FOXBOROUGH — To make history is never easy, and for the Boston College women’s lacrosse team competing in its first Final Four, it was 30 minutes away from disappearing as fast as it had come.
But behind a team-high five goals from Kenzie Kent, the Eagles produced a spectacular second half to hold on and defeat Navy, 16-15, on Friday night at Gillette Stadium.
Unseeded BC (17-6) advances to play top-seeded and undefeated Maryland on Sunday in the national championship game at 11 a.m. at Gillette.
“These girls, they’ve earned it. It is their opportunity,” said BC coach Acacia Walker.
“I am just going to try and do a little bit of scouting in the next couple days and just hope my girls can put together more of a 60-minute game. It’s special though, definitely special.”
Trailing at halftime, 9-6, BC came out with a skip in its step. Five unanswered goals came within the first 6½ minutes as the Eagles grabbed their first lead of the game since 3-2 at the 21:34 mark in the first. Kent scored off from a beautiful feed from Kate Weeks that gave BC a 10-9 lead and Weeks capped the run with a goal with 23:32 left.
“We were shooting horribly in the first half, and shooting has been our thing the whole year,” said Walker. “We mapped out what we needed to do at halftime and they did it.”
Navy finally answered at 22:03 as Meg O’Donnell scored her second of the game on an assist by Andie O’Sullivan. Sam Apuzzo and Kent then answered and gave BC its largest lead of the game, 13-10, with back-to-back goals in a span of less than two minutes.
The Midshipmen hung tough and never let the Eagles increase the lead any greater than that. A close-range stuff from Julia Collins and then a free position goal from Kelly Larkin closed the gap to just one, 16-15, with 1:10 left.
But after Kent came out with the draw at midfield, the Eagles were able to hold on.
“We came here to win a championship, and so I credit BC’s really spectacular second half, and I also credit our team for fighting back until the end,” said Navy coach Cindy Timchal.
Navy put the pressure on BC early — dominating the attacking zone andbreaking away from a 4-4 tie with a 4-0 run in the span of 10 minutes. The Eagles finally got back into the scoring column with 3:30 left in the first half when Apuzzo found a cutting Emma Schurr, who stuffed it into the net. Larkin then struck for her fourth goal of the first half moments later, but BC was able to cut the deficit back to three, 9-6, on a huge unassisted goal eight seconds before the horn from Kent.
The Midshipmen (18-5) outshot BC, 26-14, in the first half, but the spectacular play in net from Longmeadow native Zoe Ochoa (nine saves) kept the Eagles within striking distance.
“I think the biggest thing on defense is just kind of taking it one play at a time and every time the ball comes down, it’s regroup,” said Ochoa. “We all have to do our jobs and just hope everyone trusts each other.”
Lauren Daly replaced Ochoa in net for the second half in keeping with the strategy the Eagles have used all season, and the sophomore was just as dominant, tallying six saves.
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Maryland moved one win from capturing its third national championship in the last four years after defeating No. 4 Penn State, 20-10, earlier Friday at Gillette.
Maryland (22-0) had five players score three or more goals — led by midfielder Jen Giles, who had a game-high eight points (4 goals, 4 assists). The Nittany Lions (17-4) never had an answer for the Terps’ attack.
Penn State was led offensively by midfielders Katie O’Donnell (four goals) and Maggie Gallagher (three goals).Karl Capen can be reached at email@example.com.