It feels like this was always supposed to be the year.
Two seasons ago, a young, unseeded Boston College team made a somewhat surprising run to the NCAA final before bowing out against Maryland, the titan of women’s lacrosse. But in that final, BC junior Kenzie Kent put up an astonishing 5 goals and 5 assists, good enough to be named tournament MVP despite putting up the numbers in a losing effort.
Last year Kent took a redshirt to focus on her final season of women’s hockey. In her place, Sam Apuzzo led the Eagles to by far their best season in program history, rolling through the regular season undefeated (in the ACC, no less!) before losing heartbreakers in the ACC and NCAA championship games. But again, it was clear that the Eagles had some next-level talent: Apuzzo claimed the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s best player... and the best part? She wasn’t finished on the Heights just yet.
And now, here we are. Welcome to the 2019 Boston College Women’s Lacrosse season, where the only thing greater than than the Eagles’ talent seems to be the impossible expectations that were heaped upon the program coming into the year. BC was voted preseason number one for the first time ever, and with good reason. The Eagles had knocked off top seeded Maryland to make it to last year’s championship game and not only returned the nation’s best player and the bulk of her supporting cast, but also brought in the country’s top-ranked recruiting class, PLUS! the 2017 NCAA tournament MVP who had taken a year off!
The hype was through the roof, and it was everywhere, from the polls to the cover of Inside Lacrosse Magazine.
My knowledge of lacrosse is pretty much limited to the fact that “draw control” just means “faceoff” and that “Apuzzo” is pronounced just the way it’s spelled and not like the New Haven style of pizza known on Wooster Street as “ah-BEETZ.” But I, a lacrosse layperson in any sense of the word, can tell when something exciting is happening and is worth appreciating.
This weekend, the Eagles played #3 North Carolina on UNC’s own field and smoked them out. After the Heels scored the first goal of the game, BC scored five straight, and that was pretty much that. The week before, BC so comprehensively manhandled #21 Georgetown that the officials started a running clock (!) before they had even gotten to the midway point of the first half of the game. I don’t pretend to be an expert on lacrosse (I’m not) nor do I want to come off as someone who has been following the program for any appreciable length of time (I haven’t), but as someone who takes a sometimes embarrassing amount of pride in the diploma hanging from my wall and all the lofty ideals it represents... my God, do we need this.
All of BC’s biggest sports came in with high hopes this year but came up empty. Football fell apart down the stretch after GameDay came to the Heights, and God himself prevented us from getting a bowl win. Basketball came in with maybe a little NCAA tournament optimism, but that was a giant Nope. Men’s and women’s hockey both seemed to finally have all the pieces necessary for Frozen Four berths and title runs but came up empty not just nationally, but in the Beanpots and Hockey East tournaments as well. In short, it’s hard to remember any year that started with such optimism throughout the BC athletic department only to finish as such a thorough disappointment.
And now, finally, here we have a Boston College program that could not have possibly come in with more unfairly high expectations... and they’re somehow exceeding them! It feels like the Eagles have someone pushing for an Ovechtrick in every game. Sam Apuzzo wins draw controls like a 7 footer wins basketball tip-offs. The Eagles just score and score and score and when the other team gets a chance, they’re faced with a goalie who is on pace to put up the school’s highest save percentage... ever! It’s a work of art and it’s a privilege that we have an opportunity to follow a team that’s this exciting wearing maroon and gold. Such dominance in any sport is rare — I don’t care what school you support.
We’re now approaching the end of the BC athletic year, and while there are other BC squads out there wrapping up their seasons, I’m sure they would forgive me for being so agog at what the women’s lacrosse team is doing. Because frankly, they’re probably right there with me. There are just six games left in the WLAX regular season, and after having our hearts broken by so many other BC teams coming up short this year, there’s nothing else I’d rather do for the next two months than watch this team try to make up for all of them. Seeing BC have some real success in something, finally, is like a tonic.
Boston College hosts the ACC tournament at the end of April, followed by the NCAA tournament and, hopefully, a Final Four appearance down in Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend. As the men’s and women’s hockey teams — and indeed, this very women’s lacrosse team — have learned all too well lately, winning a national title is anything but handed to you. But you cannot ask for anything more than having a shot. And BC WLAX has certainly given themselves that.
The Eagles host #7 Virginia on Saturday at noon in Newton. Watch them. Dive in headfirst. God knows we’ve put in our time being miserable this year. Take the rare opportunity to fall in love with BC sports again.
These women just might salvage an entire year of Boston College Athletics for us. You’ll regret it if they pull it off and you weren’t there along for the ride.