When Rachel Hall transferred to Boston College from Oregon, her reasoning was simple: she saw BC as a National Championship program.
To get there, it seemed on paper as though BC lacrosse would have to play the perfect game in the Final Four. Almost no one had even held a lead over undefeated North Carolina, and those that had eventually collapsed under the pressure of the nation’s best. Against UNC, BC didn’t play a perfect game.
But apparently, it didn’t need to.
After Caitlynn Mossman netted the Eagles’ first goal of the game on BC’s first possession, UNC flipped the game on its head with three straight. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the team’s ensuing scoring patterns, but eventually, BC cracked open the largest lead of the game—and the largest deficit the Tar Heels had faced all season—at 11-6.
Still, UNC had faced scares before—namely, being down by two against Stony Brook in the previous round. In the face of elimination against BC, the Tar Heels began to show flashes of how they’ve played all season, and with one second to go, it was a one-point game. But even the best of the best can’t tie it up in just one second, and maroon and gold jerseys flooded the field at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
With a stunning 11-10 upset, No. 4 BC (17-3) toppled the previously untouchable Tar Heels (20-1) to earn the Eagles a fourth straight National Championship berth.
“Every year, we’re building on the tradition that we have,” BC head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said in her postgame press conference. “Today was an incredible thing to be able to beat [UNC] with the team that they have.”
Not only had UNC gone undefeated and earned an undisputed No. 1 ranking for the entirety of the season, but the Tar Heels also hadn’t lost in a program-record 27 games. And the last time UNC lost a game, the circumstances could not have been more similar.
Two years ago, almost to the day, BC made the trip down to a suburb of Baltimore and shocked the Tar Heels to earn their third straight National Championship berth. A one-point, come-from-behind Final Four victory has become BC’s hallmark. This time, though, “shock” is an understatement.
The Tar Heels entered the game averaging over 17 goals per game, and with Tewaaraton finalist Jamie Ortega on their side, it’s no wonder why. With a BC defensive core made up almost exclusively of freshmen and sophomores—freshman Sydney Scales was given the tall task of defending Ortega—the Eagles were fighting an uphill battle.
BC’s unrivaled success on defense came down to Hall, clearly hungry to make her National Championship dreams a reality.
“[My success] is something that I attribute totally to my teammates and coaches,” Hall said. “They stuck with me, and they knew that when we got to this stage … I’d be prepared.”
Hall made a staggering 11 saves against one of the nation’s top offensive producers, including five in the first half. With eight saves from Tewaaraton finalist Taylor Moreno in net on the other end, it was a goalkeepers’ duel for the ages.
“I think seeing [Hall] make those ridiculous saves, it just pumped up me and all my teammates for us to finish the job,” Jenn Medjid said.
Apparently, whatever Hall did to electrify Medjid and her teammates worked. The junior attacker finished with four goals on just six shots, including what became the go-ahead free-position score with 15 minutes remaining in the game.
For the last 15 minutes after that score, despite BC’s 5-1 run dating back to late in the first half, UNC held the Eagles scoreless. In came Katie Hoeg, who had been relatively quiet for the first 45 minutes of the game, and the redshirt senior put the game on her back. Hoeg, who leads the nation in assists and assists per game, turned on her scoring jets, beating Hall twice in a two-minute span to cut BC’s deficit to two.
Also in an unusual scoring position was Charlotte North, who the Tar Heels held to just two goals all game with a constant double team. Still, her first goal, a scoop-and-score ground ball, marked a program record 95 single-season goals for the senior attacker.
She tacked on a second one of her signature low-angle shots eight minutes into the second half to give BC a 10-6 lead.
Despite UNC’s late-game surge, BC kept its dream alive. Even after Ally Mastroianni spun around Hunter Roman and swung a bouncer just past Hall with a second on the clock, the Eagles stood on the sidelines with their arms out, ready to explode onto the field.
When the final horn blew, they did just that, swarming Hall, the hero of the game, in jubilation for earning a shot at National Championship redemption.
“It’s something that I’ve dreamed about my whole life,” Hall said about the Final Four victory. “But I dreamed about winning a National Championship, so we still have another game to play.”
Featured Image by Greg Fiume Courtesy of NCAA Photos