All week long, as we previewed the Final Four matchup between Boston College and North Carolina, most certainly didn’t think a win would be impossible; College Crosse gave North Carolina a 69.1% chance of winning - difficult odds for BC, but not out of the realm of possibility.
But when coming up with scenarios for how BC could win, the script usually went something like:
- BC’s only slight statistical edge over UNC this season is draw controls.
- Charlotte North is a unique player who can get hot and dominate draws, then score difficult goals and keep BC afloat in a gunfight against an incredibly talented UNC offense
- UNC’s offense was by far the nation’s most efficient, and was loaded with elite goalscorers.
- Therefore, the script for BC: North dominates in draw controls, BC is efficient with the ball, doesn’t turn it over, converts chances into goals, and uses the draw to keep UNC’s powerful offense away from the BC net, where the Eagles’ defense was not bad all year, but not one of the nation’s elite.
As it happened... it did not work like that at all.
The Eagles got dominated in draws, 16-7. It was mostly North in the circle against UNC’s Ally Mastroianni, and Mastroianni stayed hot the whole game and kept giving UNC opportunities. And UNC converted these draws into shots, too, outshooting the Eagles 35-26.
BC also fell behind early, with deficits of 3-1 and 4-2, going long stretches without touching the ball or getting a shot on goal. Not the usual recipe for an upset win.
Charlotte North was, by and large, kept in check by UNC’s elite defense, which held her to two goals and seven shots.
But somehow, BC did it.
How? Well, the explanation obviously begins with Rachel Hall, who played the game of her life, making 10 saves on 21 shots including some absolute robberies, particularly in the second half as UNC was heating up and the Eagles were clinging to a shrinking lead. Hall held UNC to 1-for-5 in free position chances - and make no mistake, that was mostly Hall, who made a number of clean saves on shots on these situations that went right at the net.
BC also demonstrated their balance, with supporting cast members like Caitlynn Mossman and Courtney Weeks contributing big goals. Jenn Medjid showed her poise and experience throughout the game, potting four goals, including a what proved to be the decisive goal, a key free position score with 15:27 to go to put BC up 11-6.
In the first half, Boston College also made some critical plays to limit UNC possession and give themselves the ability to build a lead.
BC topped UNC in ground balls 8-5 in the first half, and UNC had more turnovers than the Eagles, 5-2; these numbers flipped in the second half, but by that point BC had built a lead and UNC was coming on strong down the stretch. The Eagles’ ability to hang on to the ball and win opportunities when it got loose allowed them to build that early lead.
The play that allowed BC to tie the game in the first half 4-4 with 11:45 to go started with a turnover caused by Hollie Schleicher while UNC was on the attack; Belle Smith scooped it up, moved it quickly down the field, and North flew in for a goal, pulling BC even at 4-4; the Eagles would never trail again.
The end result of the combination of Hall’s standout goaltending and BC’s dogged first half play was an upset victory that came in a way few would have expected.
Now the Eagles are staring down a national final against Syracuse, another difficult opponent. While they will hope North will once again put up big numbers and give BC plenty of chances to score by winning the draw control duel, it will build confidence for the Eagles knowing that it’s not the only way they can win.