Of the eight teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament, just four rank inside the top 20 in both scoring offense and defense. One of those, as one could surmise, is No. 1 Boston College lacrosse, which advanced to the Elite Eight on the strength of a decisive 21-9 drubbing of No. 20 Colorado. Another is the Eagles’ next opponent, No. 7 Princeton, who enters Saturday’s showdown fresh off consecutive tournament wins over Wagner and Loyola Maryland by a combined 38-12 margin.
Who is BC playing?
When is BC playing?
Saturday, May 18, 1 p.m.
Where is BC playing?
Newton Lacrosse Field, Newton, Mass.
How to watch:
The game will be streamed on WatchESPN.
What to expect from Princeton:
The Tigers, who entered the postseason averaging 14.63 goals for (17th) and 9.95 against (19th), have won a remarkable 11 straight games since falling to then-No. 2 Maryland on March 27. That stretch includes not one but two wins over No. 11 Loyola as well as two more against No. 12 Penn. Princeton was picked to win its sixth straight Ivy League title at the start of the season, and it proved the prognistactors right by winning six of its seven conference games and holding both of its opponents in the Ivy League Tournament to single digits.
To throw more numbers at you: The Tigers have been on a remarkable defensive run. Princeton has held six of its last seven opponents to under their season scoring averages, including limiting a potent Loyola attack—which ranks seventh in the country at nearly 16 goals per game—to 17 goals combined over two meetings. That defensive effort will be important against the Eagles, who exposed Colorado’s defense—which entered holding opponents to single-digits on average—to the tune of 21 goals.
Offensively, the Tigers average nearly three goals per game fewer than BC, but they’ve been held to single digits just twice. The first time was to No. 6 Virginia, which boasts the 33rd-best defense in the country, and the second was to the Terrapins, who rank third in the same category. They’ve also proven they can crack some of the nation’s best, as they dropped 15 goals on No. 14 Stony Brook (4th in defense) just two weeks after the loss to the Cavaliers.
Princeton boasts a formidable trio of attackers in the form of senior Elizabeth George, junior Tess D’orsi, and sophomore Kyla Sars. On the NCAA leaderboard, D’Orsi slots in at 19th with 63 goals and George shortly follows at 22nd with 61 goals. The Tigers are one of just two teams with two players in the top 25, joining No. 17 Florida (Lindsey Ronbeck and Shannon Kavanagh). Sears, meanwhile, is no slouch with 54 goals and 36 assists, good for 17th in the country in points.
Last year, the two teams met for the first time in history in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers needed double overtime to knock off Syracuse to get to that point, but had won their last six games prior. That hot streak ended in Newton, though, as BC quickly jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first 15 minutes before keeping its distance in a 16-10 win. The Eagles leaned on senior leadership in the win, as Tess Chandler and Kaileen Hart both came away with a career-best five goals apiece. BC kept Princeton at bay on the strength of its draw controls, finishing with a 17-11 edge and 9-5 advantage in the second half alone. In terms of current players, Eagles attacker Cara Urbank netted a hat trick and Princeton’s D’Orsi, Sears, and George combined for eight goals.
For the first 10 minutes or so against Colorado, the Eagles didn’t necessarily look the part of the nation’s best team. They turned the ball over often and let the Buffaloes’ attackers get more space than usual, and it resulted in a 3-3 deadlock. Then, as many more than expected, BC went on a 11-0 run and eventually nearly tripled its opponents on the final scoreboard. The Eagles are a balanced, deep team and the two-headed monster of Sam Apuzzo (seven goals) and Kenzie Kent (five goals, four assists) is too much for most to handle.
The key last year against Princeton was taking an early lead and riding it out. After scoring five of the game’s first six goals, BC narrowly held a 11-9 advantage the rest of the way. The Tigers got more acclimated to the Eagles’ style of play and closed within three with 20 minutes to go before BC finished them off with a 6-3 run. Things are shaping up for a similar script on Saturday, especially when you consider the Eagles’ decisive edge in the draw circle.
BC, behind Apuzzo and her 7.76 draw controls per game (seventh in the country), ranks fourth in draw control percentage. Princeton? All the way down at 40th, a full 10 percentage points worse. If that’s not a stat that should worry the Tiger faithful, I’m not sure what will. The two teams are similarly ranked in scoring defense, turnovers, clears, free-position percentage, and save percentage, but if the Eagles get going early and Princeton can’t get the ball back—it could be a long day at the office.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor