Skip to main content
Boston College came back to beat Northwestern and win its second-ever national championship.

'Hardened' By Losses, Boston College Completes Classic Comeback in Cary

May 26, 2024
Kenny DeJohn
Andy Mead

CARY, N.C. — Nearly 5,000 people couldn’t believe it. Northwestern couldn’t believe it. Shea Dolce herself couldn’t even believe it.

Erin Coykendall planted her left foot on the left-most hash of the eight-mater arc, her stick cocked back in a shooting position with 29.3 seconds left in Sunday’s NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse championship game at WakeMed Soccer Park.

With Northwestern trailing by one, the ball was in the stick of one of the Wildcats’ best weapons. On the whistle, Dylan Amonte cut behind Boston College defender Sydney Scales, who had her eyes squarely on Coykendall.

Coykendall quickly darted her eyes right to shift the defense before delivering an on-the-mark feed to the streaking Amonte, who faked high and aimed for the bottom-right corner. Dolce stuck out her left leg in a desperation attempt to preserve the lead Boston College fought so hard to claim. The ball ricocheted off her shin.

Northwestern’s final attempts came up empty after the restart, and as one last pass went high and trickled out of bounds, Dolce threw her arms up to celebrate Boston College’s 14-13 win over the defending national champions.

In their seventh straight national championship game appearance, the Eagles collected their second-ever title (2021).

“I honestly don’t know how I got a piece of it,” said Dolce, who made nine saves. “Somehow, I think it hit my foot. … Honestly, I don’t remember much of it.”

BC's Shea Dolce
Shea Dolce celebrates with Lydia Colasante and Belle Smith.
Andy Mead

Dolce might not remember the save, but her performance — and the game as a whole — won’t soon be forgotten.

Boston College dug itself a 6-0 hole after one quarter, with Dolce struggling to pick up the ball and the offense finding it difficult to navigate its way through Northwestern’s aggressive defense. Thoughts of last year’s 18-6 loss to Northwestern on the same field with a title on the line came to mind.

Acacia Walker-Weinstein, the architect behind Boston College’s nation-leading 139 wins since 2017, leaned into it.

“I think the losses along the way were part of this process,” she said. “And I’m not glorifying the losing by any means, but I do think I, our staff, our players needed to be hardened a bit to be ready for this moment, and I think some of the losses did just that.”

The second quarter portended a serious momentum shift to come. Boston College finally broke through when Rachel Clark assisted Emma LoPinto with 9:44 left in the first half, ending a scoring drought of 20:16 to begin the game. Andrea Reynolds’ free position rip and the first of four straight Kayla Martello goals put the Eagles down 6-3.

Martello’s third and fourth goals came inside the final 75 seconds of the half, putting Boston College down 8-6 — and shifting the energy in the stadium.

Acacia Walker-Weinstein

I think the losses along the way were part of this process. ... Our players needed to be hardened a bit to be ready for this moment, and I think some of the losses did just that

Acacia-Walker Weinstein

A five-goal performance earned Martello tournament MVP honors. Often overlooked on a team with so much firepower, Martello finishes 2024 with a somehow-quiet 68 goals.

“I think that at the end of the day, I don't really care what happens for me,” she said. “I want to win. I think our team buys into that, and honestly, we never really talk about any of the awards …  We have one goal for the season and buy into that, and it's winning.”

After a Ryan Smith free position trickled past Molly Laliberty and cut the Northwestern lead to 8-7, the Wildcats quickly quelled the momentum. Madison Taylor went right-to-left in front of the crease for a 9-7 lead, then Izzy Scane made it 10-7.

A Boston College offense predicated on ball movement produced 10 assists on Sunday. Two great passes set up a quick 2-0 burst that again made it a one-goal game by the end of the third frame.

Davis hit LoPinto near goal line extended, and few can finish on the crease like the Florida transfer. It seemed like the Eagles might be content to head into the fourth quarter down 10-8, but Davis had other plans.

The feed-first attacker produced the offensive highlight of the game, nabbing a risky interior feed from Reynolds and deposited a backhanded goal over her left shoulder with 0.4 seconds left that sent WakeMed Soccer Park into a frenzy.

“That was outrageous,” Walker-Weinstein said. “I almost missed it. Mckenna practices that shot a lot. Every single day.”

But again, Boston College still had yet to claim its first lead. That began a tougher task when Scane opened the fourth quarter with a player-up goal for an 11-9 Northwester lead.

Positioned on the eight-meter arc, LoPinto fed a darting Clark, who also finished the equalizer with 11:05 left in the game.

For as good as LoPinto and Clark and Martello and Belle Smith and all of Boston College’s major offensive contributors were, it was Andrea Reynolds who gave the Eagles the lead — for good.

Cassidy Weeks’ low shot attempt was denied on a split-save by Laliberty, but the Northwestern goalie couldn’t corral it cleanly. Reynolds was in the right place at the right time, picking up the ground ball and shooting high before Laliberty could get up.

Less than four minutes later, Martello cemented her MVP performance with a laser that made it 13-11 with 5:55 to go.

“I started hysterically crying. I looked at [BC assistant Sam Apuzzo] when we heard Kayla's name as the MVP because she's just, you know, she's just a remarkable kid to coach because she is such a hard worker and is perfectly happy to sit in the background and let other people do it,” Walker-Weinstein said. “Meanwhile, you look at the stat sheet, she has, like, [five] goals.”

Then, it was Dolce’s time. Scane, who scored each of Northwestern’s three fourth-quarter goals in her final collegiate game, nailed a free position to make it 13-12. Taylor won the next draw for the Wildcats, and the ball once again found itself in Scane’s stick.

The all-time Division I women’s goals leader tried to beat Dolce again. The sophomore was up for the challenge. She saved it, and the transition game was on. Thirteen seconds after the save, Davis buried a feed on the doorstep from Clark.

Dolce made two more saves in the last 1:17, securing a title and allowing Boston College’s seniors to bookend their careers with championships. A storybook ending for a team that picked itself up after a 6-0 deficit to beat a team with arguably the top attacking duo in recent memory — the same team that blasted the Eagles a year ago.

“I’ve been thinking about it every single day since last year, and that’s a moment that I wanted back,” Dolce said. “I just can’t describe it. It’s a dream.”