Saturday, May 27, 2017

Boston College Women's Lax Final Four Run Powered by Local Talent

Merrimac native and Governor's Academy alum Kayla O'Connor has powered the BC offense all season.    Photo courtesy of BC Athletics

By Michael Abelson (@ABELS0N)

- As the Boston College women’s lacrosse team was winding down in their locker room area after practicing at Gillette Stadium, the New England Patriots were returning to their locker room after their own practice.

As the women looked on, Tom Brady made sure to take a moment to wish the team good luck and throw a thumbs up.

In a season that has been magical for the Eagles, having the five-time champion give his blessing is yet another exciting moment in the buildup to BC’s national semifinal tonight against Navy.

“I was talking to Kenzie [Kent] today about all the Sundays we planned around Patriots games, and now we’re here,” BC senior Kayla O’Connor said. “It’s our time to shine. It’s awesome to have everyone that’s supported us come out and see us.”

O’Connor, a Merrimac native and Governor’s Academy grad, and Kent, a Norwell native, have been two key parts to BC’s prolific offense. O’Connor has 68 points and Kent has 61, good for fourth and fifth on a team.

And the offense has been as hot as ever in the NCAA Tournament. After reaching the 20 goal mark once in the regular season the Eagles have averaged 20.7 goals a game in their run to the final four. BC beat USC 20-14 in the quarterfinals last Saturday.

“We have been working as a unit this whole year, and everyone is pulling their own weight,” O’Connor said. “We have our shots and moments, and we’re able to capitalize and finish. It’s a balanced unit, and that’s what makes us so strong this year.”

The offense has shined all season, but Kent has been a dynamo. Kent joined the team in April after finishing up her commitments to the hockey team and has averaged just over six points a game in her 10 contests this season. Kent went off for six goals and two assists against Southern Cal in the quarters.

Kent said that hockey has helped improve her lacrosse game in key, but intangible, ways.

“I would say the biggest way it helps is my decision making,” Kent said. “Hockey is a much faster sport because the puck is moving so quickly, and you have way less time to make a decision. My decision making in hockey helps me with my decision making in lacrosse.”

The Commonwealth connection stretches deeper than just the attack. Brooke Troy (Westwood) and Christina Walsh (Franklin/St. Mark’s School) have been key cogs on the Eagle defense. Walsh and Troy are top five on the team in caused turnovers, ground balls, and draw controls.

“They’re so consistent,” BC coach Acacia Walker said of the pair. “They’re incredible athletes, and I think that’s their biggest asset to the defensive unit. They’re fast, agile and willing to listen to what they’re told to do in the moment. They’ve been amazing for our defensive unit.”
Former Longmeadow star Zoe Ochoa has been stellar in net for the Eagles.   Photo courtesy of BC Athletics.

Backstopping the team has been Zoe Ochoa. A senior from Longmeadow, Ochoa has split time this season with sophomore Lauren Daly but has always locked it down when she needed to. Ochoa made five saves, and picked up the win, against the Trojans.

With the offense firing on all cylinders, Ochoa said that it’s her, and the defensive unit’s, job to back up the attack’s work with strong defending and timely stops.

“Our offense is doing so well right now,” Ochoa said. “We like to have each other’s backs. When the offense scores so many goals it’s on the defense to make stops for them. It’s been really fun.”

Navy comes next at 7:30 on Friday night at Gillette. It’s the first time that the women’s Final Four will be played in an NFL stadium, and be played alongside the men’s Final Four.

The Eagles beat Navy 20-11 in Annapolis mack on March 4. The game was tied at nine early in the second half before the Eagles finished strong to win easily. O’Connor had four goals in the game, Walsh had four ground balls, and Ochoa had five saves en route to the win.

If the Eagles can repeat that success against Navy, they will play for a national championship Sunday in Foxboro.

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