation—and has since only failed to eclipse double digits once.
4) April 28, 2019: No. 3 UNC 15, No. 1 BC 13
Different year, same story. Despite hosting the 2019 ACC Tournament at Alumni Stadium, the Eagles still couldn’t bring home their first-ever conference tournament title—or the school’s first since 2007. Just like the previous year, BC struck first blood, only this time it stormed out to a 5-0 lead. The Eagles made UNC’s seventh-ranked scoring defense look silly. Once again, however, the Tar Heels strung together a critical five-goal run and proceeded to trade blows with their ACC counterpart. UNC entered the break down, 9-7, but scored the first three goals of the second half and never looked back. BC tried to close a three-goal gap in eight minutes, like it did against Syracuse in the semifinals. Yet, with BC trailing by one with about two minutes left, Katie Hoeg restored UNC’s cushion, and—in effect—put the nail in the Eagles’ coffin.
Right now, the Tar Heels have their ACC Championships to point to, as well as bragging rights, but come Friday night, all either team will care about is whether or not they are the ones competing for a national title. And however dramatic the last four meetings have been, the teams’ Final Four matchup will undoubtedly bring a new level of excitement to this newfound rivalry—after all, these teams have never squared off against each other in the national semifinals, let alone the NCAA Tournament.
Featured Image by Andy Backstrom / Heights Editor