When the Boston College women’s lacrosse team is humming, and everyone is a threat to score, it’s one of the nation’s most difficult offenses to contain.
Fairfield and Temple found that out the hard way, as the Eagles cruised to 19-6 and 21-11 wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. But the members of BC’s defensive corps have known it all along.
The BC defense — whose next mission is to stymie Notre Dame in the quarterfinals Saturday at 3 p.m. in Newton — has the unenviable task of trying to slow down Charlotte North, Cara Urbank, Jenn Medjid, and the rest of the BC goal-scorers in practice. It doesn’t always go according to plan, but it does make them better.
Graduate student Jillian Reilly is grateful to face the best of the best on a daily basis, and she believes battling her teammates prepares the defenders for what they see in games.
“It’s such an honor for us at practice to be able to play against one of the strongest offensive units in the country,” said Reilly, a former Westwood catalyst. “Having them push us in practice, with their talent and their chemistry, is something we have to compete with every day. It’s awesome. It’s a fun competition.”
Defense is key in every game, but it will be magnified when BC faces another explosive offense in rival Notre Dame. The fourth-seeded Eagles (15-3) held the fifth-seeded Irish (11-6) to 11 and 12 goals earlier this season — both smooth BC wins — but coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein is making sure her players don’t assume that will happen again.
“I think they’re a way better team than they were a couple weeks ago,” Walker-Weinstein said of Notre Dame. “They’re incredibly talented offensively.”
Jackie Wolak, Kasey Choma, Maddie Howe, and former Notre Dame-Hingham standout Madison Ahern are names to know for the Irish. Walker-Weinstein said the Eagles will have to play at a very high level, and with a high IQ, to prevail.
She said she’s very proud of freshman Sydney Scales, of Walpole, who “flies under the radar” and is anchoring the defense. Walker-Weinstein believes Scales, Reilly, goalie Rachel Hall, and the rest of the group will be up for the challenge.
Fortunately for the Eagles, even if the defense surrenders goals, they’re still in every game because of their offensive firepower. North tied the BC record for goals in an NCAA game with seven against Fairfield, then broke the record two days later with eight against Temple.
“We just watch her put on a show every game,” Reilly said. “She’s truly one of the best. Playing against her makes us better. Seeing her score, and seeing her celebrations, gives us so much energy to be able to make a play.”
North, who was recently named a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s top player, was quick to deflect any credit. She believes getting out in transition helped the Eagles in their first two NCAA wins, and the fast and talented midfielders made that possible.
“They do such a good job being the workhorses of our team,” North said. “They can run for days, and they make these incredible plays that spark that momentum for us in transition.”
The Eagles are prioritizing putting pressure on opponents and getting off to hot starts, and the matchup with Notre Dame is no exception.
They believe that if they play to their strengths, and trust what’s gotten them here, making it to a fourth straight Final Four is well within reach. That’s their goal at the moment, and they’ll prepare for the semifinals and potentially the championship game if they get there.
“Our ultimate goal is to get to that stage and win the national championship,” North said. “Right now, we’re focused on this weekend.”