Top Story, Lacrosse, Spring

Apuzzo’s Last-Second Game-Winner Locks up Undefeated Regular Season

A frigid night on Newton Campus couldn’t slow down one of the best lacrosse teams in the country Thursday night, but a scorching hot goaltending performance came extremely close.

A last-second goal from Sam Apuzzo, her 68th of the season and fifth of the game, lifted Boston College lacrosse over Syracuse, officially crowning the Eagles undefeated ACC regular season champions for the first time in program history. The goal, which hit the back of the net with just 1.7 seconds remaining, sealed BC’s 13-12 victory.

Ironically, on a day when No. 2 BC (17-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast) was coronated, the star of the game could be found on the opposing team. No. 16 Syracuse (8-8, 0-6) goalie Asa Goldstock was out of her mind, notching 12 saves—including nine in the second half alone—to keep the Orange alive.

Apuzzo’s performance wasn’t too far behind Goldstock’s, though. She added three assists to her impressive offensive performance, wrapping up a 99-point regular season. She was responsible for BC’s final three scoring plays of the game and assisted two of the three previous goals as well.

“This year has just been such a whirlwind,” Apuzzo said postgame. “Going into Syracuse, we obviously knew they were going to be a tough team—they’re always a really big competitor. Everyone played their butts off, especially that last five minutes. I’m so excited I can’t even really express what I’m feeling.”

Those last five minutes were the first time all game that the Eagles found themselves losing, although they weren’t in the hole for very long. With 5:19 remaining, Syracuse’s Vanessa Constantino found Sam Swart, who scored her 32nd goal of the season and her second of the game to give the Orange a 12-11 lead.

BC soon recovered: Two minutes later Dempsey Arsenault skipped a pass by Tess Chandler, but the fifth-year senior tracked the ground ball just before it slipped out of bounds. Chandler located Kaileen Hart—who played give-and-go with Arsenault—and upon receiving the return pass fired it back to Arsenault.

All along, Apuzzo worked at getting open. By the time Arsenault received the ball during the back half of the exchange, Apuzzo had just managed to streak into a tight space—she then hauled in one last pass from Arsenault and ripped twine to tie the score at 12.

The final three minutes were an exercise in torture for both sides. Swart tapped a shot toward BC goalkeeper Lauren Daly that the junior barely pushed wide, and Arsenault got two golden chances, including a free-position attempt that rang off the crossbar, to push the Eagles ahead.

In that stretch, BC called timeout twice, while Syracuse stopped play once itself. A stick check with 50 seconds remaining further delayed the final outcome, and what happened after that checkup decided the game.

Goldstock started with the ball in her own third. The sophomore goalie is adept enough both with her feet and her stick that she quarterbacks the Orange’s breakouts—she’d done so throughout the game. This time, though, with so little time on the clock, Apuzzo and Arsenault put as much pressure on Goldstock as possible and forced her to the sideline around midfield into a flurry of white uniforms. Just as Goldstock seemed to have thrown a pass to escape disaster, the lacrosse gods let her down. She barely stepped out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Eagles with 21 seconds remaining.

After the final BC timeout, Arsenault controlled play from midfield. The junior faked a pass back to her defense, instead taking off toward goal and completely befuddling the two Syracuse defenders who had bitten on her move. She found Emma Schurr, who quickly returned the ball to Arsenault. From there, the junior flicked a pass to Taylor Walker.

Once again, the ball simply bounced the Eagles’ way: Even though Walker couldn’t secure the pass and the ball fell to the ground, instead of ricocheting away, it dropped in place, essentially handing Walker a ground ball. The junior midfielder, who scored her 15th of the year earlier in the half, scooped it up and desperately flung a pass to a cutting Apuzzo.

The junior then showcased why she’s second in the NCAA in goals scored for 2018.

With multiple defenders on her, Apuzzo managed to rip a shot as she was falling down just over Goldstock’s shoulder in the final second into the far corner of the net to finish off the undefeated season.

“I looked at the clock, I knew if it was going to come down—overtime is always not the best thing in the world, so I thought I might as well take a risk,” Apuzzo said.

Her risk paid off.

“Honestly, in the moment, it was like in slow motion,” head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said. “There was only, what, 16 seconds on the clock at that point, but I always love Sam off-ball, so anytime she’s off-ball I think it’s awesome. But Taylor was huge, came up with the ground ball, it was amazing.”

To put the 2018 campaign in perspective: BC beat the No. 15, 19, 11, 12, 5, 7, 15 (again), 17, 13, and now 16 teams in the country on its way to a historic regular season finish.

“I just said to the team, I can’t believe how far we’ve come,” Walker-Weinstein said. I can’t believe we’re in position to be staring at a 17-0 season. I’m overwhelmed honestly. I’m overwhelmed for these guys, they deserve it, but I’m ready—I’m already thinking about ACCs.”

Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor

April 19, 2018