Sports, Lacrosse

‘Heights’ 2022–23 Female Rookie of the Year: Shea Dolce

Shea Dolce stepped in between the goal posts in Alumni Stadium at a pivotal point. Amid freezing temperatures, snow, high-level winds, and low visibility, the conditions were all but desirable for Dolce to relieve graduate student and National Champion Rachel Hall earlier than she ever had up to that point of her first season with Boston College lacrosse.  

“It was so cold that day,” Jennifer Dolce, Shea’s mother, said. “In the stands we were all bundled up. I mean, it was like snowing sideways at one point.” 

Adding to those conditions was the fact that the Eagles were already trailing 8–7 to unranked Louisville, and that a loss would mean that the powerhouse program would fall to a  4–3 record. The stakes were higher than ever as Dolce took over as the anchor of BC’s defense. 

But, while the moment may have seemed incredibly daunting to many, Dolce had been preparing for this exact opportunity.  

“I was freezing, everybody was cold, but I knew it was a tight game and my coaches had told me like, ‘alright, Shea warm up,’” Dolce said. “And I was ready. Every time I was on the sideline, my coaches talked to me, Callahan Kent, she’s always telling me just make sure you’re ready. And so that was what I was doing.”

BC head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein echoed Dolce’s confidence and said that she needed no words of encouragement before the rookie took the field in the 21st minute of the game. 

“She was ready, she was ready,” Walker-Weinstein said. “She didn’t need anything from me. Callahan spoke to her, and I just decided that maybe it was best that I just didn’t make a huge deal out of it.” 

And to say that she was ready would be an understatement. While the Eagles hardly let Louisville touch the ball for the remainder of the second quarter and fought all the way back to take a 9–8 lead at the half, the second half is where Dolce made her preparation clear. 

With a total of five saves, including a free-position shot save, Dolce did not let a single ball past her en route to what became a 19–8 blowout win to propel the Eagles to a 5–2 record. This was just the start of what earned Dolce The Heights‘ Female Rookie of the Year honor, as her preparation, resilience, and clutch performances carried throughout the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. 

“I think just having the support of the defense and the support of my coaches during that game helped me so much,” Dolce said. “And then afterwards, I didn’t even know I had a shutout and it was just awesome because my teammates were so supportive. I think that was definitely one of the turning moments of the season for myself personally.”

(Callie Oxford / Heights Editor)

After swiftly taking care of Clemson 17–10 in Dolce’s first collegiate start in net, BC moved on to No. 6 Denver. While Dolce let up six goals and recorded no saves in the Eagles’ 13–8 loss to Denver, that would be the last time BC would lose a game until the National Championship—13 straight wins later. 

Dolce’s father, Jared Dolce, said she was in need of a high and a low in order to get both out of her system early on. He said that Dolce could put her head down and focus on being the best player that she could possibly be after having those two experiences. 

“It was a kick in the teeth and a learning experience,” Jared said. “I think all those things, you know, the ups and downs, and the downs sometimes help you become better. … It definitely, I think, caused the whole team to be more focused and sort of on point.” 

After that brief hiccup against Denver, Dolce and the entire roster rebounded. The Eagles, with a new face in between the posts, built up their resume and their confidence as the season went on. After BC’s final regular season game—in which it spoiled No. 1 Syracuse’s perfect regular season to become ACC regular season co-champions—Dolce and BC moved onto another much-anticipated postseason. 

“I think I perform well under pressure,” Dolce said. “And I think a lot of times, it doesn’t go that way for a lot of people but I’ve kind of been in this situation before and I see now it’s at a bigger level. But yeah, I would say just being in that position, and knowing what’s on the line kind of gets me going a little bit more than other times.” 

Although Dolce boasted impressive regular season statistics, the ACC Tournament was where her dedication and preparation shined through. Dolce’s campaign started with a smooth win over Duke in which she recorded six saves and held the Blue Devils to under 10 goals. 

One of Dolce’s best performances of the season happened just one game later in the semifinals against No. 5 Notre Dame. Dolce put up a .733 save percentage behind 11 saves, only surrendering four goals—her second lowest goals allowed total all season. 

After her dominant performance against the Fighting Irish, the Eagles defeated No. 3 North Carolina 11–9 to win their first ACC Championship in program history. Dolce was named to the ACC All-Tournament Team and was recognized as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. 

“She was in her element,” Walker-Weinstein said. “She was so prepared for the moment. She was, you know, not afraid. She was confident. She was in a zone and it was like bone chilling to watch her, I’d say, because I’ve never seen a freshman perform like that before.” 

Dolce carried that momentum into the NCAA Tournament, where she held No. 13 Pennsylvania to just seven goals with eight saves and Notre Dame to just six goals with five saves before she found herself facing off against No. 3 Syracuse’s high-powered offense again in the semifinals.  

But even on the second-biggest stage of the year, Dolce showed up once again and locked down the Orange, holding it to just seven goals while also stopping seven shots in their tracks. After the game, though, a true testament to Dolce’s character was the way in which she celebrated the victory.     

“Yeah, after we won the semifinals against Syracuse in the Final Four she came running off the field and was reaching for Wesley [Walker-Weinstein’s daughter] to hug her and to celebrate with her,” Walker-Weinstein said. “And then she took Wesley into the crowd with the team and I’ll never forget it. She’s just such a solid person.” 

This showed the sense of family that pulled the No. 1 Class of 2022 goalie recruit in the country toward committing to BC in the first place, according to Dolce. 

“Just seeing the way that they led and then seeing the way that the team got along and just loved each other, it was like a family,” Dolce said. “And I think that’s what really drew me in [to BC] and just like the family aspect of it. And now that I’m experiencing it, it’s exactly what I pictured.” 

(Callie Oxford / Heights Editor)

Dolce’s parents resonated with this sentiment, noting that Dolce did most of the research on her own in terms of searching for schools during the recruitment process. BC lacrosse has become everything that they hoped for in a community, her parents said. 

“I couldn’t be happier with her at BC,” Jared said. “And it’s really the only place she wanted to go quite honestly. So thrilled it worked out, you know, [how] the season worked out the way it did. Hopefully, [she’ll] get back there again next year.” 

While the 2023 season didn’t end with hoisting the National Championship trophy for Dolce, an ACC Tournament MVP award, multiple ACC Player of the Week awards, and an ACC Freshman of the Year award will have to hold her over until her sophomore season starts up in the spring. 

“It’s kind of like a dream come true,” Dolce said of her freshman-year campaign. “Just because that’s kind of the moment that you dream of in high school, when you’re younger. And you look forward to that moment that you’re stepping on the field. Lucky, for me, it came a little bit earlier. I think it was just one of the most rewarding experiences that I could have had.”

October 13, 2023