National Championship Preview: The Fourth Time’s the Charm
By Joe Puccio, CitrusTV Women’s Lacrosse Beat Reporter
Well, folks. We’re here. It’s the game Syracuse Women’s Lacrosse (17-3, 8-2 in Atlantic Coast Conference) has been dreaming of playing in for six years. The 2021 NCAA Championship in Towson, MD has reserved a spot for the Orange. And they are taking on their most familiar foe.
Before the 3rd-seeded Orange upset 2nd-seeded Northwestern 21-13 on Friday, 4th-seeded Boston College (17-3, 8-2 in Atlantic Coast Conference) earned their most crucial victory of their season. They took down undefeated, 1st-seeded, ACC Champion North Carolina 11-10. In a game in which UNC was heavily favored, the Eagles shocked the world and advanced to their 4th straight championship appearance.
2017, 2018, 2019, and now 2021. Boston College is entering the championship game for the fourth consecutive season. However, BC has nothing to show for it, going 0-3 in these games. As a Buffalo Bills fan, I want to bring up the obvious. So, I won’t say who the Eagles can join with a loss on Sunday.
Syracuse is no stranger to BC. In a COVID season where most of SU’s opponents came from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Boston College played Syracuse a record three times already. The Orange are 2-1 against the Eagles this season.
“We knew it was a weird year,” head coach Gary Gait joked after the win against Northwestern. “We played them three times and we’re like ‘we could see them a fourth time’ and sure enough, we will.”
In their first meeting, a Thursday game in a weekend doubleheader, Syracuse lost their unbeaten record. SU star attack Meg Carney left the game with an ACL injury and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. BC’s Charlotte North tallied 5 goals and led the Eagles to a 14-13 victory inside the Dome.
Two sleeps later on Saturday, the Orange got their revenge. This was their first game without Carney at the lead attack position, but SU found a way to fill in her shoes. Sophomore Emma Tyrrell burst onto the scene, scoring six goals after moving from midfield. The SU defense threw some different looks at North, holding her scoreless in the contest. Syracuse won 16-7 and held their number 2 ranking in the ACC.
Their 3rd meeting was in the ACC Quarterfinals. Syracuse won 19-17 in what was an offensive explosion on both sides. Charlotte North recorded six goals, go figure. The No. 1 recruit in the country, freshman Belle Smith, scored five goals in this contest as well. But, six goals from Emma Tyrrell and three from the No. 2 recruit Emma Ward sent SU to the ACC Championship.
Shootouts, a scoreless leading attack, and a star player falling to injury. The 2021 season series between BC and Syracuse has seen it all. What are we going to see in the fourth meeting of the season? It’s the highest of stakes, but Syracuse is well prepared to take on BC.
“The good thing is we played Charlotte [North] three times,” Coach Gary Gait expressed after the win over NU. “We’ve tried different defenses and we had one successful game against her. We will use multiple defenses, face guards, no face guards. We have to take away those good quality shots and make her a feeder.”
This was a pretty similar game plan to how SU handled Northwestern’s Izzy Scane. Scane led the NCAA with 98 goals. Yeah, 98. Although she averaged six goals a game this season, SU held her to four, all of which came in the second half. Syracuse might look back at that second-leg of the doubleheader as the perfect formula against BC.
“When it got to 30 seconds on the shot clock, we changed from a man-to-man to a zone,” coach Gait mentioned after the April 22nd win over BC. “We just tried to confuse them and it worked out pretty well.”
If Syracuse can confuse Boston College in their own end, it may cause too many headaches for BC to overcome. Granted, BC has proven to be one of the best two programs in the country this season, so SU should be on their toes ready for any circumstance.
You’d think a national championship would be nerve-wracking for an Orange team that has never won a title. After the win against Northwestern, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“It’s really exciting,” Emma Tyrrell said following a hat trick performance over Northwestern. “I love a good ACC matchup because it’s what we’ve been dealing with [all season].”
“We will go back to our scouting reports, rewatch the game from today, and come up with a game plan. Today, one of the biggest differences was coming out prepared for the 12-man ride that Northwestern put out on us. We’ve got to do some magic and come up with a game plan that gives us the best chance to win on Sunday,” Coach Gait remarked.
Magic, confidence, adrenaline, excitement. Those four words best describe Syracuse Women’s Lacrosse as they play in the final game of their weird, interesting, and remarkable 2021 campaign.
Both teams are hoping the fourth time’s the charm: BC entering their fourth straight championship appearance, vying for their program’s first national championship. SU looks to go 3-1 in the four-game season series and take home their first national championship as well.
Opening draw is scheduled for noon tomorrow from Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, MD. Follow my Twitter @TheRealJoePooch for live updates throughout the game.
Joe Puccio | @TheRealJoePooch | firstname.lastname@example.org