One year after reaching the NCAA title game, the Boston College women's lacrosse team maintained its lofty status by producing an undefeated 17-0 regular season.
"It's really a very different team," said BC coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein, whose top-seeded Eagles face No. 8 Louisville in an Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinal today at Duke's Koskinen Stadium.
"I know people will look at the (record) after last year and think it's easy but it's really an entirely different team. I think that we're more mentally tough. No doubt about it. That added year makes you deeper and more experienced. We've seen a lot of different scenarios this season. We've had tight games, games we've had to come from behind. It's really been a lot different."
BC is ranked second behind unbeaten Stony Brook (15-0) in the Division 1 national poll, and secured its unblemished record with a pulsating 13-12 win over Syracuse in the regular season finale on April 19. The victory was BC's fifth straight over a nationally ranked opponent. It also enabled the Eagles to match last season's 17-win team for the most single-season victories in school history, a mark it could eclipse today against Louisville (6-10-0, 0-7-0).
"We've put in so much work," said senior attacker Kaileen Hart of Babylon, N.Y. "We were up at 5 a.m. every day in the fall running and lifting. You definitely don't want to look too far ahead. We always take things one game at a time and we want to win an ACC championship first, but we do want to get back there (NCAAs). Our expectations for the program have risen. Acacia always holds us to pretty high standards. Now we have to make the most of it."
What makes the success more impressive is the fact senior attacker Kenzie Kent of Norwell, who was named the NCAA tournament's most outstanding player a year ago when the Eagles fell, 16-13, to Maryland in the title game at Gillette Stadium, took a redshirt season in order to have a full campaign next year.
"Certainly we miss her. She's one of the great players but it has allowed other players the opportunity to step up and find their niche," said Walker-Weinstein, the program's winningest coach at 69-34.
Sam Apuzzo, a first-team All-American a year ago when she set a program mark for points (119), including an NCAA-leading 80 goals, scored the game-winner with 1.7 seconds to go against Syracuse. Apuzzo, a junior attack, had a hand in eight of the Eagles' 13 goals, as the West Babylon, N.Y., product scored five goals with three assists. Apuzzo also collected a game-high seven draw controls to establish a BC single season standard of 100.
Apuzzo, who has 68 goals and 31 assists this season, has plenty of help. Junior midfielder Dempsey Arsenault is second with 72 points and 48 goals. Hart is next with 28 goals and 62 assists. Apuzzo (111 shots), Arsenault (104), and Hart (90) have shown a propensity to shoot. Redshirt senior attack Tess Chandler (32 goals) of Hopkinton and Emma Schurr (20 goals), a senior attack from Somers, N.Y., have also stepped up.
Junior defender Elizabeth Miller of New Canaan, Conn., has been the anchor on the back end where junior keeper Lauren Daly of Shoreham, N.Y., has been rock solid with a 9.21 goals-against avarage. Apuzzo, Arsenault, Hart and Miller were All-ACC first-team selections. Daly and junior middie Hannah Hyatt were second teamers.
"(Daly) just prepares so hard. She studies the shooter tendencies. She takes extra shots in practice. She's a real leader back there for us," said Walker-Weinstein.
"We've been very focused on the road (8-0). My team has been very sharp on the road. We eat, sleep, watch tons of film. We have to be prepared because Louisville is a very well-coached team and they have two (Caroline Blalock and Emily Howell) very good dodgers. So, we have to be prepared. They are a very good team and a lot better than their record would indicate."
This article is written by John Connolly from Boston Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.