Kenzie Kent, Boston College rally to women's lacrosse title game
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady's team is not the only one from New England that knows how to come from behind to win with big stakes on the line.
Boston College scored 10 second-half goals to rally past Navy 16-15 in an exhilarating NCAA women's lacrosse semifinal at Gillette Stadium on Friday.
Dual-sport star Kenzie Kent scored four of her team-high five goals in the second half to lift the Eagles to their first national championship game, where unbeaten Maryland, which romped over Penn State 20-10 in the evening's first game, awaits on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET
The final four drew 7,803 on a soggy night, so perhaps a sunny Sunday morning should pack in even more for the Eagles, whose home campus is a half hour north.
Maybe the good vibes for the Eagles, playing in the New England Patriots' home stadium, actually started with a little eye contact from the Super Bowl MVP.
"He winked at her yesterday," Katie Weeks said while nudging Kent, who is also a left wing for Boston College ice hockey team.
"Our eyes met," Kent agreed. "He said good luck and winked at me."
Kent still looks dazed from the chance encounter when the Patriots were returning from a workout on Thursday, but her focus never wavered in a second half dominated by the Eagles.
Trailing 9-5 with 1:36 left in the first period, Boston College scored six straight goals that included back-to-back Kent goals assisted by Weeks.
The Eagles scored on their first seven shots of the second half, recovering from what coach Acacia Walker dubbed a horrible start.
"I just told them they're just turning and shooting," she said. "They weren't actually turning and looking. At this level, you can't just throw a simple fake in. You have to have two or three fakes that allow you a little bit of extra time to see where the goalie is stepping and where to shoot."
The thing is, the Eagles have never reached this level. This is their semifinal appearance after falling in the first round of the NCAAs last year.
That doesn't faze the team. "Nothing does," Weeks insisted. Walker repeated some wisdom she got from Pats coach Bill Belichick earlier this week.
"He said something that stuck with me," she said. "You don't have to have experience in this moment to make it work. He talked about Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl in his second year."
But Kent does have a little experience in these things situations -- just not in lacrosse. The junior is the rare two-sport athlete who excels not only at lacrosse, but also ice hockey. The Eagles have been to the Women's Frozen Four the past three years, experiences she has learned from.
A year ago, Boston College ice hockey was unbeaten until the championship game. Two months ago, the Eagles lost in the national semifinal 1-0 after giving up a goal with 16.2 seconds left.
Every time we lose in the Frozen Four, I think about what I could have done better. I try to give it all every play because you never know what's going to happen.Kenzie Kent
"Every time we lose in the Frozen Four, I think about what I could have done better," said Kent, who missed the first third of the lacrosse season because of her hockey commitment. "I try to give it all every play because you never know what's going to happen. We lost with 17 seconds left, so you can't take any play off."
Weeks, who scored a pair with three assists, gushed about Kent, who has 34 goals and 33 assists since joining the team March 29. "I trust Kenzie more than some of my family members. I have complete confidence in her."
Consecutive scores by the Middies brought Navy to within one with 1:10 left, but the ball landed in Kent's stick after the final draw. Running out the clock, the Eagles spilled into a huddle and celebrated with the partisan crowd, including their family members dressed in neon yellow, purposely picked so the players could easily spot them in the stands.
The Navy players received a warm ovation from military alumni, some from the West Coast, who had come to celebrate the first team from a service academy to reach the semifinals.
"I'm used to coming here and not coming up short," said Navy coach Cindy Timchal, who led Maryland to eight national titles before coming to Navy. "We came here to win a championship, and so I credit BC's really spectacular second half. I also credit our team for fighting back until the end."
In the earlier semifinal, the Terps (22-0) scored with an ease that escaped them last weekend when they rallied past Stony Brook 13-12, a quarterfinal they led for just 2:14.
The top scoring team in the nation didn't need any drama Friday. After Penn State (17-4) got on the board first, Maryland answered in clumps, with runs of 4-0 and 5-1.
Seven Terps scored with Jen Giles, Kali Hartshorn and Taylor Hensh tallying four apiece, and Zoe Stukenberg and Megan Whittle contributing hat tricks.
"We won the way we wanted to win," said Stukenberg, one of five Tewaaraton Award finalists. "That's kind of the big contrast to last weekend."
Unlike their regular-season matchup when the Terps beat the Nittany Lions by two, Maryland took control in the draw circle 22-10. Nine of those belonged to Hartshorn, part of the top freshman class in the nation recruited by Cathy Reese.
The Terps held the most prolific offense in Penn State history scoreless for 14 minutes, 16 seconds, a stretch that began with 5:29 left in the first half. The Nittany Lions' 303 goals in 2017 is a single-season program record.
"We didn't have the ball enough today," Penn State midfielder Katie O'Donnell said after losing in the national semifinals for the second straight year. "The draw controls reflected the score almost exactly. You can't win if you don't have the ball, and we were on defense a lot today."
Maryland will be seeking its 13th NCAA title, having won in 2014 and 2015. The top-seeded Terrapins will be heavily favored against the Eagles, the first unseeded team to reach the championship game since the bracket expanded to eight teams in 2005.
Who knows? Maybe Brady will come.
"Or Mark Wahlberg," Weeks beamed. "We met him in an elevator. He's a huge 'Boston Strong' guy."