BALTIMORE — There was hardly an empty seat to be found as spectators flooded Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Field on Friday night.
The palpable excitement only heightened as Boston College and North Carolina went shot-for-shot in a double-overtime thriller in the first of two NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse semifinals.
West Babylon’s Sam Apuzzo sent Boston College into Sunday’s championship game with a lefthanded laser shot, and the Eagles will face a Maryland team that drubbed Northwestern, 25-13, in a game that started 96 minutes late because of BC-UNC and an unexpected shot-clock issue between games.
Even though Maryland-Northwestern started at 9:06 p.m. and ended just shy of 11:30 p.m., many fans patiently waited out the delay and stayed to watch. The NCAA announced that a sellout crowd of 8,508 graced Homewood Field for the doubleheader, the sixth-highest attendance for an NCAA Tournament game and second-most for a semifinal.
“It’s something we’re always trying to do as a sport,” said Maryland coach Cathy Reese in a news conference that ended after midnight. “Let’s fill this place. Let’s sell tickets. Let’s get butts in the seats. Let’s push for television. Let’s continue this exposure.”
The Maryland-Boston College championship game in 2017 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, saw 11,668 fans, the most all-time. Maryland won that contest, 16-13, representing the first of two consecutive losses for Boston College in the title game. Now in its third straight final, Boston College seeks its first NCAA crown in program history.
The Eagles have the pieces. Apuzzo, Kenzie Kent and Sacred Heart’s Cara Urbank helm the attack, while Dempsey Arsenault patrols the midfield as a lethal offensive option and the team’s best 1-on-1 defender.
The biggest question for BC coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein comes between the pipes. Cold Spring Harbor’s Abbey Ngai has started every game since late-February but was pulled after making no saves during UNC’s game-opening 6-0 run.
Shoreham-Wading River product Lauren Daly, a senior, entered the game and made seven saves. Daly has more big-game experience and started every game last year, including the 16-15 loss to James Madison in the championship game at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium.
The goalkeeper, whomever it is, will have to contend with a Maryland offense that could be led by anyone on a given day. Against Northwestern, Brindi Griffin led the way with six goals. Grace Griffin (no relation) scored four times, and Tewaaraton Award finalist Jen Giles and Erica Evans each had three goals.
Caroline Steele and Kali Hartshorn can be potent options, too.
Though a championship is the foremost thought on both coaches’ minds, the prospect of growing the game remains at the forefront, too. Even in defeat, Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller spoke glowingly about where the sport has come. As did UNC coach Jenny Levy.
Reese echoed their sentiments.
“It’s great to see,” Reese said. “We have room to grow, for sure. Room to push forward. But we’re moving in the right direction.”
As did Walker-Weinstein.
“I’m really excited about this turnout,” she said. “I think Hopkins has been an incredible host, and I’m just pumped. I think the world should be proud. Lacrosse is growing, and tonight was a great proof of that.”