Boston College an Underdog All Over Again

PHOTO BY MATT RISLEY

Hollie Schleicher, a defender, scored her second goal of the season in a quarterfinal win over Loyola.


Boston College is used to getting bet against. The Eagles finished as the national runner-up for three-straight full seasons. People wondered if they’d ever get over the hump. They did last year — finally — and entered 2022 as the top-ranked team in the country.

But the reigning champ heads to its fifth consecutive Final Four as the No. 3 seed and an underdog once again. The Eagles are cool with that.

“We’ve gone to five Final Fours, but I think people still underestimate us,” Acacia Walker-Weinstein said. “You better believe that’s a motivating factor for these guys.”

To be fair, the two teams seeded ahead of Boston College — North Carolina and Maryland — are worthy of their spots until Boston College or Northwestern, the fourth seed, prove otherwise. The undefeated Tar Heels beat the Eagles twice, handing them their first loss of the season in March and then racing past them in the ACC final. Maryland, which BC will face in the national semifinal Friday, has one loss to James Madison that looks more and more like a fluke by the game. In addition to the two losses to UNC, BC got upset by Duke in April, a teachable moment that’s fueled them this postseason.

“Those losses sting a little bit,” Walker-Weinstein said. “What I tell our girls all the time is that it is not always the better team that wins. That day, Duke showed up and beat us. I still think we are the better team, but that doesn’t matter. In a way, that loss really lit a fire, so I am grateful for that message.”

Last year, BC was on the other side of that message. You likely remember the story, but to recap: The then-fourth-seeded Eagles came to Towson as the underdog to top-seeded and undefeated North Carolina. The Heels boasted a super team headlined by Tewaaraton Award finalists in goalie Taylor Moreno and Jamie Ortega, plus a galaxy of stars including All-American Katie Hoeg and an emerging Caitlyn Wurzburger. The UNC defense was the best in the country.

But the Eagles prevailed 11-10. Two days later, they were national champions at last. So, while BC may have been a trendy pick to lose in the quarterfinal to Loyola this season before putting up a 20-spot on the Greyhounds, they’re brimming with confidence.

“People didn’t think we could win a national championship, and we did it anyway,” said Jenn Medjid, who posted a game-high eight points against Loyola.







The Eagles did it in part because of defense. If you want to talk about being underestimated, the BC defense is the team’s underdog unit. Players like Medjid, the transcendent Charlotte North and Belle Smith, who poured in seven goals against Loyola, take much of the spotlight. But in last year’s semifinal, Rachel Hall made 11 stops and anchored a defense that held off UNC. The players reminded themselves that championships are won on Memorial Day Weekend and not a second before whenever the unit has gotten down this year.

“There are so many ups and downs throughout the season,” defender Hollie Schleicher said . ”We talk about peaking at the right time. We use last year as a foundation for that to keep us level-headed … our unit stuck together throughout the ups and downs.”

When the Eagles have gotten down, they’ve regrouped, faced their flaws and gone harder in practice. They try to block the noise, but Schleicher admits it’s hard to avoid the doubters. The team does talk about it in the locker room sometimes — and then hits the field ready to prove everyone wrong.

“It just fuels our fire and creates a really competitive atmosphere during practice because you always have those thoughts in the back of your head,” Schleicher said. “We don’t love hearing those things, but at the same time, I’d always rather be the underdog, personally. It’s more exciting and makes you work harder.”

The Eagles know they have their work cut out for them against Maryland. The Terps enter the weekend averaging 7.35 goals allowed per game, the second fewest in Division I and fewest of any remaining team in the tournament (Stony Brook ranks first nationally). Their offense is nothing to shake a stick at either. It’s averaging 16.10 goals per game. But BC isn’t focusing on Maryland’s numbers.

“We just have to play our game, like we did against Loyola,” Medjid said. “We put a full 60 minutes together from defense to offense. They are a very well-coached team and have experience within the program, but I think if we play a full 60 minutes, we’ll be great.”

Though Maryland is the winningest program in Division I women’s lacrosse history, the Eagles will have an edge in experience. Graduate student Grace Griffin is the only starter left over from Maryland’s 2019 national championship team. The Eagles returned all but two starters from last year’s squad, and they haven’t forgotten what it felt like when the clock ticked down to zero and confetti began to fall.

“To be able to do it a second time back-to-back would be even more amazing,” Medjid said. “We know how hard it is and how hard it was the first time around … to be able to get that feeling again with our teammates would be amazing.”

Will a win finally get the Eagles the respect they think they’ve earned?

“We hope so, but you never know these days,” Schleicher said.

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