Lacrosse, Spring, Sports

Suffocating Defense Leads BC Over Notre Dame, Eagles Advance to ACC Tournament Championship

Nearly three weeks after No. 4 Boston College lacrosse mounted a 5–0 run in the fourth quarter to stun then-No. 8 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., the two teams found each other battling for a bid for the 2023 ACC Tournament Championship on Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

But no fourth-quarter comeback was needed for the Eagles, though, as BC’s defense stalled the No. 11 Fighting Irish offense, allowing just four goals in the entire game, the second fewest goals it has allowed all season. Notre Dame also scored the least amount of goals it has all season in the loss.

“I think that there was just awesome communication all around, and insane energy,” BC defender Melanie Welch said. “And then Shea [Dolce] was there for every save that we needed, which was insane. So I think everybody was just meshing together and really playing for each other, which is what we talked about for this game, and it worked out in our favor.”

The No. 1-seed Eagles (15–3, 8–1 Atlantic Coast) earned a spot in the championship game on Sunday as they downed No. 5-seed Notre Dame (13–5, 6–3) with a 9–4 victory on Friday. The Eagles’ lockdown defense recorded 15 turnovers, and goalkeeper Dolce added an 11-save performance for a career-high .733 save percentage when facing at least 25 shots.

“I just think she showed the world today what she’s capable of,” BC head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said of Dolce. “And I am just, I’m in awe, like, I’m in awe of one of my own players, and I think she just put on display that hard work pays off.”

While BC has never won an ACC Tournament title, it will now make its fourth appearance in the last five tournaments.

“They’re playing for each other,” Walker-Weinstein said of her team. “They’re playing for Boston College. They’re playing to be the first women’s team to bring a championship home. And I think the trophy is a symbol of that.”

Notre Dame potted its first goal just over a minute into the game, but the scoring quickly halted. Notre Dame goaltender Lilly Callahan notched three saves before BC finally broke the silence at the 3:56 mark with a Jenn Medjid goal. 

“Yeah, I think we were actually doing really well, we just weren’t finishing,” Medjid said. “So I think just when it wasn’t going our way, we just had to keep digging and fight for our offense and fight for the whole team, and that’s what we did.”

Belle Smith gave BC its first lead of the game with a goal at the 2:21 mark, a lead the Eagles never gave up.

Early in the second quarter, Smith caused a Notre Dame turnover and BC marched down the field, ultimately setting up Medjid for an easy score—her 70th goal of the season—to put BC ahead 3–1.

After holding the Fighting Irish scoreless for nearly 19 minutes, Notre Dame finally ended its scoring drought as a free-position goal slipped by Dolce to bring it back within one at the second quarter’s 9:13 mark. 

A Sydney Scales forced turnover five minutes later led to another transition goal for the Eagles, and Kayla Martello, who grabbed Andrea Reynolds’ rebound, to plant BC’s fourth goal to put it up 4–2.

“Yeah, I think it’s everything,” Welch said of BC’s defense creating offense. “I think that’s something that we’ve really been working on, is connecting the units. And I think there were just so many hustle plays out of so many defenders, whether it was like Shea Baker, Sophia Taglich, Hunter, Sydney, just coming out of nowhere and causing chaos.”

BC added one more goal in the final 30 seconds of the half with a Courtney Weeks tally. But the Eagles’ anchor in the first half was Dolce, as she recorded eight saves on 10 shots on goal, earning her a .800 save percentage.

“I mean, I’ll start out by saying I think I have the best defensive unit in the country in front of me,” Dolce said. “They just, they give me the shots that I want to see, they forced the girls to bad angles, and I mean really I play well because of them.”

Thirty-nine seconds into the second half, the Fighting Irish cut BC’s lead to 5–3 on a Kasey Choma free-position shot. But that would be Notre Dame’s only goal of the third quarter.

Medjid completed her hat trick at the 8:53 mark to reestablish BC’s three-goal lead, and BC entered the final quarter with a 6–3 advantage.

Martello added to the Eagles’ lead with a free-position goal with 8:58 remaining in the game, and Cassidy Weeks then notched back-to-back goals to ice the game and give BC a comfortable 9–3 cushion, enough to advance to the championship game on Sunday.

“You absolutely learn from all, all of it,” Walker-Weinstein said. “The nuances, the big plays, the obvious plays, the mistakes, you know, that I’ve made. You know, we have an opportunity to fix all the things that went wrong and to be better and to be different heading into Sunday.”

April 28, 2023