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NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament 2017 preview: Maryland goes for the undefeated season against Boston College

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The Terps look to finish what they didn’t last year.

NCAA Lacrosse: Women's Championships Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago this weekend, Maryland women’s lacrosse fell to North Carolina with an undefeated season on the line. This year, the Terps have a chance at redemption against an explosive Boston College team. A win would mark the first undefeated season in women’s lacrosse since Northwestern did it in 2009, and Maryland’s first since 2001.

The Eagles are undeeded, but pulled a few upsets on their way to the championship game. Boston College entered the tournament at No. 12 in the poll before beating Syracuse in the second round and USC in the third, two teams ranked Nos. 7 and 8, respectively. A win in this game, however, would be another level of upset. This will be Boston College’s first national championship appearance, while the Terps have appeared in each of the last four, winning two.

Maryland and Boston College will face-off Sunday at 11 a.m ET, and the game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.

Last Meeting

These teams met on March 8 in a high-scoring affair that saw Maryland come away with a 21-13 victory. Caroline Wannen and Zoe Stukenberg scored five goals each, while Caroline Steele scored four and both Megan Whittle and Kali Hartshorn notched hat tricks. The turning point in the game was a 6-0 Terps run to start the second half after being up just one at halftime.

In goal, Megan Taylor had a subpar performance, allowing 13 goals on 20 shots. Taylor is coming off a stronger performance against Penn State, and should give Boston College a better fight this time around.

Players to Watch

Sam Apuzzo, 5’6, attack, No. 2. The Eagles’ most prolific scorer, Apuzzo led the team in goals and assists. Her 115 points are good enough for second in the nation, and her 76 goals are tied for third in the country. She also leads Boston College with 63 draw controls. In the first meeting, Apuzzo was a factor all over the field, racking up four goals, six points and seven draw controls.

Kate Weeks, 5’9, attack, No. 24. Along with Apuzzo, Weeks has been an explosive goal scorer this year. Her 74 goals come in second on the team and stand alone at sixth in the country. Weeks has collected a hat trick in five of her last six games, totaling 20 goals and 16 assists over that span. Last time, Maryland held her to two points on a goal and an assist.

Kenzie Kent, 5’6, attack, No. 4. Despite only playing in 10 games this year, Kent is a force in Boston College’s lineup. In those 10 games, Kent has totaled 61 points, on 29 goals and 32 assists, along with a .537 shot percentage. She’s scored 11 goals in her last two games and at least two goals in her last eight. Kent didn’t play against Maryland in March.

Kaileen Hart, 5’5, attack, No. 7. Hart has 47 goals and 71 points on the season, both third on the team. She’s scored 13 goals and dished out six assists over her last four games, including a hat trick in three of those. Against Maryland, Hart tied Apuzzo with a team-high four goals.

Strengths

Scoring offense. Boston College’s offense is its calling card, averaging 15.66 goals per game, which ranks seventh in the nation. The Eagles have four players who’ve scored at least 40 goals and five who have totaled at least 60 points. They also average over 24 points per game, which is fifth in the nation, and attempt 25.45 shots on goal per game.

Draw controls. Like Penn State, Boston College has succeeded at gaining possession this season. The Eagles are averaging about 15.4 controls per game, but are coming off a performance where they lost this battle, 18-14. To have a chance against Maryland, Boston College will need to have success in this area.

Weaknesses

Scoring defense. Although it has a strong offense, Boston College hasn’t been able to stop many teams this season. The team is allowing an average of 12.4 goals per game, which ranks 65th in the nation. The Eagles will need to tighten up their defense on Sunday to stop Maryland’s balanced and explosive offense.

Free positions. Boston College has also struggled after getting fouled, only shooting a 38 percent from free position, ranked 81st in the nation. This may allow Maryland some leeway defensively, even though it doesn’t need leeway to succeed.

Three Things to Know

  1. Boston College uses a goalkeeper platoon. While most teams use one goalkeeper, Boston College has decided to use both of its goalkeepers on a consistent basis. Zoe Ochoa (No. 34) normally plays the first half, while Lauren Daly (No. 32) relieves her in the second. Ochoa has played 57 percent of Boston College’s minutes this year, with Daly cleaning up the other 43 percent. So while the Golden Eagles aren’t always married to the platoon, they tend to follow through. Only once this year has one goalkeeper played the entire game. Against Maryland, since the Terps scored 21 goals, Boston College didn’t stick to the platoon, playing Ochoa in 47 of the 60 minutes.
  2. Maryland’s defense will be tested. At its best, Boston College plays offensive-heavy games with lots of goals. While the Terps’ offense may not find any trouble, their defense will need to hold strong to win the game. If they do, this has a chance to get out of hand.
  3. The seniors will have almost maxed out their possible games played. After playing in four national championships, two Big Ten championships and an ACC championship, the seniors will have left only one game they could’ve played on the table, playing in 91 of 92 possible games. The game they missed: The 2015 Big Ten championship, when they lost to Ohio State in the semifinal.