Heading into Sunday’s National Championship showdown, the last time Boston College lacrosse turned the ball over 21 or more times, the Eagles fell 13–8 to then-No. 6 Denver for their third loss just nine games into the season.
Rachel Hall was still BC’s starting goalkeeper then.
But 13 consecutive wins later, the Eagles’ turnover woes found them once again in Cary, N.C., as No. 1-seed Northwestern defeated No. 3-seed BC by a final score of 18–6 in the 2023 National Championship. Despite reaching its sixth consecutive championship final, BC’s title in 2021 remains the only time it’s come out on top.
Although the game was close in the early stages, BC struggled to keep up with Northwestern’s firepower with a slew of turnovers and an offense that just didn’t have any oil left in the tank.
Here are four takeaways from BC’s loss.
Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
Whether it was the rainy weather in North Carolina, pressure from Northwestern’s side, or just an errant pass, the Eagles could not stop giving up the ball. They committed 21 turnovers on the day, which gave the Wildcats a big edge. BC turned the ball over in its own end multiple times, including once with a player down, which led to easy opportunities for Northwestern. The Eagles’ turnovers in the midfield and on the attack also greatly affected their game as it disrupted their flow and stopped them from gaining any consistent offensive footing.
Against a team like Northwestern who can shut down on defense and constantly bring the game to a potent attack on offense, committing that many turnovers does not give a competitor a chance to stay competitive.
Northwestern also committed 19 turnovers in the contest, but BC struggled to convert on those opportunities. Every time the Eagles coughed the ball up, the more the game slipped away from them .
Six goals was BC’s second lowest total on the season, with its five-goal output against then-No. 1 North Carolina in the regular season being the only other time the Eagles struggled that much to put the ball in the back of the net. Following a trend that continued from the semifinal against Syracuse, BC struggled to strategize and execute on offense when the defense took away the cutter over the middle of the field, which usually meant taking away Jenn Medjid, BC’s top scorer.
The Eagles did not find success on dodges, either, and many possessions for BC ended without getting a shot on Northwestern goalkeeper Molly Laliberty, who made just three saves.
In contrast to her five-goal performance against Syracuse, Medjid only scored once in the game.
Since there was not consistent success on offense for the Eagles, even more pressure was put on BC’s defense on the opposite end. This turned out to be too much to handle, which led to the overall result.
Desperate for Free Positions, but Failing to Execute
When a team is struggling in the offensive setup, two things that can get it going are free positions and the transition game. Since the Eagles did not get many stops as the game went on, most of their offensive prowess weighed on their free position attempts. BC got four on the day, but it did not score on any of them.
In contrast, Northwestern scored three goals on free positions. While a few goals would not have changed the result, the momentum of a BC goal from one of its talented scorers, like Medjid, Belle Smith, or one of the Weeks sisters, could have helped ignite BC’s offense.
Although BC has not been a very strong free position team this year, one would expect at least one shot to go in from a free position in a game of this magnitude. But it never happened.
Controlling the Draw
In order to score, possession is probably the most important factor, and that starts at the center circle. Ryan Smith started there for BC, and although BC head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein switched up the player that took the draw controls, it did not change the result.
The Wildcats won 18 of the game’s 25 draw controls, meaning they established possessions early into their offensive stints and had more opportunities to score and increase their lead which held their way in all phases of the game.
This, along with BC’s copious turnovers, led to Northwestern outshooting the Eagles 42–19, a differential that did not provide much of an opportunity for BC to win.