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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Eagles again defeat Irish to eliminate them from ACCs

For the second-straight game, No. 13 Notre Dame fell to No. 12 Boston College, this time by a score of 17-14 in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.

The Irish (11-7, 4-3 ACC) jumped out to an early 4-1 lead as sophomore attack Samantha Lynch opened up scoring, followed by a goal from junior midfielder Molly Cobb. The Eagles (13-6, 3-4 ACC) provided a brief interruption to the early Irish run as junior attack Kenzie Kent netted one to put Boston College on the board, but Lynch scored her second goal of the game just over a minute later, quickly followed by senior attack Cortney Fortunato’s first of the game.

Notre Dame senior midfielder Casey Pearsall makes a cut during a 16-13 Irish win over Ohio State on March 7 at Arlotta Stadium.
Notre Dame senior midfielder Casey Pearsall makes a cut during a 16-13 Irish win over Ohio State on March 7 at Arlotta Stadium.

From that point on in the first half, however, the Eagles stole the show. Kent scored two additional goals and picked up an assist, sending the Irish into halftime down 7-5.

Senior attack Grace Muller opened the second-half scoring just 23 seconds into the half, but Eagles sophomore attack Sam Apuzzo — who the Irish had held to just one assist in the first half — clicked into gear. Apuzzo scored back-to-back goals, giving Boston College a three-goal lead, its largest of the game to that point. Apuzzo then traded goals with Irish senior midfielder Casey Pearsall.

Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said limiting Apuzzo, who stands at No. 2 in the country in points scored with 93 this season, in the first half was a success for her team, but some slip-ups in the second, combined with Apuzzo’s talent, allowed her to score five goals.

“I think we did a really good job of shutting [Apuzzo] off the first half. We were very focused on denying her the ball, I think we made it really difficult for her to get the ball in the first half,” Halfpenny said. “Granted, she did have some touches on the ball, but she didn’t get the looks she really wanted. And the second half, we had a breakdown here, a breakdown there, but they also had a gameplan. They made some adjustments and Sam Apuzzo is an outstanding attacker … and you’ve got to give her credit for making us pay when we weren’t quite on our matches the way we needed to be.”

After trading a few more goals, the Eagles went on a 5-0 run to put them up by eight. With 13 minutes left, the Irish found themselves with under a quarter of the game to slow the Eagles’ momentum and make up a major deficit.

And they nearly did.

Notre Dame went on a 5-0 run as five different Irish players netted goals. Senior attack Heidi Annaheim started the charge and was quickly followed by Pearsall’s second of the game. After a seven-minute scoring drought from both teams, Cobb, Fortunato and junior attack Sydney Cardozo combined to add three goals. But the scoring ended there, causing the Irish rally to fall short, giving the Eagles the 17-14 victory.

“We were much more efficient in what we were doing on offense,” Halfpenny said of the adjustments that helped facilitate the 5-0 run. “We were a little bit more organized in the setup, but to be fair, it was the players making plays. I think we took care of the ball, I think that they realized our backs were up against a wall and we had a great urgency about us every time we got the ball and I thought we really hit the reset button, so it was just some players making some great plays. 

While according to the stat sheet the game was closely matched, Halfpenny said the difference in the game came through her squad’s turnovers and a few unlucky breaks.

“ … We ended up with 15 turnovers and a couple of them were just unforced errors, just in making the transition or just we didn’t settle our attack or something like that, so just a couple too many,” Halfpenny said. “It’s unrealistic to think we aren’t going to have any errors in a game, but we got caught and the timing of some of them were costly and BC was able to capitalize and score off a turnover. So, I think that that absolutely played into their hands and a few too many errors and they won the ground ball war, which then gave them a couple of extra possessions that we really needed in the tournament setting and in that round two game with them.

“ ... It was just kind of unlucky in some areas. We did score three goals that got called back via the officials, and sometimes you look and you feel like, ‘Man, we got the short end of the stick on that one.’ But a couple short ends of the stick with a couple unforced errors and you come up just short.”

Next up for the Irish will be the NCAA tournament, which begins May 12. The selection show will take place May 7. Despite the loss, Halfpenny is excited for the NCAA tournament based on the way her team finished the game against the Eagles.

“I was really excited about the way we finished the game. We really battled,” Halfpenny said. “ … It’s obviously really disappointing to have an early exit from the tournament but we’re really excited about how we finished that game and I think that that’s something that we definitely are going to take into our training this and next week as we await the NCAA tournament selection.”