A year ago, Boston College was the Cinderella story. Overcoming incredible odds, upset after upset, to top Navy in the semifinals and get to Maryland for the title game.
BC lost in front of what was nearly a home crowd at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. But, the Eagles were on the map.
Sunday, Boston College will face a James Madison squad in a similar spot. After upsetting North Carolina, the Dukes are that upstart hungry program.
After going undefeated in the regular season, the Eagles lone loss came in the ACC title game to North Carolina. In the postseason, they’re torn through the competition, taking down undefeated Stony Brook and then avenging last season’s loss to Maryland to reach the national title game.
BC lost several players this season, including last year’s postseason hero, Kenzie Kent, as she focused on hockey, but the Eagles didn’t seem to miss a beat.
“We kind of all year have been having this saying that we’re a new team and we’re a different team,” said Eagles coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein. “While yes, it is motivating to come into this game having lost to them last year, I think it’s really important to remember that we are a new team and this is a different year.”
After her outstanding freshman season, Sam Apuzzo broke the program record with 81 goals as a sophomore and has controlled the team’s offense on the scoresheet and at the draw controls.
“I think my favorite thing is she never goes away, really,” Walker-Weinstein said. “She was not playing well in the first half, and I said to her, ‘Listen, Sam, you’re born for this. This is what you were made for, this moment.’ She just never goes away. She came out and scored a couple quick goals, and she’s really a clutch player.”
Boston College scored the two last goals to break a 13-13 tie and shut down Maryland for the rest of the game Friday night, with Apuzzo nabbing the game winner.
“We’ve been working on dodging from behind this whole week, so when I got the ball, I just knew that was my job to do,” she said. “After that goal, it definitely added to the momentum going forward, because we were kind of rolling at that point.”
The Eagles offense hasn’t been shut down all year, but face a challenge in a Dukes defense that was able to take down the Tar Heels, the lone team on the Eagles slate they lost to. With several matchup differences unique than any other game they played all season, Apuzzo and the draw control become all the more urgent.
Against the Dukes, the Eagles are in a position they faced opposite Maryland last season as the favorites. James Madison is a new team to the big stage, filled with surprising talent, but the Eagles take the matchup seriously.
“The sport is growing, there’s more and more people playing and there’s a higher level of talent in multiple different schools,” Walker-Weinstein said. “I think it speaks to the growth of the game.”