Second-seeded Boston College lacrosse (21-1, 7-0 Atlantic Coast) trails third-seeded North Carolina (17-3, 5-2), 17-4, in the programs’ all-time series. Of late, however, the schools have formed a legitimate rivalry, with both teams splitting their last four matchups. In each of the past two years, the Tar Heels have had the upper hand in the postseason. On Friday evening, the programs will meet for the first time in the NCAA Tournament. Here are three keys to clinching a spot in the National Championship.
Keys to Winning:
1) Whoever Wins in the Circle Will Likely Find Themselves in the Title Game
The last four meetings between these two ACC powerhouses have been decided in the circle. In each of the two regular season matchups, BC has won six-plus more draws than the Tar Heels. On the other hand, in the ACC Championship bouts, UNC has had a clear edge in the circle. BC ranks fourth in the country in draw control percentage—it wins 63.1 percent of its draws—not to mention that reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Sam Apuzzo averages the sixth-most draw controls in the country (8.05). Respectable, but not nearly as dominant, UNC clocks in at 26th in that department, winning 55.4 percent of draws on a game-to-game basis.
2) BC’s Magic Number is 25
The Tar Heels are one of the best defensive teams in the country, and it all starts in net. Redshirt sophomore goaltender Taylor Moreno is a budding star. The All-ACC First Team selection currently ranks fourth in the nation in save percentage (.534) and averages 8.2 stops per game. If the Eagles are to upend UNC, they’ll have to give Moreno everything they’ve got, meaning the more shots the better, as far as BC is concerned. Of the four aforementioned games, the Eagles recorded 25 or more shots on goal twice. It’s no coincidence that they scored 14-plus goals in both of those contests en route to big-time victories. Of course, BC’s shot volume goes hand-in-hand with its success in the circle. UNC clamping down on draw controls will likely spell doom for head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein and Co.
3) The First Few Minutes of the Second Half Mean Everything
Because of these programs’ pedigrees and level of talent, there’s little to no chance of an early-game blowout. That said, momentum has tended to shift after the break. The team that comes out on top in the first 10 minutes of the second half has ended up on the right side of the box score in each of the last four meetings.
For instance, in March 2018, the Eagles scored four of the first six goals in the second period, creating enough separation to pull away from UNC. In the 2018 ACC Championship, UNC notched three of the second half’s first four goals, forcing the Eagles to dig themselves out of a big hole the rest of the way. During this year’s regular season matchup, BC used a 3-0 run to start the second half and build a six-goal lead, heading into the final portion of play. Then, in this year’s conference title game, the Tar Heels opened the second period with three straight goals to take their first lead of the day—from there, the rest was history. On Friday, a trip to the National Championship might just come down to which team can take the driver’s seat at the start of the back half of play.
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor