The 2019 defeat of North Carolina by the Boston College Eagles in the 2019 NCAA Tournament semifinal is No. 5 on our list of Boston College sports moments in this decade. The moment, however, was about three years in the making.
The Emergence of a Titan
Before the 2017 season everyone around Newton Campus knew BC had a strong women’s lacrosse program, but they hadn’t had much success on the national scale outside of an Elite Eight appearance in 2014.
The beginning of the success for the Eagles started with the addition of a women’s hockey player by the name of Kenzie Kent of Norwell, Mass. Kent played on the Eagles’ top line with Olympians Alex Carpenter and Haley Skarupa, and was a huge part of a women’s hockey team that made the Frozen Four. After the 2014-15 season Kent joined the team and led the Eagles to a No. 5 ranking going into the NCAA tournament before dropping against Loyola Maryland in the second round.
The 2017 season was different. The Eagles were good enough to earn the fifth seed in the ACC Tournament and got to the second round before losing to North Carolina in the second round. That effort was good enough for an NCAA Tournament berth.
The Eagles opened with a resounding 21-9 victory in Syracuse against Canisius. Next up were the hosts– Syracuse– in their own building. The end result was a trouncing of the Orange, giving the Eagles their first ever Final Four bid, a date with an upstart in their own right– the Naval Academy– at Gillette Stadium.
Thanks to a five goal effort by Kent and a solid effort by an emerging star named Sam Apuzzo, the Eagles came back from a halftime deficit to defeat Navy and set up a date with perennial queens-of-the-hill Maryland. Despite falling in the championship to Maryland, it was clear the Eagles had arrived on the national scene.
Then, a bombshell. Kent announced that she would redshirt her senior season to preserve one year of eligibility for the 2019 season. The Eagles would be without one of their best pieces in 2018.
The Eagles didn’t miss a beat. Sam Apuzzo built on a fantastic sophomore year, and alongside a strong year from junior Dempsey Arsenault and reliable goaltending from Lauren Daly, the Eagles made their way back to the national championship before losing to upstart James Madison.
It was clear after years of being a sleeping giant, titans emerged from Newton Campus.
The Big, Bad Eagles
The Eagles had emerged as perennial powers, and expectations were high. Sam Apuzzo was coming back for her senior year, and Kenzie Kent was coming back from her redshirt season to complete one of the best attacking corps in the country. Dempsey Arsenault was back, Cara Urbank was too, and if I were to list off all of the pieces the Eagles had returning we’d be here all day.
The Big, Bad Eagles were ready to take on the world, and had the pieces to do it.
And take on the world they did. The Eagles blew through their regular season schedule, making a joke out of the nation’s best women’s lacrosse conference. The Eagles more than earned the No. 1 seeding in the ACC Tournament, coincidentally held on BC’s campus at Alumni Stadium.
The Eagles blew past Louisville in the first game before Syracuse took BC to the brink of defeat, but a comeback effort capped by a Taylor Walker goal with 17 seconds left preserved the Eagles’ chances in the ACC Tournament. The Eagles fell to North Carolina in the championship, but the Eagles had more than earned their place in the national conversation.
The Eagles were given the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, and home field up until the Final Four. The Eagles blew past Colorado and took down Princeton, setting up a rematch against North Carolina.
A War in Homewood
The 2019 Final Four took place on the campus of Johns Hopkins, themselves a perennial power in the lacrosse world. It seemed as good a place as any for a grudge match.
The Eagles had taken the regular season matchup between the two teams in Chapel Hill, but Carolina took the ACC Championship game. It was clear this was a matchup between two very evenly matched teams.
It was a beautiful day in Homewood, and the Eagles and Tar Heels faced off at 5:05 PM.
Fifteen minutes of game time later, the word was crashing down around the Eagles.
Lauren Daly Saves the Day
It would be accurate to say that the 2019 season was a season of ups and downs for the senior goaltender from Shoreham, N.Y. Daly was the goaltender for the Eagles’ runs in 2017 and 2018, and she was named to the preseason All-ACC team.
That said, as the season went on Daly begun to fall out of the favor of Acacia Walker-Weinstein, and Abbey Ngai had begun to get starter minutes ahead of Daly, who had only seen the field in relief for most of the season.
Yet, eventually, Daly’s time came. In the ACC semifinal Abbey Ngai let in nine goals on eleven shots. For a team in a dogfight, that wouldn’t do, so Walker-Weinstein made the call to pull Ngai and replace her with Daly. Daly performed admirably, holding the Orange just enough for the Eagles to complete the comeback.
Ngai ended up back in net for the Eagles for the NCAA Tournament, and was the starter for the Eagles in Homewood.
Ngai was also the goaltender who let let in six goals on six shots to open the semifinal.
It was time for a change. Walker-Weinstein called Daly’s number.
With Daly in net, the ensuing draw-control went to Sam Apuzzo, and the Eagles went to work. Protected by four saves on six shots on goal by Daly, the Eagles powered back and went into the locker room at halftime just down by two.
The Eagles came out swinging in the second half, and the Eagles had a lead down the stretch off a Jordan Lapin goal. But then Jamie Ortega scored for UNC, and the game went to overtime.
BC won the draw control to open the overtime period, and the Eagles called timeout. Off the timeout, Dempsey Arsenault turned the ball over and the Tar Heels brought the ball down the field. Olivia Ferrucci sent a shot in that was turned aside by Daly, and the Eagles brought it back where Sam Apuzzo sent in a shot that went wide.
North Carolina got the ball with 1:05 left in the period. After a timeout, the Tar Heels set up a shot. With the tension mounting. Ferrucci sent in a shot and…
The game required a second overtime.
Kenzie Kent won the draw to start the second overtime and the Eagles brought the ball downfield. The Tar Heels would not get the ball back again.
After passing the ball around, Kenzie Kent sent the ball back to Apuzzo behind the net. Apuzzo emerged from behind the net with Emma Trechard guarding closely. Apuzzo made a move and switched to her left side and took a shot.