Sports, Top Story, Spring, Lacrosse

Kent, Arsenault Lift Eagles in High-Scoring Shootout With No. 5 Northwestern

Three days removed from tying her career high in points at No. 12 Navy, Boston College lacrosse attacker and reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Sam Apuzzo was held to just two goals at No. 5 Northwestern—her lowest scoring output in 11 contests, dating back to BC’s Elite Eight victory over then-undefeated Stony Brook. The NCAA Tournament victory wasn’t a fluke: During their 24-game regular season winning streak, the Eagles had proven that they could win without an Apuzzo hat trick. What the program still hadn’t done was beat Northwestern—a team with the second-most national titles in the sport’s history—in Evanston, Illinois. That was, until Saturday.

Thanks to Kenzie Kent’s nine points and Dempsey Arsenault’s seven goals, four of which came in the second half, No. 1 BC eventually created separation in a game that featured four ties and an intense back-and-forth narrative for the first 40 minutes of play, ultimately pulling away with a 4-1 run prior to the midway point of the second half and prevailing, 22-17.

It’s no surprise that the teams combined for 39 goals, considering that both rank inside the top five in scoring. Northwestern (4-3) was the first to get on the board, just 38 seconds into regulation. Courtesy of a Lindsey McKone assist, Liza Elder scored her sixth goal of the season—the first of eight Wildcats to find the back of the net. Northwestern’s distributed scoring attack simply mirrored its season-long production. No Wildcats currently rank nationally in the top 25 in goal scoring or the top 50 in points.

The Eagles (8-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast), on the other hand, have the top-two point scorers in the country. And Kent—usually the creator, not the finisher—was the one who was driving the ship in the first half. Turning in an identical stat sheet to her season-opening performance against Boston University, the graduate student racked up five goals, including three in the first 14 minutes of regulation, and four assists.

Kent tied the game at one goal apiece before her partner in crime, Apuzzo, gave BC its first lead of the game, but the contest was far from over. In fact, as soon as Kent tacked on another scoring play, the Wildcats’ top-two scorers—Selena Lasota and Lauren Gilbert—countered with two goals of their own, knotting the contest at 3-3.   

After losing the opening draw control, the Eagles bounced back by winning nine of the next 10 bouts at midfield. It was only a matter of time before the advantage paid dividends for head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein’s team. BC strung together a four-goal run over the course of approximately six minutes, as Arsenault and Kent traded scoring plays.

Soon enough, though, Northwestern started to chip away at its four-score deficit. The Wildcats tallied four of the game’s next five goals, cutting the Eagles’ lead to just one in the process. Amid Northwestern’s 4-1 run, all of its goals succeeded either a BC foul or turnover. Ball security in particular was a problem for the Eagles in the first half. Despite committing the 12th-fewest turnovers in the nation this season (13.29 per game), BC coughed up the rock 10 times in the opening frame. Of the 10 turnovers, five were caused by Northwestern defenders.

With under a minute remaining in the first period, Arsenault scored, only to watch the Eagles’ multi-goal lead once again vanish at the buzzer, as Gilbert located McKone for a big-time Wildcats’ scoring play. BC entered the half with a 9-8 advantage but had a lot to fix. Not only had they caught a case of the turnover bug, but they no longer looked unbeatable on the draw. Northwestern closed out the frame, winning three of the last five possession bouts.

The Wildcats carried their momentum into the second half, winning the opening draw for the second straight period and scoring 20 seconds later. Lasota logged her 16th goal of the season to tie the game at nine goals apiece. Following a lull in scoring, Taylor Walker beat Northwestern goalkeeper Julie Krupnick twice—her two goals were separated by a Megan Kinna goal for the Wildcats and one minute and 23 seconds of game play. Shortly after, Kent and Izzy Scane swapped goals prior to BC’s aforementioned 4-1 run, a scoring spurt that lifted the Eagles to a 16-12 lead.

Four different Eagles—Arsenault, Jordan Lappin, Cara Urbank, and Apuzzo—found the back of the net, while Lasota tacked on another goal, this time on a free-position attempt. Trailing by four, Lasota—who finished with five goals—kept doing her thing, using an unassisted strike to rip twine. Urbank and Walker, both of whom notched hat tricks on the night, answered with a pair of goals, upping the Eagles’ lead to 18-13.

With just over 11 minutes left to play, Jill Girardi scored on a free-position shot, but her goal was negated by three consecutive Arsenault scoring plays. The senior midfielder threaded together a trio of successive goals in the span of 114 seconds. Her self-made run capped a career-high seven-goal performance and served as the dagger of sorts. Northwestern nabbed three of the game’s final four goals but needed far more than that to erase its deficit.

In the end, Abbey Ngai and BC locked up the five-goal win, the Eagles’ third straight over a ranked opponent. Saturday’s victory was different, though. After all, it came against the No. 5 team in the country in the backyard of one of the most prestigious programs in college women’s lacrosse—yet another reminder that BC has firmly entrenched itself among the sport’s elite.

Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor

March 10, 2019