After three consecutive years of devastating losses in the title game, Boston College women’s lacrosse finally broke through, as the program won its first ever national championship Sunday.
The Eagles defeated Syracuse, 16-10, in the final, after taking down top-seeded and undefeated North Carolina, 11-10, in the semifinal. Westhampton Beach alums Belle Smith and Hollie Schleicher, who are cousins, were both named to the All-Tournament Team for their contributions to the championship win.
Smith scored her first goal of the title game to put BC up, 5-4, with 10 minutes to go in the first half, going over her defender to sneak the ball in from the left post. The ACC Freshman of the Year added another with five minutes left in the first to break another of the six first half ties, as Syracuse and BC kept trading goals. The Eagles managed to squeak out a 9-8 lead at halftime, after the Orange scored a late goal to keep it within one.
In the second half, Schleicher, Smith and the midfield group dominated the pace of play, helping BC jump out to a four-goal lead early in the second half with three consecutive draw control wins.
“I have the best draw staff in the entire country,” Schleicher said postgame. “We knew we needed to get those draw controls to get down to win this game, and that’s what we did.”
After conceding eight goals to Syracuse in the first half, Schleicher’s defensive unit allowed just two in the second half en route to the 16-10 victory. BC maintained offensive possession for most of the half, and during Syracuse’s zone time, Schleicher and her team forced turnovers and kept the Orange away from the net.
The sophomore came up with a crucial interception late in the game on a Syracuse shot, and ended the game with eight draw controls, five ground balls and two caused turnovers.
Schleicher was the only primarily defensive player to make the All-Tournament team, and had one of her finest performances of the season on Sunday, but Schleicher credited all her success to her teammates.
“My teammates played outstanding today,” Schleicher said. “I could not have done that alone. There’s no way in hell. I’m just happy, lucky, grateful to be here.”
Charlotte North led the Eagles with six goals in the game, setting the Division I NCAA record for most goals in a single season with 102, and Smith assisted her final, record-setting goal, Smith’s second assist of the day. Smith also scored a goal in the semifinal against North Carolina, bringing her total to eight for the full tournament.
“It was a win to remember,” Smith said. “Our team has stuck together throughout this crazy year. This win is not just ours, it’s our families and alumnis’ as well. The alumni before us created this culture at BC and we are fortunate enough to be a part of this amazing BC family.”
Fellow Westhampton Beach alum Bella Recchion was on the other side of the sideline as a member of the Syracuse team, but she did not play in the championship loss.
Smith and Schleicher were not the only Westhampton Beach alums crowned national champions this spring. Chris Merle, a junior at the University of Virginia, won his second consecutive National Championship on Monday by defeating top-seeded North Carolina, 17-16. And former goaltender Eleanor Kast won the Division II national title with Lindenwood University on May 26, making three saves in the 14-12 victory over Queens University of Charlotte.
Kast was named to the All-Tournament team, and posted a .440 save percentage this season. She also received IWCLA All-Region second team honors. Fellow Westhampton Beach alum Hailey Daleo, at Florida Southern, earned IWLCA All-Region first team honors. Daleo led Division II in goals per game with 5.11.
Westhampton Beach Athletic Director Kathy Masterson admitted she got a bit overwhelmed and emotional watching a handful of her former student-athletes win their sports’ ultimate prize.
“I had such a sense of pride, and what these kids accomplished, seeing them lift up the trophies, of course I cried like a blubbering idiot,” she said. “It’s just amazing to see these four kids, they worked so hard for and to achieve it, it was absolutely amazing. And all of them helped in major parts to the success of their teams. They all played and made major contributions. It’s so amazing to hear ‘Belle Smith’ or ‘Hollie Schleicher from Westhampton Beach.’ It’s just something every athletic director dreams of, but the best thing was to watch all four of them be amazing ambassadors of the game while also being amazing ambassadors of Westhampton Beach.”