Sunday afternoon’s National Championship between first-seeded Maryland and second-seeded Boston College lacrosse isn’t just a rematch of the 2017 title game. It’s also the first time in five years and second time this decade that four of the current season’s Tewaaraton Award finalists will be playing in the National Championship. All five made the trip to Baltimore for the Final Four, but Sam Apuzzo, Dempsey Arsenault, Jen Giles, and Megan Taylor are the last ones standing. Each are premier talents, but are distinctly different.
1) Sam Apuzzo | Attacker
Over the course of the past three years, Apuzzo has risen to the top of the women’s lacrosse world. After suffering an ACL tear that cut her freshman season short, she has recorded 119-plus points each of the three years since. The West Babylon, N.Y., native’s 2018 campaign—one in which, nationally, Apuzzo ranked third in goals (88), 19th in assists (41), and third in points (129)—resulted in BC’s first-ever Tewaaraton Award. Apuzzo is a dynamic scorer, who isn’t afraid to take over a game, but often incorporates her teammates just as much as she looks for her shot. All in all, she’s tallied 21 career game-winners, the latest of which sealed the Eagles’ dramatic double-overtime win over North Carolina in the Final Four.
But what separates the senior from most goal scorers is her ability to change the complexion of the game in the circle. As is the case with points and goals, Apuzzo is BC’s all-time leader in draw controls (452). She currently averages 8.04 draws per game, the sixth-most in the nation, leading an Eagles team that clocks in at fourth in the country in draw control percentage (63.1).
2) Jen Giles | Midfielder
Giles has only reached the five-goal mark twice in her career, but her game extends far beyond scoring. The Big Ten Midfielder of the Year does a little bit of everything. Just like each of the past two seasons, Giles has racked up 70-plus points during the 2019 campaign, tallying 40 or more goals and at least 30 assists. Occasionally, Maryland head coach Cathy Reese uses Giles in the circle, but the midfielder is hardly just an offensive playmaker. She also scooped up 35 ground balls this season, the second-most on the team, and additionally forced 13 turnovers.
When in the offensive zone, Giles has a fearless attitude. The senior doesn’t shy away from contact, and it shows on paper: The midfielder enters the National Championship having drawn 35 free-position shots this year—no one else on Maryland attempted more than 29. Even if she’s faceguarded, Giles knows how to make an impact.
3) Dempsey Arsenault | Midfielder
Similar to Giles, Arsenault is one of the most complete players in the sport. Except, the 5-foot-8 defender-turned-midfielder is arguably even more dangerous. Her first two years on the Heights, Arsenault spent most of her time on defense, totaling 48 ground balls and 26 caused turnovers as a sophomore, along with just 15 goals and eight assists. Coming into her junior season, though, head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein asked Arsenault to move up to the midfield, and Arsenault more than made the most of the opportunity. Exploding onto the scene, the then-third-year player logged 103 points—80 more than the season prior—and 111 draw controls, complementing Apuzzo in what quickly became one of the most lethal one-two punches in the ACC.
Arsenault followed up her 2018 season with another 60-plus goal, 25-plus assist, and 90-plus draw control campaign this year, all while increasing her shot percentage. Now a senior, the New Hampton, N.H. native has proved time and time again that she can produce in the biggest moments, best exemplified by her overtime game-winner against Stony Brook in last year’s Elite Eight, as well as her game-tying goal in Friday’s national semifinal.
4) Megan Taylor | Goaltender
Talk about consistency. Earlier this May, Taylor was named Big Ten Goaltender of the Year for the fourth straight season. But in 2019, the four-year starter put up the best numbers of her star-studded career. The senior has held opponents under the 10-goal mark in seven of the Terrapins’ 22 games this season, posting a 8.12 goals against average. What’s more is that she’s also logged a career-high .563 save percentage—the second-best mark in the nation—and currently records 9.37 saves per game. Of late, Taylor has taken her game to another level. In the past 15 contests, she has only allowed 7.73 goals per game. The Glenelg, Md., native is the backbone of a Maryland defense that ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense.
Taylor has accounted for approximately 90 percent of the Terrapins’ minutes in net this year, guiding them to a 8.41 goal scoring margin, the second highest in the NCAA. Her stats are eye candy for any defensive assistant in the nation. Then again, this comes as no surprise, as the senior’s been doing this kind of thing since she arrived in College Park back.
The last time the National Championship featured a comparable cast of talent, BC assistant coach Kayla Treanor—then a first-time Tewaaraton Award finalist—was still in uniform, as her Orange squared off against who else but Maryland in the 2014 title game. The Terrapins stormed out to a five-goal lead in the early going before Syracuse chipped away at its to deficit to make it a two-score contest in the second half. Ultimately, though, Maryland held on for a 15-12 win, claiming—at the time—its 11th national championship. Now, the Terrapins are gunning for their 14th, but they once again find themselves in one of the most high-profile matchups in women’s lacrosse history.
Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Senior Staff