Despite Halftime Lead, Eagles Fall Short of Upset in Chapel Hill

For the first 29 minutes and change on Saturday, Boston College lacrosse looked like the better team. Led by Kayla O’Connor and Kate Weeks, the Eagles mounted a 6-3 lead against North Carolina. Head coach Acacia Walker’s group disrupted the defending NCAA champions’ seventh-ranked offense, forcing three turnovers and several inaccurate shots.

But a mental error in the final seconds of the first period shifted all of the momentum.

Instead of holding out for the last shot of the half, O’Connor made her move with 16 seconds left on the clock. The senior forward approached the net and whipped up a shot, but Caylee Waters made the save. Waters cleared it, and in no time, the Tar Heels pushed the ball into BC territory.

With time winding down, Sydney Holman received a feed and penetrated the Eagles’ defense. Before she could get a shot off, she was fouled by Carly Bell. Only 2.1 ticks remained, but it was all Holman needed. She beat the horn with a free-position shot, taking her team into halftime down just a pair of goals.

In the first 13 minutes of the second half, UNC would pick up right where it left off, outscoring the Eagles 8-2. Despite staging a late comeback, the Tar Heels’ scoring spree proved too much for BC to overcome, and UNC escaped with a 15-13 victory.

It didn’t take long for No. 19 BC (8-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) to get on the board. Less than two minutes in, O’Connor—coming off a career-high five goals against Louisville—tallied both the Eagles’ first shot and goal of the game. But a mere 33 seconds later, Ela Hazar answered with a goal of her own.

A lull in scoring ended near the 23-minute mark. BC goaltender Zoe Ochoa scooped up a ground ball, but turned the it over in attempt to check it down to a teammate near the net. Ela Hazar capitalized, corralling the loose ball and flinging it into the twine.

The No. 2 Tar Heels’ (9-1, 2-0) lead wouldn’t last. Weeks located Laura Frankenfield on the left side of the field. Frankenfield took the ball inside, hurled a shot, but missed wide. Yet, in a matter of seconds, Emma Schurr ripped a shot of her own. This one reached the back of the net, equalizing the game at two goals a piece.

Weeks, who entered the game as the nation’s fourth-leading scorer, recorded back-to-back goals to give the Eagles some breathing room. Marie McCool single-handedly reduced the UNC deficit to one. But that was temporary.

Over the course of two minutes, BC capped off two more scoring plays. First, Weeks connected with Hart, who rolled around Weeks’ backside and sent a shot past Waters. Soon after, the Eagles turned a Holman turnover into instant offense. Again, it was Weeks with the finish.

Just before halftime, Holman redeemed herself with a free-position goal. The Tar Heels’ scoring was just getting started.

A tad less than 20 seconds into the second period, Molly Hendricks brought UNC within one goal of the Eagles. For the next three and a half minutes, both sides traded goals. BC maintained an 8-7 lead, but eventually UNC’s pace was too fast for the Eagles to keep up with.

The Tar Heels dominated possession time for the next eight minutes. As a result, UNC tacked on five unanswered goals, stealing the lead from BC. McCool, Sammy Jo Tracy, Holman, Maggie Bill, and Caroline Wakefield all scored, regaining and widening the lead to four.

Sam Apuzzo stopped the bleeding halfway through the period. The nation’s points leader lurked behind the net, spun and hesitated, breaking her defenders’ ankles, before wrapping around for the score. Dempsey Arsenault would tally another Eagles’ goal on a free-position shot minutes later.

Yet the Tar Heels proceeded to quell BC’s surge with one of their own. A McCool free-position goal and a pair of Hendrick scores put UNC back up five. As a last-ditch effort, Weeks, Hart, and Arsenault rattled off three goals in the closing minutes, but it was too little, too late.

While BC outplayed the Tar Heels in the first half and even hung with them for a portion of the second, it was the Eagles’ physicality that came back to haunt them. The team racked up 36 fouls—four of which led to free-position goals. BC’s attack is as good as any in the country, but its defensive play will determine how far the Eagles can rise in the ACC this season.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

March 26, 2017