May 15, 2014

NCAA WD1 Notes: BC Hopes to Continue NCAA Roll

by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | May Madness Home

Boston College has played the best in the nation tough, but they'll have to do a bit more to take the next step and make the NCAA semifinals for the first time in school history. (Bryce Vickmark)

The Boston College women's lacrosse team isn't satisfied with just being competitive against the top teams in the nation.

The Eagles have at least one more big opportunity to prove whether they can do more than that.

After suffering one and two-goal losses to No. 1 Maryland, No. 2 Syracuse and No. 3 North Carolina during the regular season, Boston College (15-5) has a chance to avenge one of those this weekend during its historic postseason. The Eagles, who won their first two NCAA tournament games last weekend, play Syracuse (19-2) in the quarterfinals 1 p.m. Saturday at the Carrier Dome.

"My girls have worked so hard to get to this point," Eagles coach Acacia Walker said. "We have been close to some big wins but haven't sealed the deal with the big ACC schools yet. It felt good (getting those first two NCAA wins) because they felt their hard work pay off, but we're hoping our story doesn't end here. We're shooting for a national championship, but we have to face a great Syracuse team and that's a great opportunity."

The Eagles' other two losses were a four-goal decision against Carolina in the ACC tournament and 16-14 game against Virginia.

They ended their regular season by beating crosstown rival Boston University for a program-record 13th win. Their NCAA berth was their third overall after losing to Dartmouth in the first round last year and to Northwestern in that same round in 2011 – both by 11-8 scores.

Boston College earned its first ever NCAA wins by beating Bryant 17-9 on May 9 and Loyola (Md.) 8-3 on May 11.

"It's incredible," Walker said. "These girls have never been in this spot before, so we've been spending time making sure they are relishing this and to make sure they take advantage of every opportunity. It's great to be playing in the quarterfinals, sitting one game from a Final Four."

Syracuse came back from a 4-3 halftime deficit to hand the Eagles their first loss of the season, 11-9, on Feb. 26. Despite the fact Boston College has never beaten the Orange in 11 tries, Walker said being competitive with Syracuse and other top teams has instilled confidence in her players.

"It's allowed us to be sure of our game plan and trust the system and what we're asking them to do," Walker said. "We don't ever accept losing in our culture. We're not proud to lose by one or two goals to those programs, but the girls work hard and hopefully we learned some things from those games."

Walker said her team has to focus on playing its best but will have to stop Syracuse's big threats in Kayla Treanor and Alyssa Murray, both Tewaaraton Award finalists. Treanor leads the Orange with 71 goals and 34 assists, ranking fifth nationally with 3.38 goals per game and first for points (105), and Murray has a team-high 39 assists and 55 goals.

Covie Stanwick (47 goals, 37 assists) and Mikaela Rix (56 goals, 16 assists) pace the Eagles' offense.

VIRGINIA (11-8) AT NORTH CAROLINA (15-4)

North Carolina won a regular-season meeting against Virginia, 14-10, on March 8 as part of an 11-0 start to the season, but the sixth-seeded Cavaliers have been on a nice run as of late. They have won seven of their last nine games after opening at 4-6.

The third-seeded Tar Heels are 4-4 in their last eight games with losses to Syracuse (twice), Northwestern and Duke, but lead the series with Virginia 20-12. Carolina has won nine games in a row in the series, including a 13-9 victory in the NCAA quarterfinals last year before going on to win the program's first national championship.

Virginia is making its second straight quarterfinal appearance but looking for its first Final Four berth since finishing as runner-up in 2007. Carolina is trying for its fifth Final Four in six years.

"I don't feel we have any added pressure (as defending champs)," Carolina coach Jenny Levy said. "We have a clear understanding of what it took to do what we did. It was a lot of hard work, and the key was getting better through the course of the year. We have a lot of different faces through graduation or injury, but this group wants to repeat. They've worked hard to get better every day, and our goal has been to position ourselves to be in the hunt."

Both teams boast balanced attacks. Carolina's third-ranked scoring offense averages 15.16 goals per game and is led by Abbey Friend (62 goals, 16 assists), Sydney Holman (34 goals, 27 assists) and Aly Messinger (41 goals, 14 assists). Courtney Swan (53 goals, 26 assists), Liza Blue (53 goals, 8 assists) and Casey Bocklett (32 goals, 23 assists) pace Virginia's offense, which averages 13.47 goals per game and ranks 13th.

NORTHWESTERN (13-6) AT FLORIDA (18-2)

Florida has topped Northwestern twice already this season, but the Wildcats have plenty of NCAA tournament experience to fall back on with their final shot at the Gators before both depart the ALC next spring. (TD Paulius)

Florida-Northwestern has become perhaps the biggest rivalry in the disbanding American Lacrosse Conference, but now they meet in the NCAA tournament for the first time, 2 p.m. May 17 in Gainesville, with a Final Four berth on the line.

Florida, the No. 4 seed, made its only Final Four appearance in 2012, while No. 5-seeded Northwestern has been there every year since 2005 when it began a stretch of five straight national titles and seven overall.

The Gators have beaten the Wildcats twice this year already, most recently edging them 9-8 in overtime in the ALC Tournament Championship after rallying from a five-goal halftime deficit. They had won a regular-season matchup, 13-12, holding off a late comeback attempt by Northwestern.

In the ALC championship, Nora Barry scored the game-winner with 32 seconds left.

"It was certainly exciting," Florida coach Mandee O'Leary said after the ALC Tournament win. "We were all holding our breath. It was kind of back and forth, back and forth, and both teams walked away saying we had multiple opportunities to put the game away. Mary-Sean Wilcox came up with a big save and then we were able to stall it out until Nora Barry took that last shot. We had an opportunity before that to seal the game but it was so perfect for a Florida-Northwestern game to end like that."

The two have met in the ALC Championship game every year since 2011, and Florida is the only team other than Northwestern to win the ALC Tournament. Florida owns a 6-3 series advantage over Northwestern, though the teams have split ALC Championship games, 2-2.

Florida junior Shannon Gilroy, a Tewaaraton finalist, has a nation-leading 83 goals, 20 assists, 81 draw controls and 23 caused turnovers this season. The Wildcats are led by Kara Mupo (37 goals, 8 assists) and Alyssa Leonard (37 goals, 10 assists, 153 draw controls).

MARYLAND (20-1) VS. DUKE (11-7)

Top-seeded Maryland plays the only unseeded team left in the field, hosting Duke at noon Saturday. The Terrapins rolled to a 19-10 win over the Blue Devils in their only meeting this season on March 1.

Maryland is 18-9 against Duke all-time, including a 14-9 win over the Blue Devils in the quarterfinals last year.

The Terps, who were the runners up to Carolina last year, are trying for their sixth straight Final Four. They are led by Tewaaraton finalists Taylor Cummings (54 goals, 23 assists, 111 draw controls, 34 ground balls, 28 caused turnovers), and Megan Douty (30 ground balls, 18 caused turnovers), the ACC Defensive Player of the Year who helped Maryland hold opponents to a league-best 8.00 goals per game.

Duke, which won its only national championship in 2005, looks for its first semifinal appearance since 2011. Kerrin Maurer paces Duke's attack with 55 goals, 29 assists, 26 ground balls and 54 draw controls, and goalie Kelsey Duryea has a 9.61 goals against average.


comments powered by Disqus