Back at the end of March, Boston College lacrosse entered a Saturday home game against then-No. 5 North Carolina with a flawless 11-0 record and three top-25 wins, by all means having asserted itself in the national title conversation. The Tar Heels (14-3, 6-1 Atlantic Coast), though, loomed as a team that could very easily put an end to the the undefeated stretch—it wouldn’t be a surprise after all, considering that UNC had historically dominated BC (19-0, 7-0) and entered having already knocked off the defending champions in Maryland.
But, as much of this year has gone, the Eagles were the better team. By a lot. The Tar Heels hung with them in the first half, only trailing by a goal at the break, but behind 11 second-half goals, including a 6-0 run, BC pulled away for the comfortable win.
It was the Eagles’ first victory over UNC since 2015, just the third all-time in 18 tries, and now, with the rest of the conference watching, BC will play the Tar Heels in the conference championship game. It’s a blue blood against a program that is rising at a meteoric rate, it’s an established winner versus an upstart program that is eyeing the crown, it’s a game that is an absolute must-watch.
With a win, head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein can continue to check boxes—undefeated regular season, check; Tewaaraton Award nominees, check; program-first berth in the ACC title game, check. The next box awaits on Sunday afternoon.
Who is BC playing?
When is BC playing?
Sunday, April 29, 1 p.m.
Where is BC playing?
Duke’s Koskinen Stadium, Durham, N.C.
How to Watch:
The game will be streamed live by ACC Network Extra, and available on WatchESPN.
By the Numbers:
1) What made the win over UNC earlier this year surprising was how comfortable it was for the Eagles—they cruised in the second half, en route to a six-goal victory. The two previous wins against the Tar Heels in program history were both low-scoring, defense-inspired decisions that were exceptionally close: BC won in double-overtime in 2008 and overtime in 2015.
2) The offense has been firing on all cylinders in Durham, as the Eagles piled up 36 goals in wins over Louisville and Notre Dame earlier this week. It’s no surprise, though, as BCs offense has been on another level throughout the year—the trio of Sam Apuzzo, Dempsey Arsenault, and Kaileen Hart have a combined 173 goals and average over nine per game, which would place them, alone, ahead of 16 Division I teams.
3) Goaltender Lauren Daly has improved as the season has gone on—her strides have been quite noticeable. Take the first game of the year, against Notre Dame, and then compare it to the most recent win over the Irish: In the 2018 opener, she stopped just six of 17 shots, allowing 11 goals. On Friday, she stopped 11 of 17 shots, allowing just six goals—a perfect reversal.
1) The Eagles’ vaunted defense will have its hands full with an offense comparable to their own—the Tar Heels are just 0.17 goals per game behind BC, and have been white-hot down the stretch. They’ve broken the 20-goal mark in four of their last five games for the first time in program history and haven’t been held under 13 goals since the loss to the Eagles.
2) It’s a return to the old stomping grounds for UNC, which has taken the last two tournament titles and consistently elevated its play in the conference tourney. Winners of eight-straight ACC Tournament games and 10 of its last 11, dating back to 2015, the Tar Heels have established themselves as the team to beat.
3) It’d be easy to make a Back To The Future reference when mentioning UNC star midfielder Marie McCool, she of 53 goals and 14 assists and a spot on the Tewaaraton Award list of nominees. Katie Hoeg and Ela Hazar lead the team in points, but McCool is the top scorer and, after only scoring a pair of first-half goals earlier this year against BC, is primed to go off.
As mentioned above, BC hosted the Tar Heels on March 24 and used a big push in the second half to down its ACC rival, 17-11. The Eagles extended their winning streak to 11 at the time, while handing UNC a rare conference loss: Over the last five years, the Tar Heels have posted ACC regular season records of 6-1, 7-0, 6-1, 5-2, and 4-1. BC was paced by an impressive nine-point effort from Apuzzo, who also nabbed nine draw controls in the win. Hart, Emma Schurr, and Taylor Walker all netted hat tricks, while Daly turned away eight shots.
The significance of this game to the BC program can’t be overstated. Walker-Weinstein, in countless interviews and press conferences throughout the year with assorted outlets, has stressed that the Eagles still have an underdog approach, even though they’re a year removed from a national title game appearance. This underdog mentality has lifted them to new heights, and the boxes she’s checked have set them up for what would be an incredibly important win. Maryland dominated the ACC from 2009 to 2013, winning all six titles before leaving the conference. After a Syracuse title, UNC took over and has claimed the last two, now eyeing a third. The difference this time, though, is that the Eagles have a chance, for the first time in the school’s history, to lay claim to being “the program to beat” in the conference.
Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor