NCAA Championship Preview: 5 Things to Watch in BC-Syracuse Final

PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Grace Fahey (16) and Syracuse had mixed results against Boston College star Charlotte North (8) this season. North was scoreless in one matchup, but scored 11 goals combined in the other two meetings. They'll play for a fourth time in the NCAA final.


TOWSON, Md. — One thing is for sure about the Boston College-Syracuse national title game — whoever wins Sunday’s contest will be a first-time NCAA women’s lacrosse champion.

It’s the first time neither of the top two seeds will compete in the title game since 2018, when Boston College fell to James Madison.

It’s also the fourth consecutive season in which the Eagles will play in the NCAA championship game. They have yet to win any of them.

There’s no shortage of narratives for either team, both of which pulled off upsets to knock off previously undefeated squads and advance to final at Towson. North Carolina, narrowly defeated by BC on the scoreboard, never felt truly in it; Northwestern, a heavy favorite, was flustered all Friday by Syracuse’s relentless attack and defense.

It’s a worthy matchup, and a credit to the ACC. There’s plenty of storylines to keep an eye on. Here are five of them.

Fourth Time’s the Charm

It’s the fourth time Syracuse and Boston College will face off this season. Even for divisional foes, that’s a lot of lacrosse against one squad.

The Orange went 2-1 against the Eagles in their previous meetings in 2021. Two of the three were decided by fewer than two goals. The Eagles took the first one 14-13 before the Orange won two days later 16-7. In the ACC tournament, Syracuse came out on top 19-17.

In a national title game, the stakes are entirely different.

“We knew it was a weird year,” Syracuse coach Gary Gait said. “We’ve played them three times and said, ‘We could see them a fourth time,’ and sure enough, we will.”

A BC win would even out the season series, and a Syracuse win takes it 3-1. Whoever wins, though, record aside, obviously wins the one that really matters.

It’s almost impossible to think of any matchup in the nation that would be more familiar, though, so that sets a fun stage.







Fourth, or Third, Time’s the Charm Part 2

This is the fourth consecutive season in which the Eagles will fight for a national championship. They came up short against Maryland in 2017 and 2019 and against James Madison in 2018, a run featuring the so-called “Big Three” of Sam Apuzzo, Dempsey Arsenault and Kenzie Kent.

The Orange have been to two title games, in 2012 and 2014, both defeats.

One of them has to win this time, and for whoever doesn’t come out on top, it’s just another chapter of heartbreak.

“Definitely hardened,” BC coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said. “That’s a great way to put it. I think we are just trying to try to focus on the things we wanted to be better at. There are a lot of things we wanted to do better, and there’s a lot of opportunity to do those better and that starts right now with recovery, then meetings, film, scouting.”

Syracuse is a bit further removed, especially the players, for whom this title game is all they’ve ever known of the event. For them, it’s another game with a team they’ve seen plenty of times.

“We took a second to celebrate, and after that 10 minutes, it was onto the next and getting ready to play BC for the fourth time,” Syracuse attacker Emma Tyrrell said.

Secondary Stars

Boston College goalie Rachel Hall made 11 saves to take down the high-powered Tar Heels. Behind a stellar defensive effort, it was a far cry from the 21-9 loss to the same North Carolina squad earlier in the season.

Like in many other contests this season, Jenn Medjid’s timely goals put the Eagles in a spot to win. She scored a key goal to tie the game and then put the Eagles ahead late in the first half.

That depth will be challenging for the Orange, but they have plenty of depth as well. Without two of their best scorers (Emily Hawryschuk and Megan Carney) for the second half of the season, it’s been all about secondary scoring for them for a while now. Meaghan Tyrrell’s scoring prowess has been a big part of that. Gait said Friday he thought she should have been a Tewaaraton Award finalist.

“She shot very well, she found the open players when she needed to, and she made big plays,” Gait said after Tyrrell’s five-goal, three-assist performance in a 21-13 win over Northwestern. “That’s what we need from her.”

The Charlotte North Show

With Northwestern’s Izzy Scane (98 goals) out of the mix, Boston College’s Charlotte North (96 goals) is the top remaining scorer in the nation. Both came into the weekend with a chance to challenge the NCAA single-season record of 100 set by Stony Brook’s Courtney Murphy in 2016. No other Division I player — male or female — has eclipsed the century mark.

The Orange have had mixed results against North, but they did shut her out in the goals column at the Carrier Dome once this season.

After a strong defensive performance against Scane — Syracuse limited her to “just” four goals and three assists —  the Orange will look for a similar result to attempt to shut down North.

“We have one really successful game against her, and we’ll use multiple defenses and face guards and no face guards because she is a super-dynamic player,” Gait said. “Much like Scane, we’ve got to not give her open, easy shots.”

High-Powered Defenses

Syracuse had its highest offensive output of its season in the win over Northwestern, but perhaps more impressive was the defense. The Orange held the Wildcats to 13 goals, a pedestrian number for a team that’s been so prolific at scoring.

“Our defense was dialed in,” Gait said. “It was a team effort. It wasn’t a shut-off. It wasn’t a face guard. It was just great team defense.”

“In the first half [the defense was] lights out,” Tyrrell said. “They definitely frazzled the Northwestern offense. They haven’t really had that much frazzlement throughout their season.”

The Eagles offense didn’t exactly light up UNC with 11 goals, but won on their defensive end against another high-powered offensive club. Walker-Weinstein said the coaching staff identified 10 as the magic number before the game, indicating BC needed to limit the Tar Heels to a maximum of 10 goals and score just one more itself. How prophetic.

“Defensively, I can’t say enough,” Walker-Weinstein said. “They’re a really young group. Young girls, and they’ve been so coachable.”

BC pressed out against UNC early, then turned to a more inside-out approach to protect the interior against off-ball cutters.

“Our defensive coordinator [Jennifer Kent] is unquestionably one of the greatest defensive minds.  She has so many deep game plans and strategies ready to go,” Walker-Weinstein said. “It's like the kitchen sink. We’ve got everything ready.”

The North Carolina defense also was tough, but BC found ways to get through; it might be tougher with Syracuse.

“UNC’s a really great defense, but I think we had a great game plan going in,” Medjid said. “They’re great 1v1 defenders, and they don’t really slide, so we focused on our game plan.”

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