We are less than 48 hours from UNC and Northwestern attempting to keep their perfect seasons alive and advance to the 2021 National Championship game. Both teams will face stiff tests but in much different ways. Northwestern will take on their first true top 5 opponent of the season and one of the best zone defenses in women’s lacrosse. UNC will face a Boston College team that not only is looking for revenge after a 21-9 defeat in the regular season, but has also advanced to the last two National Championship games.
Let’s be clear, this Boston College team is nothing like the last two teams to advance to the National Championship game. Sam Apuzzo, Dempsey Arsenault and Kenzie Kent have moved on and Charlotte North has transferred in from Duke. The team still has the same aggressive personality but it is a different cast of characters.
The difficult part of this game for Boston College is UNC excels against man to man defenses. When UNC has struggled this year, it has been against zone defenses that pack in the 8 meter and dare the Tar Heels to try and find cutters. If there is one thing this UNC offensive attack isn’t extraordinary at, it is taking a defender one-v-one, dodging and going to cage. While Ally Mastroianni, Scottie Rose Growney and Jamie Ortega have that skill, no one would pick them as an elite dodger. In fact, some would argue Nicole Humphrey is the best dodging attacker on the team. Kerrigan Miller has amazing split dodge skills but she isn’t the scorer the others are.
None of that matters when you have room against man to man defenses. UNC struggled against Syracuse, Stony Brook and Duke when they sat in a zone for much, if not all, of the game. That said, the Tar Heels still came out victorious. It will be interesting to see if Boston College attempts to sprinkle in some zone defense during this game. Unfortunately, zone defenses aren’t something a team can pick up in one week. Syracuse’s Gary Gait has worked on perfecting his zone defense for years. Just to put in perspective how good UNC is when they can find cutters, the Tar Heels had 182 assists on 318 goals (57%). Boston College had 137 assists on 325 goals (42%).
The one clear advantage Boston College has on the stats sheet is the draw control. Charlotte North has 170 draw controls and BC has 361 as a team versus their opponents which had 218. Ally Mastroianni has 104 draw controls and UNC has 266 versus their opponents which had 213.
When UNC is challenged, it is when the opposition controls the draw circle. If UNC controls the draw, the game is basically over. No defense can stop UNC’s offense repeatedly when they are forced to defend without rest. Boston College will need to win the draw controls and have huge games from Charlotte North, Jenn Medjid and Belle Smith if they plan to upset the #1 and undefeated Tar Heels.
All that being said, we know when UNC brings their best, no one can beat them. Stony Brook played the best 52 minutes of lacrosse they could and still ended up losing in the Elite 8. Jamie Ortega is given a hat trick, Katie Hoeg will have four or five assists and Ally Mastroianni, Scottie Rose Growney, Caitlyn Wurzburger and Tayler Warehime are going to combine for six to eight goals. When you look at the numbers, Boston College has to shut down two of the four not named Hoeg or Ortega. Even if they do that, Melissa Sconone, Kerrigan Miller and Nicole Humphrey all have the ability to add a few goals.
We are not saying Boston College cannot win this game. What we are saying is the Eagles will have to play the best 60 minutes of the year to knock off one of the most talented rosters in the history of women’s lacrosse.