FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Before Boston College lacrosse took the field against Navy in its first Final Four matchup in program history, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick welcomed the team to his home turf with a word of advice.
“[He said] exactly what you would think,” BC coach Acacia Walker replied with a grin, recalling her recent talk with the notoriously no-nonsense NFL coach. “Do your job, don’t be afraid, let the leaders lead, and let everybody else step up.”
“Do your job.”
It’s a demand that emerged as the prevailing rally cry of an eager Patriots Nation in pursuit of its fifth Super Bowl win—the three words plastered across t-shirts and emblazoned on billboards until the team secured its come-from-behind win against the Atlanta Falcons in Houston.
Simple and to the point, Belichick’s instructions stuck with the Eagles, as the team triumphed over Navy in a heated back-and-forth contest. Despite a number of hangups in the first half and adjusting to a relentless Navy offense, BC came alive in the latter portion of play with rapid-fire goals and draw domination, ultimately pulling off a narrow 16-15 win at Gillette Stadium on Friday night. This was in large part due to five goals from an unstoppable Kenzie Kent, BC’s top scorer of the game.
No. 12 BC’s (17-6) pulse-pounding comeback over the Midshipwomen (18-5) landed the Eagles a coveted spot in Sunday’s national title game against No. 1 Maryland—a team that is currently undefeated and, coincidentally, Walker’s alma mater.
But the Eagles’ national championship hopes weren’t always high, especially after the first half.
The Eagles had scored at least 20 goals in each of their first three NCAA Tournament games, the last of which came against Southern California and its No. 2 defense. But in the first half against Navy, they looked lost. BC was haunted by a high-pressure Navy defense, which forced numerous turnovers and collapsed on any shot attempt. Walker’s group couldn’t buy a goal, at one point going over 10 minutes—an eternity in lacrosse—without one.
Navy’s Kelly Larkin pummeled the BC net, sending shot after shot past goalie Zoe Ochoa, leaving the Eagles little opportunity to score, let alone control the ball. Down 8-4, it appeared as if the Eagles had already been beaten.
That is, until they returned to what got them farther than any other team in program history: shooting, ball movement, and the heart to win.
Sam Apuzzo and Emma Schurr combined for a superb assist-and-goal to end a four-goal Navy run—one that turned a tie into a commanding lead. But a minute and a half later, Larkin tacked on another goal. A comeback seemed unlikely, impossible even.
A slow start wasn’t anything new for BC. Multiple times this season, most notably against Harvard, the Eagles have recovered from their first half blunders.
“It’s something that we understand happens to us a lot,” senior Kate Weeks said of her team’s early setbacks. “And you can either crumble for it or you can own it and do everything you can to fix it.”
And luckily for the Eagles, they could afford a slow start. After all, they have the hottest and, of late, the most dynamic offense in the country.
Much of BC’s success lies in the offense’s ability to navigate the opponent’s defensive zone. With five 30-plus goal scorers, someone always seems to find an opening. On any given day, any one player can carry the load. And on Friday, that was Kenzie Kent.
Thanks to four different scorers, BC opened the second half with a 5-0 run. The scoring surge allowed the Eagles to eliminate their deficit and actually pull ahead from Navy. While the Midshipwomen may not have regained the lead, they certainly didn’t disappear. In fact, they matched BC’s tenacity goal-for-goal, minimizing the Eagles’ lead to a mere two goals for most of the second half.
Yet Kent—who scored three second-half goals—and Co. did just enough to protect their lead, sealing the victory.
Looking ahead to Sunday, Walker says that a start strong in the first half is vital to having a chance against the formidable Maryland defense.
“We have to have a good first half,” she said, calling to mind BC’s rough period against Navy. “What I know best about Maryland is they’ll eat you alive if you have five minutes off, and you can’t, so we’re going to have to figure out how to recover our bodies and prepare our minds and get strapped on.”
Walker knows that her team will have to make some adjustments in order to have a chance on Sunday. Whether or not the Eagles can complete their championship run is up in the air. But one thing is certain.
“We can’t take time off the way that we did tonight,” Walker said.
Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Staff