On a weekend when upsets reign supreme with the opening of March Madness (thanks a lot, Georgia State), the Boston College women’s lacrosse team extended that trend to the turf field at Chapel Hill, N.C., as the No. 3/4-ranked Eagles (9-0, 4-0 ACC) ran to an overtime victory over the No. 2/3-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels (8-2, 2-1 ACC), 10-9.
It was a strange game for the Eagles, but one full of encouraging signs for BC fans and head coach Acacia Walker. One of Walker’s main concerns following her team’s 16-15 overtime win against Louisville was its lack of defensive execution. While the Eagles tightened up and stifled Connecticut in its next game, the step down in talent led to questions as to whether or not the defense had actually improved. This game against UNC banished those doubts.
Entering the game, UNC had been averaging 14.22 goals per game, and hadn’t scored fewer than 10 goals in a single game. BC completely shut down the Tar Heels, limiting them to nine goals (none in the final 18:41 of regulation) and holding them scoreless in overtime.
BC really only let the Tar Heels back into the game once, when UNC scored four goals in a row early in the second half to take the lead. The Eagles have shown a penchant for starting off halves without the same intensity as they show later on, a trend that is both worrying and encouraging—if BC doesn’t play a full 60 minutes against the best teams, it could come back to bite it in postseason play. The Eagles have also been beating top teams like Syracuse, Louisville, Notre Dame, and now UNC, without truly putting it all together over a whole game.
Behind the defense stands BC’s secret weapon: sophomore goalie Zoe Ochoa. She made eight saves in regulation on 29 Tar Heel shots, but it was her one save in overtime that made all the difference on the day. With time ticking down and BC clinging to its one-goal lead, the Eagles turned the ball over and UNC went on the offensive. Ochoa came around from the back of the net, lunging towards UNC’s only shot of the overtime period, turning it away and preserving the Eagles’ victory.
That victory was only made possible thanks to the offensive spark provided by Mikaela Rix. Sarah Mannelly, Covie Stanwick, and Rix seem to have a system of rotating the leading scorer for each game, leaving defenders scrambling to cover all three. Rix scored four goals on the day, tying Stanwick for first place on BC’s all-time leading scoring list. Stanwick was quiet against the Tar Heels, failing to register a single point for the first time all year.
Mannelly and Rix, however, were all over the Heels from the get-go. While it was Tess Chandler who opened the scoring on a free position shot, Mannelly and Rix scored the next four for the Eagles, before Chandler scored her second, this one unassisted. Mannelly’s two unassisted goals in the first half were coast-to-coast, as she shredded the Tar Heels defense and put the ball past UNC goalie Caylee Waters. Rix’s goal in overtime that sealed the win came courtesy of an assist from Mannelly.
Overall, the game wasn’t BC’s best–it came with four BC yellow cards that handed the Tar Heels man-advantage opportunities. The Eagles also lost the turnover battle, the draw control battle, and were outshot and beaten on ground balls.
As favorites fall hard and fast as March Madness is in full swing, BC added another upset to the list. Now it’s up to the Eagles to not fall victim to the very same madness as they seek their first ACC title and National Championship this year.
Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff