Eagles Use Late Comeback to Fend off Syracuse, Advance to ACC Championship

As the rain came down in Alumni Stadium, Boston College lacrosse geared up for its ACC Tournament semifinal matchup. With a perfect record heading into Friday evening’s game, the Eagles brought an intensity and grit that matched their reputation. After a game that saw over eight lead changes, BC lived up to its wire-to-wire No. 1 ranking with its most thrilling victory of the season—a 14-13 victory over Syracuse.

The Eagles (19-0, 8-0 Atlantic Coast) came out of the gates firing, with Sam Apuzzo winning the game’s first draw control and BC quickly settling in around goalkeeper Asa Goldstock. With just over a minute into regulation, the Eagles found the back of the net on a Cassidy Weeks free-position attempt. It didn’t take long for the Orange (15-4, 5-3) to respond, as a wraparound shot by Mary Rahal slipped past Abbey Ngai.

The goal did little to faze the top-ranked Eagles, however. Deep in Orange territory, Taylor Walker picked up a pass from Sheila Rietano and buried it in the net, restoring the BC lead. The rain did little to stop either team, both of which were just as aggressive in the inclement weather as they were in their previous meeting in February, which took place in the Carrier Dome.

A yellow card called on Brooke Troy led to a one-man advantage for Syracuse that evened up the score for the second time of the night. Shortly after, the Orange took its first lead of the game when Emily Hawryschuk bested Ngai, forcing the Eagles to play catch up. Hawryschuk struck again with a tight shot that went right over Ngai’s shoulder, pushing the Eagles even farther in the doghouse. BC looked to respond, but with top scorer Apuzzo double-teamed near Goldstock, the Eagles struggled to find twine. After a few minutes looking for an opportunity, Kenzie Kent picked up a ground ball in front of the junior goalkeeper and ripped it between her legs. A quick response by Nicole Levy put the Eagles right back to down two, and BC quickly met to regroup.

But once Troy was knocked to the ground by Levy in the ensuing minutes, the Eagles were given a player advantage. After being locked out by the Orange defense, the Eagles capitalized on a turnover, and Jordan Lappin fired a shot past Goldstock. Not long after Lappin’s goal, Kate Taylor managed her first scoring play of the game, tying up the contest for the Eagles. After Taylor’s equalizer, Apuzzo was credited with her first goal of the game, retrieving the Eagles’ lead. A free-position goal by Walker was recalled by the referees, but BC was able to retain possession. Yet, even so, multiple free-position chances, the Eagles weren’t able to build on their one-goal lead.

A free-position attempt by Sam Swart tied the game back up for the fourth time, and, with less than five minutes left in the half, the Eagles had to respond quickly in order to head into the locker room ahead of Syracuse. It didn’t take long for BC to get back in the driver’s seat, thanks to a Dempsey Arsenault free-position attempt—one that led to an Orange timeout. The half closed out with a Hawryschuk equalizer, sending the Eagles into the break tied up at seven goals apiece.

After a back-and-forth first period, the Eagles took the field for the final 30 minutes of the matchup. While BC logged the first goal of the opening frame, Megan Carney answered and ripped a shot past Ngai to give Syracuse the lead just 45 seconds into the half. Apuzzo answered, as she is wont to do, and whipped a bouncing shot between Goldstock’s legs to knot the contest up. Her equalizer was her 100th point of the season, the third time the senior captain has achieved such a feat.

After Swart tied up the game for a seventh time, head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein decided to replace Ngai with senior Lauren Daly. A Walker free-position goal put the Eagles back ahead, followed by a BC timeout. As the second half wound down, the Eagles were running into trouble. With just under nine minutes left in regulation, BC was down two, and it was struggling to piece together any sort of offense. Its shots on Goldstock were either gobbled up by the goalkeeper or missed the frame entirely. As the Eagles’ deficit extended to three, following a goal by Maeghan Tyrrell, their perfect season was in jeopardy.

Under the seven-minute mark, Arsenault was able to kickstart the comeback after firing a shot past Goldstock, cutting Syracuse’s lead to two. Cara Urbank followed in her teammate’s lead and secured her first goal of the evening, giving the Eagles their second in a row in their fight to tie up the game late in regulation.

With just over two minutes left, Levy was issued a yellow card, giving the Eagles a player advantage to attempt to tie up the game. After a turnover just in front of Goldstock, Apuzzo clinched a hat trick to tie up the game, with a nail-biting one minute and 40 seconds to spare. With just one minute left in regulation and the rain only getting heavier, it was do or die for BC. And when the Eagles needed a scoring play most, they pulled through: Walker fired a shot past Goldstock as she fell to the ground, solidifying the Eagles victory with a 17-second cushion.

If there was one word that Walker-Weinstein would use to describe her thoughts about the final six minutes of the game, it would be “impressed.”

“I was just impressed by how composed every single one of the girls were,” she said. “They knew exactly what to do in any of the situations. It takes a lot of poise. I’m just proud of all the different pieces of teamwork it took to come back in the game, and they did it. I’m just impressed.”

In a way, the rain added to the intensity of a game that wasn’t over until the final horn, and after a fight to the last minute, the Eagles were able to win their fourth straight game against Syracuse and punch their ticket to their second straight ACC Championship.

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor