April 6, 2011

Sheehan Stanwick Burch: BC Puts Rest of ACC on Upset Alert

by Sheehan Stanwick Burch | LaxMagazine.com

Brooke Blue and Boston College rose to No. 16 in the IWLCA Division I poll after upending Virginia -- and serving notice to the rest of the ACC that it might not just be a four-horse race.

© Bryce Vickmark

It may sound like a broken record, but the upsets keep coming. 

Depending on the day, every team seems to be vulnerable, and unless you are Northwestern or Maryland, the polls really don’t seem to matter.  As a result, the 2011 season has been one of the most volatile seasons in women’s lacrosse in recent memory.

The biggest surprise of last week was No. 19 Boston College’s decisive 12-6 win over No. 7 Virginia. BC took a 6-1 lead into halftime by winning six of eight draw controls and out-shooting the Cavaliers 14-5. 

Despite their lead, the Eagles knew that Virginia was not going to pack it in. Boston College head coach Bowen Holden told her team to put even more pressure on UVA. “I told them to keep to the game plan, but to do everything they were doing a little bit better," Holden said. "We knew UVA had the ability to fight back, and I was not comfortable with that lead. I reiterated to them what had been going well and what needed to continue, one possession at a time.”

The ACC has arguably been one of the most competitive conferences in the nation, dominated by Maryland, Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. A win over a top program like Virginia is vital for Boston College as it builds its resume for the NCAA tournament selection committee.

However, Holden is reluctant to put too much emphasis on the UVA win.

“Any time you knock off a top-10 team and a program with Virginia's history, while trying to build your own program, it means something very special," she said. "However, at the same time, it is only one win. For us, we hope this is the beginning of our team knowing what they are truly capable of and maintaining that play from this point forward. It's more mental than physical at this point. Winning this game after what we've been through these last few weeks makes it even more special, because it says a lot about the team's ability to persevere -- a necessary trait when playing in the toughest conference in the country.”

Will the real Vandy please stand up?

Vanderbilt has been on a roller coaster with wins and losses, and last week seemed to be a microcosm of the Commodores' season.

Early in the week, Vanderbilt lost to unranked Louisville 12-6, only to rebound later in the week to beat Johns Hopkins by a goal. The Commodores have three more regular season games before the ALC tournament.  If they want to make a run in the ALC tournament and at the national title, it’s time that they begin to play more consistently. 

Injuries, losses mount at Syracuse

As chronicled in this space, Syracuse has been on a rough six-game road stretch, suffering losses to Maryland, Florida and Northwestern.

On Tuesday, the Orange were upset by Dartmouth, a loss that does not bode well for Syracuse as it heads into the heart of its Big East schedule. Syracuse was without starters Lindsay Rogers, who leads the team in ground balls and caused turnovers and is second in draw controls, and Tee Ladouceur, who leads the team in goals.

These two stars, who were both unavailable due to injuries, are crucial for the Orange’s offensive and defensive successes.   

Loyola emerges as Big East favorite

While some teams seem to be struggling to put all the pieces together, others have been firing on all cylinders since game one.

Loyola is one team that seems to be in complete control of its destiny this season. Even though the Greyhounds are no longer sneaking up on opponents, they continue to notch the big wins that might make them the favorite to win the Big East. They took perhaps the first step towards this goal by knocking off Notre Dame behind Grace Gavin’s stellar play (four goals and three assists).

Northwestern fixes shooting woes in time

Northwestern preserved its No. 2 national ranking and continued to roll with a 12-10 win against a very tough No. 3-ranked Duke team.

Watching the first half of the game, it was apparent that Northwestern needed to improve its shot selection. Although Mollie Mackler, the Duke goalie, was outstanding with a career-high 20 saves, Northwestern played right into her hands by consistently taking high shots.

Duke tried to set a tone with its physical play, which resulted in 38 fouls and six yellow cards.  It’s disappointing to see this style of play continue. It was equally disappointing to see that Northwestern was not able to make Duke pay for these penalties. Though Northwestern had 13 free position shots, the Wildcats only converted on three.

Nevertheless, Northwestern, fixed its shooting issues in the second half, enabling the Wildcats to pull out the win. This was an important game for Northwestern to get under its belt, considering the 'Cats were forced to make mid-game adjustments, come from behind, and then possess the ball to hold on for the victory.

Expect the unexpected

Conference play is heating up, with NCAA automatic and at-large bids at stake. It's crunch time for a lot of teams that need to get a few statement wins.

Expect a few more upsets, too.

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