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Rachel Clark scored five goals in Boston College's 10-7 win over Syracuse.

Lucky 7s as Boston College Heads to Another NCAA Title Game

May 24, 2024
Kenny DeJohn
Andy Mead

CARY, N.C. — Three sevens is a lucky combination. Boston College hit the jackpot Friday night.

The second-seeded Eagles’ defense, anchored by Shea Dolce’s 12 saves, allowed just seven goals to third-seeded Syracuse in its seventh straight defeat of the Orange — clinching a seventh consecutive appearance in the NCAA championship game.

A Syracuse drought lasting nearly 24 minutes gave Boston College plenty of time to build a lead and plenty of cushion to withstand a late run in a 10-7 win at WakeMed Soccer Park before 4,308 fans. In beating Syracuse in the semifinals for the second year in a row, Boston College secured another rematch: this one against top-seeded Northwestern in Sunday’s championship game at 12 p.m. Eastern.

Boston College lost 18-6 in last year’s national title game and 14-11 in a rematch with Northwestern in late February. Boston College head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said none of that will factor into how she and her staff prepare for Sunday.

“I think we’ll utilize the experiences over the last few years to harden us and get smart, but no, we’ll do what we always do,” she said. “We’ll study a lot of the recent film, or maybe all of the film, and we’ll look at what they’re doing differently lately and create our gameplan from more of the last month or so.

“We won’t be talking about years past. It’s already in our hearts. It’s already in our heads.”

We won’t be talking about years past. It’s already in our hearts. It’s already in our heads.

Acacia Walker-Weinstein on preparing for Northwestern

Early on, Syracuse didn’t look like a team that was about to go through prolonged quiet stretches. The Orange scored twice in the first 5:14, with Emma Ward’s lefty rip putting them up 2-1. They wouldn’t score again for 17:59.

Boston College began what proved to be the game-changing run with a behind the head flick from Emma LoPinto in front of the crease. Rachel Clark, Boston College’s other high-profile transfer portal prize, followed 43 seconds later to make it 3-2 and give BC the lead for good.

A Belle Smith trail check inside the eight-meter arc led to a transition goal on the other end by Cassidy Weeks for a 4-2 advantage with 11:03 left in the second quarter, then Mckenna Davis assisted Clark and netted one of her own.

The 5-0 spurt and 6-2 lead came despite a massive draw disadvantage. Syracuse’s Kate Mashewske, who broke head coach Kayla Treanor’s single-season draws record this spring, was a key part in Syracuse winning 15 of 20 draws. Walker-Weinstein repeatedly called her “remarkable.”

So, how do you plan for a draw taker of that magnitude? Boston College wanted to ground and pound.

“She has a remarkable skill set,” Walker-Weinstein said. “We just decided that the best strategy to combat that was to try to have all three people on the draw circle after every single ground ball. The mission was to get the ball to the ground. It’s really the only way to beat someone like her, and clearly, we still didn’t beat her.”

BC's Ryan Smith and Syracuse's Kate Mashewske.
Ryan Smith (Boston College) and Kate Mashewske line up for a draw.
Andy Mead

Boston College did win the ground ball battle, however, with that 21-12 edge helping to offset the number of draws lost.

The constant fight for control made for a helter-skelter game between the 30s. It also made it difficult for either team to truly grab hold of the momentum, outside of the aforementioned BC burst.

Syracuse finally got on the board again when Natalie Smith emphatically broke the ice with 6:47 left in the half. She then fed Olivia Adamson 33 seconds later, making it 6-4 at halftime.

And while Boston College pushed the lead to 9-4 by the end of the third quarter, Syracuse never seemed too far from making it a game. They peppered the BC defense with shots in the second half, but Dolce stonewalled the Orange again and again. Eight of her 12 saves came in the second half, including two in a seven-second sequence on the first possession of the fourth quarter.

“I think some of the messages that we’re sending are a little different, and we have such amazing leaders back there,” Dolce said about handling championship weekend after last year’s letdown against Northwestern.

That, though, was something of a deflection — typical of a goalie. Walker-Weinstein wasn’t shy of praising her sophomore goalie.

“To have a stabilizer like Shea in cage, any slip up or a good offensive play, we have Shea back there to back everybody up,” she said.

Syracuse showed life in the fourth quarter, scoring three goals in less than three minutes. After Ward’s righty rip down the alley cut the deficit to 9-7, Mashewske won the draw cleanly and Natalie Smith got a clean look at the goal, but Dolce made another stop.

The Orange took just two more shots in the final 8:05, and Clark iced it with her fifth goal of the game with 31 seconds left to play.

Boston College’s seven straight championship game appearances is the second-most in Division I women’s lacrosse history, trailing only all-time great dynasties in Maryland (eight, 1994-2001) and Northwestern (eight, 2005-12).