The list of college athletic programs that have appeared in four straight national championships is short. UConn women’s basketball accomplished the feat between 2013 and 2016, securing the title across all four seasons. Alabama football reached the final of the College Football Playoff every season between 2015 and 2018 and won the championship twice.
With its National Championship victory earlier this week, Boston College lacrosse has now entered this esteemed list, and with it, several of its players join an exclusive group of collegiate stars who have been with those programs for every year of their four national championship runs. Breanna Stewart, UConn’s star forward during its streak, and Alabama back Damien Harris meet Jillian Reilly and Cara Urbank, the only two members of BC’s 2021 team to feature in all four squads.
“It’s just amazing to have been able to do it with Jill [Reilly], because she’s also been there, you know, we both have and it’s an amazing experience,” Urbank said. “I’m just really grateful to have been able to stay another year and accomplish what I’ve always dreamed of doing.”
It has been a tale of two different paths for the pair during their respective careers on the Heights. While neither saw much action in their freshman season, Urbank has been at the center of BC’s high-octane attack over the past four seasons and has racked up 211 points as an Eagle. Reilly got decent playing time in her sophomore and junior seasons but has come into her own over the last two years, anchoring the BC defense.
As is so often the case with star athletes, Urbank attributes her growth to the quality of her teammates.
“I always think back to Katie Weeks, somebody who I always looked up to, it’s all those older leaders that you strive to be one day, and I was just kind of following in their footsteps and lucky enough to be a part of it,” she said.
Weeks played for BC between 2014 and 2017 and totaled 168 points across her career, with 108 of them coming in the 2017 season as the Eagles reached their first National Championship.
The difference in their trajectories aside, both Urbank and Reilly made the decision to take a fifth year and return to the team as graduate students in 2021, and each had a career-defining year. Urbank’s total of 82 points on 39 goals and 43 assists was the 15th highest total in the country, and Reilly started every game she featured in.
While Reilly did not appear in the National Championship, Urbank provided her usual dominant play with two goals and an assist. Reilly’s absence from the game did nothing to lessen her excitement after returning to campus with the championship trophy in hand.
“You can’t even put the feeling into words—it’s indescribable,” Reilly said as the cheers of the welcome home party raged around her. I think having made it to four consecutive Final Fours, four consecutive National Championships, that this was our last chance to get one. I’m just so grateful.”
Although Reilly and Urbank are the only Eagles who have been on the roster for all four National Championship appearances, six players saw their third straight title game in the 2021 final, and a host more appeared in their second.
Urbank bills this extensive postseason experience and the brutal losses the Eagles have suffered in the past finals as key factors in the team’s ability to finally get over the hump.
“There was a little bit of ‘we know what we have to do’ and ‘what is expected of us,’” she said.
Doing more than just acting as the leaders of the 2021 squad, Reilly and Urbank are testaments to the stars of the Eagles’ first National Championship–appearing team. The pair has served as a bridge between the first players that brought BC to national prominence and the team that finally brought home the title.
“It was so sad not being able to win that 2019 title for a senior class that, you know, has done so much for this program, but being able to be coached by [Sam Apuzzo] last year and this year has been amazing. She’s one of my best friends,” Urbank said.
The champions did not have to wait long to see how much the title meant to those that paved the way for the Eagles’ victory.
“I think one of the greatest moments from the entire day yesterday was bringing the trophy over to the sideline and seeing all the alums with tears streaming down their faces,” Reilly said. “We wanted to do it for them.”