It’s in the aftermath of heartbreaking defeat that perspective and silver linings rise to the surface.
First comes perspective. In 2018, the Boston College women’s lacrosse team submitted a season for the ages, falling just short of winning the program’s first national title for the second consecutive year.
After losing to Maryland in the 2017 Division 1 championship game, BC (22-2) stormed through an undefeated regular season (17-0). Then came their electrifying tournament run, fueled by a relentless offensive attack led by Sam Apuzzo and Dempsey Arsenault (New Hampton, N.H.).
Arsenault, who emerged into a national star this year, scored a last-minute, game-winning goal in double-overtime against Stony Brook, propelling BC back into the final four, this time on Long Island. Of note, Apuzzo assisted on both the tying and winning goals in that game.
Next, it was Apuzzo’s turn for late-game scoring heroics in the semifinal round. In a rematch of last season’s championship game, BC faced off against Maryland, the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Apuzzo led BC to a 15-13 win with her four goals, the last two of which came in the waning minutes after the game was tied 13-13.
In the championship game against James Madison, BC’s offense stayed prime, but the team couldn’t overcome turnovers. It nearly overcame a three-goal deficit with 7:02 remaining, making it a one-goal game with 22.1 seconds left, but JMU was able to hold on and secure the 16-15 victory for its first national championship.
“We had way too many turnovers today,” BC coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein told the media after the game. “We had 18 turnovers. We can’t beat a zone or beat anyone good with 18 turnovers.”
Now comes the time for reflection and those aforementioned silver linings. Heading into next season, BC is a predominant favorite to contend for the national title. The team returns with its core of players, most notably the rising senior trio of Apuzzo, Arsenault and Kenzie Kent (Norwell, Mass.). A standout player on attack, Kent redshirted this season to focus on hockey but will be back next year with high expectations.
Apuzzo and Arsenault are best friends off the field, but they will bring distinctly different histories into next season.
Following the tournament, Apuzzo was named the recipient of the Tewaaraton Award, recognized as the top female college lacrosse player in the country. In 2018, she led her team in goals (88), assists (41), points (129), draw controls (163), forced turnovers (31) and game-winning goals (9). Apuzzo is the first player from Boston College to win the award.
On the impact that Apuzzo has on her team, Walker-Weinstein said: “I think what she does, it teaches all of her teammates to try to be good at many different things and not just be one-dimensional. Sam has 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.”
Perhaps equally impressive is the startling emergence of Arsenault, who primarily played on the defensive end as a freshman and sophomore before being shifted to midfield this season. In all of 2017, Arsenault scored 15 goals and 23 points. In 2018, she tallied 81 points in the regular season alone.
Recalling her back-and-forth history on the field, Arsenault told BC Heights Magazine: “(In 2017), I started all through the fall as a midfielder, and after the (first) Maryland game (my coaches) were like, ‘We need you more on the defensive end,’ so I totally switched and played defense and would come over for certain plays,” she said. “But this year, (Walker-Weinstein) said, ‘We’re really going to need you to play midfield.’”
“Dempsey might be the best athlete we’ve ever had at Boston College,” Walker-Weinstein said before the season, displaying a confidence and faith that was quickly rewarded.
The shift was a game-changer for the BC offense.
The off-the-field friendship between Arsenault and Apuzzo quickly blossomed into an onfield explosion.
“(Sam and Dempsey) play really well together; they really have a connection,” assistant coach Kayla Treanor told reporters.
Although initially hesitant to be the shooter on offense, Arsenault embraced the mindset.
“This year was a switch, where I needed to stop thinking of (shooting) as (selfishness), and just like as doing what is best for the team. It’s funny, because, I see Sam and everyone who scores, and I’m just so happy for them so I know they’re the same for me.”
Although the program loses one of its offensive stars with the graduation of Kaileen Hart, the return of Apuzzo, Arsenault and Kent, along with defensive anchor Elizabeth Miller (New Canaan, Conn.) and goalkeeper Lauren Daly, represents perhaps the strongest core of returning talent in the country.
Stay tuned for what promises to be yet another season of promise and deliverance.