The Boston College Eagles and the North Carolina Tar Heels are about as close as two teams can get in the women’s college lacrosse circuit.
Coming into Saturday, the two teams ranked as the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the country, respectively, with a combined record of 18-1. They differ by only a factor of one in nine different statistical categories, while posting identical shot percentages and turnovers.
While the two squads appear close on paper, the Eagles (11-0, 2-0 ACC) ultimately came away with the dominant 14-8 victory against the Tar Heels (8-2, 1-1 ACC) in Chapel Hill, solidifying their top-ranking in a highly-anticipated ACC matchup.
North Carolina started off with the game with the initial possession and capitalized on the fast start, jumping out to a quick 1-0 lead thanks to Jamie Ortega’s patience inside the BC zone. The former ACC and National Freshman of the Year has been crucial to the Tar Heel’s success this season and is looking to top a historic freshman year in which she tallied a school record 86 points in her first year. She finished with three goals and one assist on Saturday.
The 1-0 advantage was the only lead the Tar Heels had all day. The Eagles responded with five straight goals, including two goals from Sam Apuzzo as well as a fantastic goal from Dempsey Arsenault where she sliced through the UNC defense with ease and scored the fastest goal of the day.
BC was taking advantage of the UNC turnovers and pushing forward with ease on offense. Midway through the period, BC led the way with six shots on goals, compared to just two for UNC. Additionally, BC was gifted with three position chances in the half, converting on one of those opportunities with a goal from Jordin Lappin.
UNC would have their chances on offense towards the end of the half thanks to another goal from Ortega to end the BC goal streak. The Tar Heels would continue with another goal from Marisa DiVietro, but BC answered with a goal from Arsenault’s second of the day to push the lead back to three, making the score 6-3. She successfully juked the UNC defender for her 31st goal of the season.
The teams matched goals down the stretch, each adding two including a pair from Sheila Rietano. Sheila’s first of the two came off a clean spin move that helped work her way inside for her 17th of the season. The Eagles headed into the break with an 8-5 advantage after a dominant first half.
The second half started with a quick goal twenty seconds into the period from Jordan Lappin’s second of the day. The Eagles maintained their momentum from the first half and never looked back, adding two more from Apuzzo to stretch the lead to 11-5.
Throughout this stretch, BC goalie Abbey Ngai was stone-cold in net, staying strong during free position shots and neutralizing any threats inside their own zone. Ngai stopped a three-on-two Tar Heel breakaway for her best save of the afternoon.
However, UNC would not back down. They added a scoring streak of their own, rattling off three straight goals to close the deficit down to three at 11-8. Ortega was an offensive workhorse during this stretch, scoring one of the goals and assisting on Taylor McDaniel’s goal.
Just like they’ve done all season, the Eagles were unfazed by the newfound UNC momentum. They answered with another three goal streak, with more from Kenzie Kent and Apuzzo, as well as Taylor Walker’s first goal of the day. The game was wrapped up within the last five minutes and the Eagles cruised to a 14-8 win in their most impressive win of the season.
It was Ngai’s best performance of her young career, saving a career-high nine shots. She has not lost a game in net, going 7-0 in two seasons. Against a formidable offensive attack in top-ranked UNC, she has fully entrenched her spot as the starter.
This newly-formed rivalry has become a must-see matchup in the NCAA. Historically, the Tar Heels lead the series 16-4 after Saturday’s game, but have split the series in recent years. Their last meeting came in the 2018 ACC Championship, when UNC handed BC their first loss of the season.
The Eagles have been without a doubt the best team in women’s college lacrosse — and it isn’t really close. They have outscored their opponents by almost 100 goals (200-107), with the trio of Apuzzo, Kent, and Arsenault accounting for 132 of those goals. They’ve defeated all six of their ranked opponents and are slated for four more ranked matchups in their upcoming stretch of games.
In what could be a preview of the ACC Championship, the Eagles took round one against the Tar Heels. Next Saturday, they travel home to Chestnut Hill to face No. 8 UVA in another tough ACC matchup.
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