Sports, Spring, Lacrosse

Eagles Fend Off Second Half Push From No. 5 Irish, Stay Perfect

For much of the second half on Tuesday, Boston College lacrosse didn’t look like itself. The No. 1 Eagles fouled too much, missed a few open looks on net, and turned the ball over twice as often as their visitors, No. 5 Notre Dame. An early six-goal run from BC was far in the past, and as Samantha Lynch and the visiting Irish closed the gap to just two goals with eight minutes to play, a sense of uneasiness crept in for those watching.

Instead, forward Sam Apuzzo completed a hat trick by beating the shot clock with two minutes left to add some breathing room, teammate Sheila Rietano scored with 23 seconds left, and the Eagles iced yet another ranked victory by a 12-9 margin.

Cara Urbank recorded three goals, Kenzie Kent logged two goals and four assists, and Rietano tallied twice and chipped in an assist as well for the Eagles (13-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast). Lynch notched a hat trick and an assist for Notre Dame (10-2, 3-2), which was unable to avenge a pair of losses to BC last season.

“It’s one day at a time,” head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said. “Abbey [Ngai], Sheila [Rietano], and Cara [Urbank] continue to impress me. It’s a good win and now we need to have a really good practice to be ready for Duke.”

For the first nine minutes, it was a defensive battle between the two conference rivals. Both goaltenders made impressive saves, whether it was Notre Dame’s Samantha Giacolone stoning BC’s Taylor Walker, or the Eagles’ Abbey Ngai turning away a tough shot up front. Momentum then seemed to tilt in the hosts’ fashion, as they had back-to-back chances, but it was the Irish who struck first. Lynch worked her way through the defense and rifled a left-handed shot past Ngai. The Notre Dame bench erupted and sung a celebratory song, but little did they know that it’d be the last time for quite a while.

The Eagles’ defense buckled down, stringing together 13 scoreless minutes, and the offense went to work on the other side of the field. BC, in typical fashion, scored six unanswered goals—three coming from the stick of Urbank. With the Irish focusing on denying Kent and Apuzzo any room to work, cracks opened up, and the Eagles took advantage. Brooke Troy opened the scoring on her own, tallying her first goal of the season, after carrying the ball in from the midfield.

Next, Kent connected with Urbank for a pretty finish, then the redshirt senior took it herself with the shot clock winding down to beat Giacolone. Holding a two-goal lead midway through the half, Apuzzo won a draw control and eventually it was Rietano who sliced in from the left side and deftly finished. Urbank would find the back of the net twice more before the visitors could score, the first off an assist from Kent following a strong shot fake.

The rest of the half was an exercise in trading chances. Notre Dame finally got on the board again when Niki Ortega found teammate Andie Aldave with a deft pass from behind the cage, but BC would have an answer to that—via a Taylor Walker free-position goal—and each of the next two Irish goals. Notre Dame scores from Hannah Dorney and Ortega were responded to each time with finishes by Apuzzo, the second coming with just 53 seconds in the half.

That constant exchange of goals reflected the way the game would go the rest of the way. Unlike the Eagles’ six-goal run in the first half, neither team was able to find sustained success in the final 30 minutes. The first seven minutes were scoreless—even though both teams had clean looks—until Notre Dame’s Maddie Howe buried a rifle from outside. The back-and-forth play on the scoreboard would continue, with goals following from BC’s Kent and Dempsey Arsenault and the Irish’s Katie Enrietto and Lynch. Arsenault’s was arguably the most impressive of the game, as she snagged a feed from Kent and scored by whipping it behind her back—in the same way Apuzzo has done multiple times during her four-year career.

Ultimately, though, a team was going to break that trend—and it was the Irish. Howe converted a free-position shot for her team’s first consecutive goals all game, and the Irish nearly scored minutes later on another sequence of shots. After Ngai piled up several saves, Notre Dame was back for more, with Lynch burying one with eight minutes to go. A media timeout was a much-needed respite for the Eagles, who hadn’t scored in eight minutes and piled up 10 fouls after the break.

The timeout didn’t change anything on offense—Apuzzo missed an open look cutting in wide left, and Arsenault tripped up going to goal—but BC’s defense shored up its weaknesses. After allowing three goals in an eight-minute span, it started to make things difficult for Notre Dame again. This was evidenced by an unforced error with three minutes remaining, as an errant pass skipped out of bounds, and eventually that translated to the other side. While the Eagles’ offense was held in check until the waning seconds of the shot clock, Apuzzo eventually converted off a feed from Rietano—who would score herself in the final minute—to add some much-needed breathing room.

While the Irish gave BC everything they had, it still wasn’t quite enough. Not even 16 turnovers—the third most in a single game thus far for the team—was enough to prevent the Eagles from claiming their sixth win by at least four goals. BC isn’t out of the woods yet, as it plays two more ranked conference foes before the end of the season, but even one of its sloppier performances of the year was enough for a top-five victory.  

Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor

April 3, 2019

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