When she joined the staff eight years ago, Boston College lacrosse coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein could only dream that her program would be mentioned in the same breath as the greatest programs in the sport.
While the Eagles have come close, losing in the NCAA final the past two seasons, they continue to prove they belong at the top of the heap.
During an era of many firsts for her program, Walker-Weinstein added to the list this week as she prepares her team for another run at its first title. A year after Sam Apuzzo became the first player in BC history to win the Tewaaraton Award, given to the nation's best player, two Eagles -- Apuzzo and Dempsey Arsenault -- on Thursday were named among the five finalists for the award, another first in program history.
The only other programs to have multiple finalists in one year are Northwestern, Virginia, Maryland and Syracuse. A former standout at Maryland and later an assistant at Northwestern, Walker-Weinstein knows firsthand how special it is to be included in that group.
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"It is crazy to me," Walker-Weinstein said. "Only the legendary programs like Maryland and Northwestern and Virginia have ever done that, so to be categorized with those programs is really special and I'm just happy that the girls get to do that, they get to feel that.
"It's incredible. It's groundbreaking for BC."
Apuzzo and Arsenault being in this position is no surprise to their coach. The two seniors have been pillars of the program as it has risen to the top of the rankings. Apuzzo leads the team this season with 78 goals and 104 points, while Arsenault is third with 80 points.
"They're really just consumers for knowledge," Walker-Weinstein said. "There are a lot of really great players out there that don't develop when they go to school, or they don't get any better. These guys have gotten so much better from when they were freshmen because they take knowledge from their teammates, from their sports, from the other athletes at BC, from their coaches and they implement it. And not only do they implement it but they implement it forever. Once they learn something, it's a part of their repertoire.
"I think that's probably the coolest thing about the two of them, is so often you can tell a player what to do to make their game better, and they'll do it for a day, but then they'll go back and revert to their old habits the next day. These guys do not do that. You tell them to do something and it is forever a part of their game. It's incredible."
That aptitude extends to teammate Kenzie Kent, who is second on the team with 100 points, and who Walker-Weinstein believes should have been a Tewaaraton finalist. Kent, Apuzzo and Arsenault form a dynamic trio for BC.
"It's so rare," Walker-Weinstein said. "Usually you spend months trying to get somebody to tackle a skill or you spend years trying to break a habit, and these guys, they take knowledge and they apply it consistently, and it's really remarkable."
Now, they will try to put it together to make another run at a national championship. The Eagles begin their quest Sunday at home when they face Dartmouth or Colorado.
BC (19-1), which is the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, is coming off its lone loss of the season, a 15-13 defeat to North Carolina in the ACC championship two weeks ago. Walker-Weinstein has liked what she's seen from her squad since.
"I couldn't have asked for a better mentality in the last weeks of practice," she said. "These girls have shown me a side to them that I haven't really seen. They're getting after it, they're getting after each other, they're competing, they're grinding. That's what I love. These girls are a special group. ...
"I don't think they needed a wake-up call per se, but a good kick in the (butt) is good for anybody."
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Walker-Weinstein said the national championship is in the back of the players' minds, but it's not the singular focus as they start the tournament. She said they're not getting ahead of themselves and the mindset is right where it needs to be.
"It's something in the personalities of these guys, they're so humble," Walker-Weinstein said. "We drive it home, but they drive it home with each other. It's the true narrative of the story, we're just focused on one day at a time and incremental improvements, and just winning the next game. Not winning the biggest game of the year. The biggest game of the year is what's right in front of you."
Congratulations to the women's finalists for the 2019 @Tewaaraton Award!— NCAA Lacrosse (@NCAALAX) May 9, 2019
Sam Apuzzo - @BCwlax
Dempsey Arsenault - @BCwlax
Jen Giles - @MarylandWLax
Selena Lasota - @NULax
Megan Taylor - @MarylandWLax#NCAAWLAX pic.twitter.com/9odBycnNc5
This article is written by Steve Hewitt 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.