Historic Boston College Season Continues into Quarters
In-Game Blog Replay
Heading into her program's first ever NCAA second round tournament game, second year Boston College head coach Acacia Walker wanted her team to play better on defense than they had during their first round win against Bryant on Friday. They lived up to the challenge.
Limiting their second round foe Loyola to three goals – two in the first half and just one in the second – Boston College (15-5) advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals with a 8-3 win Sunday afternoon against the Greyhounds (15-6.)
Defensive contributions came from all over – from the first half awareness of senior defender Claire Blohm to the eagerness of freshman goaltender Zoe Ochoa, who made four saves but also showed a cat-like ability to pounce on balls that seemed headed into her space.
"They definitely stepped up," said Walker post-game. "The energy started with Zoe, and the girls followed their game plan. They did exactly what was asked of them, and they played together."
In just her third college start, the undefeated Ochoa's positivity and excitement could be providing just the spark the Eagles need to go deep in the tournament. Walker noted that the decision to start Ochoa after the ACC Tournament was well earned.
"Zoe was bringing a lot of positive lacrosse to practice. She had been working hard," said Walker. "We've been trying to train all three goalies to be ready at any time. She was just ready. She was a spark. When we recruited her, there was so much about her attitude that we loved. It helped us with our decision a few games ago."
Ochoa was eager to give all of the credit to her teammates, particularly in a game where possession ruled the roost.
"I have a great team behind me, and I have great support," said Ochoa. "They had great control of the ball, which was stress relief for a bit. It was a nice load off my shoulders, to say the least."
The Eagles had that great control off the opening draw. Just 52 seconds into the game, they notched their opening goal, thanks to a heads up forced turnover by Kate Rich that she shot into the net. Boston College won the resulting draw and maintained possession in the zone, but Loyola goaltender Molly Wolf stood tall, making two key saves, including one on a free position shot. The Eagles cycled and found their passing lanes, not giving Loyola their first chance past midfield until seven and a half minutes into the game.
Playing the possession game was exactly what Walker wanted her Eagles to do.
"We tried to be really patient with our possessions, and against a Loyola defense, that's tough," admitted Walker. "They are incredibly strong. The girls knew going into the game that you can't throw away your opportunities against Loyola. Their defense is too good. That was definitely part of the game plan, to try to keep it out of their hands."
Loyola took advantage of their first chance past midfield to show why Walker wanted to limit their time with the ball. Eighteen seconds into the Greyhounds' first possession, Taryn VanThof connected with Sydney Thomas, who shot through traffic to tie up the game at one.
Boston College answered shortly after, with offensive stalwarts Mikaela Rix and Covie Stanwick setting the pace for the Eagles. Stanwick's athleticism was on display as she caught a pass from Rix and hopped towards the goal to shoot past Wolf. Four minutes later Stanwick was left uncovered by Loyola, running up the left side of the net and shooting into the upper right hand corner to put the Eagles up by two.
The Eagles' onslaught continued, with Sarah Mannelly getting into the action, making a hard cut through two Loyola players and shooting center into the net. The first of Mannelly's three goals on the day showed why she is just as impactful as teammates and Tewaaraton Award nominees Rix and Stanwick.
"She has been consistent for us all year," said Walker of Mannelly. "She's fearless. She brings such an intensity to the game, and she is such a good athlete."
Loyola upped their pressure after Mannelly's goal, but they couldn't stop Rix and Stanwick. Stanwick found Rix on a pass from the left side of the net that allowed Rix to score her 57th goal of the season and give the Eagles a 5-1 lead with just under five minutes left in the first half. Loyola won the post-goal draw, and Hannah Schmitt dashed upfield, shooting a laser past Ochoa for the Greyhounds' second score of the game and the last goal of the half.
In the second half, Loyola's Maddy Lesher turned up the man-on pressure on Stanwick, taking her out of the equation for Boston College. The rest of the Eagles maintained their cool, cycling the ball and keeping the ball out of the Greyhounds' sticks. Mannelly scored on a free position shot four minutes into the half to give the Eagles a 6-2 lead.
Loyola picked up a few ground balls through the second half, but found themselves turning the ball back over quickly or being stymied by an overwhelming Eagles team defense. After 15 minutes of frustration for both sides, Mannelly added her third goal of the day with ten minutes left in the game.
The exclamation point on Boston College's victory was an athletic display by Cali Ceglarski, who ran in front of the Loyola goal, flicked the ball straight up, and allowed Stanwick to run under it, catch it and shoot it for her third goal of the game.
Boston College will try to keep their all time best season as a Division I program going in next week's quarterfinals against either Stony Brook or Syracuse. Despite the record success, Walker will keep her team looking ahead. "I think on Friday our girls were excited, but our RED said it best Friday, 'We still have a little bit more history to write.'"
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