Sports, Spring, Lacrosse

Defensive Effort Propels BC to Fifth Straight Final Four Appearance

With under one second to go in the first quarter, Belle Smith lined up for a free-position shot. She fired off a rocket, the sound of the buzzer drowning out the cheers of Boston College lacrosse players and fans. 

Starting with Smith’s late first-quarter goal, the No. 3-seed Eagles went on a 5–0 run to shut down Loyola Maryland in an NCAA quarterfinal matchup. BC (18–3, 6–2 Atlantic Coast) controlled the game from there, finishing with a 20–13 win over the No. 6-seed Greyhounds (20–2, 9–0 Patriot) for the Eagles’ fifth straight Final Four appearance.

“I’m just really proud of our girls,” BC head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said. “I thought they were exceptionally coachable today, and I think that was a major contributor.”

Smith finished with a team-high seven goals, a career high for the sophomore midfielder who was named the 2021 ACC Freshman of the Year. Two of those goals came at the buzzer at the end of first and third quarters.

“This whole week we were talking about coming on strong at the end of each quarter to make a statement going into each quarter,” Smith said. “I was in the right place at the right time, but my teammates were just hitting me, and that carried momentum into every quarter.”

Loyola defender Katie Detwiler was tasked with face guarding reigning Tewaaraton winner Charlotte North from the first draw, shutting her down for the majority of the game. Kayla Martello took control in her absence in the early going, scoring the game’s first two goals.

Jenn Medjid finished with five goals and three assists, Martello netted four goals, and North added three goals and three assists.

Sydney Scales returned to the starting lineup for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in BC’s ACC title game matchup with UNC. The First Team All-ACC defender finished with one ground ball and one caused turnover in her return to the field. Hunter Roman tacked on four ground balls and one caused turnover.

“I have to say it was a relief,” Roman said of Scales’ return. “Not having her there definitely feels like a missing piece, but having her back was awesome.”

Loyola took its first lead—marking the first time in this year’s NCAA Tournament that BC had trailed—on a goal from Sydni Black to make it 3–2 with 4:47 to play in the first quarter. But that narrow lead didn’t last long. 

North broke free of Detwiler’s face guard with just under four minutes to go in the quarter, firing off a low, side-arm shot past the diving foot of Loyola goaltender Kaitlyn Larsson. North added another in the period before Smith took over. 

Smith’s first goal of the game made it so that the Eagles, after trailing 3–2 just minutes earlier, suddenly led 5–4. The Eagles added four more unanswered goals to enter halftime up 10–5. 

“I love to see that because it starts on the defensive end and then finishes on the offensive end, but we don’t have those opportunities unless our defense does their job,” Walker-Weinstein said. 

But in the third quarter, the game looked very different. Loyola won all but one draw control in the quarter, setting up offensive chance after offensive chance. The Greyhounds finished the game out-drawing BC 24–12. 

With their success on the draw in the third quarter, the Greyhounds clawed their way back within two goals, but Smith and BC’s offense stayed hot, preventing a possible comeback. 

BC will make its fifth straight Final Four appearance with the win, taking on No. 2-seed Maryland. 

“I definitely think we rise to the occasion when it’s most important,” Roman said. “We’re definitely rising to the occasion. … When all the pieces add up, it just makes me want to work hard for my whole unit.”

May 21, 2022