Lacrosse: What to watch for: No. 1 Northwestern prepares for final battle against No. 3 Boston College


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Sophomore defender Samantha White controls the ball in transition. White secured her first trip to the national championship in the Cats’ 15-7 victory over No. 5 Denver on Friday.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — When No. 1 Northwestern and No. 3 Boston College met 97 days ago, the contest provided what coach Kelly Amonte Hiller called “a gift to the sport.”

The Wildcats (20-1, 6-0 Big Ten) triumphed 15-14 over the Eagles (19-3, 8-1 ACC) in thrilling comeback fashion. Graduate student goalkeeper Molly Laliberty introduced herself to the NU faithful, denying Boston College midfielder Cassidy Weeks from the eight-meter with 1:44 remaining  to clinch the early-season upset.

February’s faceoff fueled the Cats’ charge into conference play, as the team grabbed a statement victory against a top-five opponent in just the third game of the season.

Meanwhile, the Eagles experienced another slip-up two games later — versus then-No. 1 North Carolina — simmering championship hype from Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

But, both teams battled through the trenches of the two preeminent conferences in the country, the Big Ten and ACC, clinching regular-season and tournament titles before sweeping their tournament slate en route to the culminating hour of the dance

Here’s a few factors to focus on as NU takes on Boston College on Championship Sunday in Cary, North Carolina.

1. Facing an old ally

When Eagle coach Acacia Walker Weinstein worked as Amonte Hiller’s assistant coach in Evanston, the program picked up three consecutive national championships from 2006-2008

Walker Weinstein carried her winning ways to Chestnut Hill, making six consecutive national championship games and capturing her first national title in 2021.

“Acacia worked on my staff for a period of time, and (I) have a lot of love for her and her staff,” Amonte Hiller said. “I’m just really excited about the opportunity, and it’s gonna be a great battle.”

With Boston College and the Cats both booking consistent runs in their perennial tournament trips, both coaches possess an extra edge that will determine the difference between winning and losing. 

 2.  A showdown between two shutdown defenses

While much of the focus centers around graduate student attacker Izzy Scane and Eagle attacker Jenn Medjid, the two superstar scorers will face some of the nation’s most elite defenders on Sunday.

NU hasn’t surrendered more than seven goals in its three tournament games, holding No. 5 Denver scoreless in the second quarter en route to a blowout victory.

“Coming out of the first quarter (Friday), we kind of figured it out,” junior defender Kendall Halpern said. “We focused and had more gratitude for the moment we were in — and we’re super excited for tomorrow.”

Laliberty, sophomore defender Samantha White, Halpern, junior defender Carleigh Mahoney and the rest of the Cats’ defensive unit managed to keep most of their opponents at bay throughout the year — and Amonte Hiller hopes they do the same on Sunday.

The Eagles have conceded just 20 goals in their three NCAA Tournament games, and held No. 2 Syracuse to its lowest scoring figure of the season on Friday. The Orange’s Tewaaraton Finalist attacker and top scorer Meaghan Tyrell tallied just one shot and zero points against Boston College’s stingy defensive scheme.

With Eagle goalkeeper Shea Dolce pulling off improbable saves on a routine basis, and the defense buying into Walker Weinstein’s gameplan, Boston College looks to repeat its February feat of holding Scane scoreless for two quarters — and extend that goal to an entire game.

3. Nothing left but the action

As NU completed its final championship preparations in North Carolina’s Bill Koman Practice Complex, a palpable aura of anticipation reverberated throughout the facility.

The players worked all year for this one moment — a chance to etch their names in history and secure the program’s eighth national title. This opportunity encapsulates many of their “why Northwestern” answers — these Cats arrived on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan with one lofty goal in mind.

“We put in a lot of work in the fall as a group,” senior attacker Erin Coykendall said. “People put in a lot of work as individuals over the summer, and we fall back on that when things don’t go our way. We trust that we’ve been there before — we’re battle tested and just trust our preparation and believe in each other.”

For Boston College, Sunday’s matchup gives the team a chance to build on its already storied history with a second national championship and avenge its early season defeat.

With just an hour of action left before curtain call, everything remains up for grabs.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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