The first time Boston College lacrosse and Notre Dame faced off in the 2023 season, the Eagles narrowly escaped with a one-goal win in South Bend, IN.
The next time they faced off, BC held a little more control, defeating the Fighting Irish 9–4 in the ACC tournament semifinals in Charlotte, N.C.
But when Notre Dame finally traveled to the Eagles’ home turf on Thursday, there was no question who the better team was, as BC topped the Fighting Irish for the third time this season.
“I think the girls were just far more focused and committed to each other and the Boston College lacrosse standard,” BC head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said. “And today they, you know, they did everything they needed to do to play at a high level to beat a very good team and to secure a spot in the Final Four.”
Behind Belle Smith’s five goals and five saves from newly named Inside Lacrosse All-American Honorable Mention Shea Dolce, No. 3-seed BC (18–3, 8–1 Atlantic Coast) defeated Notre Dame (15–5, 6–3) 20–6 in dominant fashion in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on Newton Field.
“I just think we’re trying to play to a certain standard because it’s, you know, we look at one game at a time, one opponent at a time, but we’re looking to do something bigger and to do more,” Walker-Weinstein said. “We want to go to the Final Four, we want to win the national championship. And so I think there’s a deep level of commitment to our goals that allow these guys to stay focused and again, we’re trying to be better. We needed to be better than we were on Sunday and we were.”
BC set the tone early on defense by forcing two consecutive turnovers after Notre Dame draw controls, neutralizing the effects of the center circle prowess of the Fighting Irish, who hold the nation’s second best draw control percentage.
“Yeah, the girls really followed the game plan,” Walker-Weinstein said. “We knew how good Notre Dame was at the draw. They have a really very, very, very, very talented draw team. So we needed something to combat that if we were to lose the draw control and the girls followed the game went perfectly and we were able to get a few of those back.”
Kayla Martello put the Eagles on the board 1:25 into the game to give them the first lead in the contest.
The Fighting Irish responded quickly, however, with goals from Madison Ahern and Mary Kelly Doherty to give Notre Dame its first, and only, lead of the game.
Jenn Medjid found the back of the net twice in under 90 seconds, though, giving BC back the lead.
The rivals got physical in the last two minutes of the first quarter, with two yellow cards called on BC and one on Notre Dame. And a Courtney Weeks goal with four seconds left released Ahern, the sitting Fighting Irish player, leaving BC down a player to start the second.
BC won the draw control to start the second quarter, passing the ball around in the attacking zone while they waited for the clock to hit zero on Smith’s penalty. Once it did, the Eagles attacked the net with about 20 seconds on the shot clock, andMartello netted her second goal of the game to put BC up 6–2.
Overall, BC outscored Notre Dame 5–2 in the second quarter, just as they did in the first, to take a commanding 10–4 lead into halftime.
BC’s five goals per quarter pace continued in the third quarter, but Notre Dame only managed to score once in the frame on its singular shot on goal when Kristen Shanahan beat Dolce with 2:31 left on the clock.
“I kept communicating to my teammates, and even though I wasn’t getting shots,” Dolce said. “I was trying to do everything I could in the clear and with communication. And yeah, I mean, just stay locked in.”
BC dominated the final period, taking three out of the six draw controls to lessen the effects of Notre Dame’s biggest strength.
Once the Eagles notched a 10 goal lead, the running clock was implemented, and BC walked away with a 20–6 lead. Notre Dame managed just four shots in the quarter to bring their game total to 17 in comparison to BC’s 33 total shots.
“Yeah, I think it’s just such a special thing to have such great connections with your whole defensive unit, coming from the middies, to defense, to our obviously star goalie,” BC defender Hunter Roman said. “I think we just always play for each other. And at the start of every quarter, we try to stay locked in. We keep notes on if we’re winning the quarter if we’re losing the quarter, and that’s kind of how we stayed dialed in the whole game.”
The win punched BC’s ticket to its sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament Final Four with a chance to go to its sixth consecutive National Championship game.
“It never gets old,” BC midfielder Smith said. “It’s the same feeling every time. If anything, it gets better. We’re pumped, we’re ready to go. And you know this is the place we’ve been in before, so we’re locked in and ready for next week.”