With just over one minute to play in Boston College field hockey’s first round NCAA Tournament game against No. 11 Northwestern, it appeared as though the Eagles were headed for just their third overtime game of the season—and second in the last three games. The teams were knotted at one, with the Wildcats finding an equalizing goal on a penalty corner despite a mostly stout defensive effort from BC. Elizabeth Warner, however, had other ideas.
The Eagles won a penalty corner in the final minute, and Margo Carlin took the insertion. Off the stick stop, Sky Caron let loose a low shot from just outside the circle. The ball was drifting wide, but Warner—who was unmarked at the right post—dove and just got her stick on it, redirecting a shot into an open net and giving BC a dramatic late-game lead. The Eagles would hold on for the last 66 seconds, beating Northwestern, 2-1, for their first NCAA Tournament win since 2015.
The game marked BC’s (14-7, 4-2 Atlantic Coast) first postseason appearance since 2016, and it appeared the Eagles were ready to play from the opening whistle. Despite a high press from Northwestern (14-8, 5-3 Big Ten), BC was able to consistently string passes together from back to front, while crowding the Wildcats’ passing lanes and preventing Northwestern from applying constant offensive pressure. In total, the Eagles had a 7-2 advantage in shots at the end of one period.
Nevertheless, at the end of the first quarter BC didn’t have the lead on the scoreboard to show for it. Nell Webber nearly deflected the ball into the net with her stick above her head on a centering pass but couldn’t quite direct her effort on target, while a pair of attempts from Fusine Govaert off penalty corners were deflected away by a determined Wildcats defense.
It took until the end of the second quarter for the Eagles to get their noses in front. Webber received a beautiful centering pass just across midfield, before playing a pass upfield to a streaking Carlin. The freshman got the ball on the right side of the circle before turning and firing a bouncing shot toward the far post. The drive snuck by Northwestern goaltender Florien Marcussen and in off the left post, giving BC a 1-0 advantage with just 31 seconds remaining in the half.
The intermission seemed to reenergize the Wildcats, and they nearly equalized on a break, but Saar De Brei dragged a shot wide of the right post after getting a 1-on-1 opportunity against Eagles goalie Sarah Dwyer. Northwestern survived BC’s third penalty corner of the night, with Carlin’s effort glancing off the post before being scrambled off the line. The Wildcats were ultimately rewarded for their defensive determination with a golden chance to equalize in the fourth quarter.
After dribbling into the box, Bente Baekers—who entered the NCAA Tournament with 27 goals on the year—was denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity and was gifted a penalty stroke for her efforts. BC subbed in Jonna Kennedy for Dwyer in attempt to deny Baekers, but the redshirt freshman kept her cool and sent Kennedy the wrong way to tie the score.
Now with momentum, the Wildcats missed two good chances to complete their comeback, as Baekers was rejected by Dwyer on a penalty corner, and a follow-up effort was sent wide. They were made to pay for their missed opportunities, as the Eagles converted on their fifth and final penalty corner of the afternoon before holding on for their biggest win of the season..
The win gives BC its first NCAA Tournament victory in four years and sets up an all-ACC quarterfinal against No. 4 Louisville, which beat the Eagles, 3-2, in September. Coincidentally, Northwestern also beat BC, 3-2, two months ago in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. BC has never won more than one game in the NCAA Tournament in the same season but will nonetheless feel confident about its chances to advance if it can replicate its performance from Friday, both offensively and defensively.
Featured Image by Kayla Brandt / Heights Staff