Two years in the title game, two years of heartbreak.
Boston College defeated two of the best teams in the nation to get to the NCAA championship for the second straight year. Much like their contest with Maryland a year ago on the biggest stage, the Eagles came oh so close against James Madison, falling 16-15 at Stony Brook.
Despite a late goal from Tess Chandler (Hopkinton, Mass.) to make it a one-goal game with 23 seconds left on the clock, the Dukes held on to win their first women’s lacrosse title in school history.
“It’s a disappointing day for our program, but JMU is an incredible team they came out and fought really hard for 60 minutes,” said BC coach Acacia Walker. “I think my girls did a good job of responding and breaking up the momentum of the game, but we came up short in the end. I’m so proud of what our program has achieved and you know we will not count that short at all. So much credit to JMU and Shelley [Klaes-Bawcombe] they’re amazing, very classy, very strong competitors.”
Chandler scored four times, while sophomore Sam Apuzzo netted three goals with four assists and Dempsey Arsenault (New Hampton, NH) scored twice with three helpers. But that wasn’t enough to shut down the Cinderella story of the tournament.
JMU jumped out to a 4-1 lead, but the Eagles went on a run with five straight tallies to take the lead. In a game of runs, it was all knotted up at the half as they traded goals.
With four in a row to take a two-goal advantage near the start of the second, the Dukes started to settle into control. Apuzzo and Taylor Walker fought back, before a Kristen Gaudian goal put the Dukes up by two. Kaileen Hart made it a on- goal game once more, but Hailey Warden provided the dagger with 1:05 to go in the contest.
The Eagles still controlled the draw control battle, winning 20 of 28 behind Apuzzo. The teams were an even 22 shots on goal apiece and 13 ground balls on both sides. The Eagles’ ride was also tough against the Dukes’ clear, forcing them to fail on seven attempts.
BC also scored on four of seven free-position attempts and the Dukes were 0-for-4, all their goals coming from the field.
It didn’t seem to affect the result, as the Dukes offense came through when it was needed.
The Eagles lost once all season before Sunday’s championship, losing to North Carolina in the ACC title contest. The Dukes took down that same Tar Heels team in the semifinal to advance to the national stage.
Boston College doesn’t lose much, with Apuzzo still playing for two more seasons, Dempsey Arsenault for another, and goalie Lauren Daly back in the fold. Last year’s postseason hero Kenzie Kent will be back, too. With a strong recruiting class as well, the Eagles are favorites to make another deep run.
“You have to be able to score goals and play unselfishly and win draw controls,” said Walker about Apuzzo. “I think what she does, it teaches all of her teammates to try to be good at many different things too and not just being one dimensional. Sam has sort of taught a level of excellence for the team and she’s very competitive. People will follow her and her lead and hopefully work harder next year.”
For 2018, however, it’s James Madison, led by a senior-heavy class, that goes home the champions.