Sports, Spring, Lacrosse

No. 1 Eagles Avenge ACC Championship Loss, Stifle No. 3 UNC

Boston College lacrosse has taken on all comers this season and thoroughly dominated. The top-ranked team in the country has largely outclassed every single one of its opponents, with its smallest margin of victory being two goals against then-No.15 Syracuse. Its toughest test of the season took place on Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, when the Eagles traveled to face No. 3 North Carolina in a massive top-five battle. BC avenged last year’s ACC Championship loss—where the Tar Heels snapped snapped a 19-game Eagles winning streak and spoiled a perfect season—defeating North Carolina by a final score of 14-8.

It was an exceptional team performance for BC (11-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast), with seven different goal scorers, paced by a five-goal effort from Sam Apuzzo and a trio of assists from Kenzie Kent. The key stat was simply the total number of shots that bombarded UNC’s (8-2, 1-1) net. The Eagles outshot the host Tar Heels, 25-17, while also maintaining a healthy 15-9 edge in draw controls. In a game between two heavyweights, sometimes it can come down to who can get more shots, and BC managed to do that on Saturday.

The action started quickly, with UNC getting on the board less than two minutes into the game. Last season’s NCAA and ACC Freshman of the Year Jamie Ortega scored the goal on a slick pass from Kara Klages for her 37th strike of the season, a team high. The Eagles responded in no time and never looked back, finding the back of the net less than a minute later when Jordan Lappin scored her ninth goal of the year. This started a streak of five consecutive goals for BC from Cara Urbank, Dempsey Arsenault, and two from Apuzzo. Apuzzo’s second goal, her 50th of the year, was a fantastic team play with a lot of movement and great passing, confusing the Tar Heels’ defense enough to leave her wide open from the top of the 18-yard marker.

The Eagles dominated the first half overall, especially on draw controls, where they led UNC, 8-6. This frustrated the Tar Heels, and they began to ramp up the physicality. While effective at times, this play style also contributed to 10 fouls, including four free-position opportunities, three of which were converted.

The remainder of the first half went back and forth, with UNC never able to tie the game and BC never finding a way to put the game out of reach. UNC took advantage of a yellow card on Elizabeth Miller when the offense spread out the Eagles’ defense, leaving a huge gap in front of goal. Ortega found the soft spot, cut to the front of the net, and finished a beautiful pass from Katie Hoeg to end BC’s run. Each team managed to find the net three more times in the half, which finished with a score of 8-5 in favor of BC.

The second half was strange in that it was split into three distinct sections marked by which team held the momentum. The Eagles came out firing when Lappin scored less than two minutes into the period, logging her second goal of the game and 10th of the season. Apuzzo then showed why she is the best player in the country, scoring two more goals in quick succession to build the BC lead to 11-5. For the second goal, Kent noticed an unmarked Apuzzo cutting to the net and made a perfect pass to secure her third assist of the game.

UNC would not go down without a fight, as it responded to this run with one of its own, scoring three straight goals to cut the lead to three. Taylor McDaniels, Gianna Bowe, and Ortega scored the goals less than four minutes apart, and the momentum started to shift to the Tar Heels. Luck and great goalkeeping kept UNC at a manageable distance, however, as two shots clanged off the post and BC goalie Abbey Ngai made a tremendous kick save. Ngai, a sophomore, was on her game all day, making nine saves on 17 shot attempts.

With four minutes remaining in the contest, the Eagles were able to pull away for good, scoring another three goals in a span of three minutes. Haley Cogliano and Kent each recorded their first goals of the game while Apuzzo tallied her fifth, ultimately ballooning the score to 14-8.

The Tar Heels entered with one loss on the season—an overtime setback to No. 2 Maryland. This was the Eagles’ biggest test in a year filled with top-tier matchups, and they haven’t really come close to faltering yet. BC is off to an 11-0 start for the second year in a row, the latest entry in the win column the result of a cohesive defensive effort that held the nation’s seventh-ranked offense to half their average scoring output. While the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Eagles moving forward, as their next four games come against conference opponents who are currently ranked, Saturday confirmed that there should be no reason to doubt BC in any of its coming games.

Featured Image by Andy Backstrom / Heights Editor

March 23, 2019