The NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament has been straight chalk so far - the top 8 seeds moved into the quarterfinals with relative ease, setting up the matchups everyone was anticipating to determine spots in the Final Four.
The most even and intense of these matchups is likely to be tomorrow’s game between #4 Boston College and #5 Notre Dame (Saturday, 3 PM ET, ESPN3). With 5 ACC teams among the Elite Eight, this is the only in-conference tilt.
The reward for winning this game will likely be a Final Four matchup against undefeated, #1-ranked UNC, who takes on #8 Stony Brook tomorrow afternoon. But that’s next week’s problem. For now, the focus for BC is on advancing to their fourth straight Final Four.
Based on the two regular season matchups between these teams, the Eagles have to feel pretty good about their chances. BC took on Notre Dame in Chestnut Hill in a two game set back in April and swept them, 19-11 and 18-12, running out to blistering first half leads in both games and being able to coast in the second half.
Those two games were an example of how scary the BC offense can be when it gets rolling. The Eagles have averaged 16.9 goals per game this season, topping everyone in the ACC - even North Carolina - and demonstrated their firepower against overwhelmed opponents in the first two rounds of the tournament, winning 19-6 and 21-11 against Fairfield and Temple.
On paper, BC has the advantage on Notre Dame, as they are not only one of the best in the nation at scoring - they are also a leader in shots and draw controls, and their gamebreaking player, Charlotte North, is on another level from some of Notre Dame’s top stars (The Irish leading scorer and second-team All American, Kasey Choma, has 2.5 goals per game, to North’s 4.8).
Given North’s draw control prowess, and Notre Dame’s struggles in that department (a draw control rate of 47.5%, compared to 61% for BC), the Eagles will hope to rack up a large number of possessions and hope that converts into shots and goals.
Notre Dame will pin their hopes in the fact that they have a slight statistical edge defensively, including being one of the ACC’s top teams at forcing turnovers. The Irish forced 8 first-half turnovers against Robert Morris in their NCAA tournament opener, a 16-0 laugh riot that ended up being the first shutout in NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament history.
In addition to having solid overall team defense, Notre Dame’s goalie, Bridget Deehan, leads the ACC in saves per game with 9.24. She will need to be on her game to limit BC’s ferocious offense from turning their usual possession dominance into an avalanche of goals.
The other thing that could have Notre Dame feeling pretty good is coming in off a win against a fellow ACC team, topping Virginia 13-8 in the round of 16. BC romped through two midmajors in the opening weekend of the tournament, but hasn’t faced an ACC team since the disappointment of falling to Syracuse in the conference semifinal.
The game faces off at 3 PM on Newton Campus Soccer and Lacrosse field - site of BC’s previous Elite Eight triumphs. Here’s to another one.
NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament Schedule
#1 UNC vs. #8 Stony Brook - Saturday, 12 PM
#4 Boston College vs. #5 Notre Dame - Saturday, 3 PM
#3 Syracuse vs. #6 Florida - Saturday, 2 PM
#2 Northwestern vs. #7 Duke - Saturday, 1 PM
May 28 & 30 - Towson University, Towson, MD