Sixty minutes stand between Boston College lacrosse and history. With a comeback win against the United States Naval Academy in their National Semifinal game on Friday night at Gillette Stadium, the Eagles earned the chance to compete for a National Championship against the University of Maryland on Sunday morning. At stake is not only the first championship in an ACC sport, but also the first for any Boston College NCAA women’s team sport.
The No. 14 Eagles (17-6) have a tall task ahead of them in the undefeated, No. 1 Terrapins (22-0). Maryland is one of the most storied programs in Division I women’s lacrosse. It holds NCAA records in National Championships (12), NCAA tournament appearances (33), NCAA tournament wins (67), and National championship game appearances (21). Maryland has also won two of the last three tournaments and reached the title game last year, but lost to North Carolina, 13-7. On Friday afternoon, the Terrapins easily handled No. 4 Penn State, 20-10, in their semifinal matchup.
Maryland is not an unfamiliar opponent for the Eagles, as they met earlier this year in College Park, Md., and the Terrapins won 21-13. While Maryland ended up victorious, its lead was just 8-7 at the half. The Terrapins used a six-goal run in the first 6:43 of the second half to take a commanding lead. Much of Maryland’s success this year has been the result of its staggering defense. The Terrapins have allowed just 9.23 goals per game behind the play of their first team All-American goalie, Megan Taylor. With its defeat of BC, Maryland moved to 12-0 all time against the Eagles.
While the Eagles will be the underdog in this game, this is not an unfamiliar role for them. BC is the first unseeded team to reach the national championship game since the NCAA began seeding the top eight teams in 2005. The Eagles also defeated No. 9 Syracuse in the second round of the tournament, as well as No. 7 Southern California in the Elite Eight. This BC team is battle tested, coming out of the best lacrosse conference in the country, and it has repeatedly proven that it refuses to quit. Faced with a 9-6 halftime deficit against Navy in the Final Four, BC responded with a five-goal run to start the second half on its way to a dramatic 16-15 victory.
In order to beat the Terrapins, BC will have to play its very best game. For the Eagles, that will start with their three primary offensive forces: Kenzie Kent, Sam Apuzzo, and Kate Weeks. The Eagles’ offense has hit its stride in the NCAA Tournament as the team has averaged 19.5 goals per game in their four contests. This represents a dramatic increase in scoring from the 15.65 goals per game they scored in the regular season, and it will be essential that they maintain this production in the championship game. Their opponent, Maryland, had the best offense in the country in the regular season, scoring 17 goals per game. Few teams have been able to slow Maryland’s offense, however, it had their biggest scare of the season (and its only one-goal game) in the Elite Eight as the team struggled to put the ball in the net. Maryland squeaked out a 13-12 win against Stony Brook in that game after trailing the entire game. Much of Stony Brook’s success was predicated on a tremendous game out of its goaltender, who had 12 saves. For the Eagles to pull out a win, goalies Zoe Ochoa and Lauren Daly will also have to be at their best.
Gillette Stadium, the home of Boston’s most successful sports team, is the perfect setting for BC’s first women’s title. The Eagles have had a tremendous run, and Sunday will mark the opportunity for the Eagles to finish off their season as the best team in the country. There would be no sweeter way for the Eagles to win a national championship than against Maryland, BC head coach Acacia Walker’s alma mater and the best program in the country.
Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Staff