STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Sam Apuzzo has been dynamite at the draw circle this season, much to the delight of Boston College, and much to the ire of opposing teams. In the Eagles’ quarterfinal overtime win against the Stony Brook Seawolves, they won 20 of 26 draws, an advantage so huge that even the lethal Stony Brook offense could not overcome.
And yes, a lot of that is creditable to Apuzzo, the junior draw-taker from Long Island. She’s a Tewaaraton finalist for a reason.
But the women’s lacrosse faceoff is not a 1-v-1 skill, and the Eagles’ prowess in the area has as much to do with midfielder Dempsey Arsenault as it does with Apuzzo.
“They play really well together, they really have a connection,” assistant coach Kayla Treanor, who specializes in coaching the draw, said. “It’s the whole draw unit in general, six girls that have been working together all year. They have chemistry that’s helped a lot.”
A three-time Tewaaraton finalist during her playing days at Syracuse, Treanor set a Division-I all-time single-season record in 2016 with 217 draw controls. After graduating, Treanor, now 24 years old, coached one season as an assistant at Harvard University, before returning to Boston College to coach the Eagles this year.
“wWhen I hired Kayla, I told her that this is going to be her biggest role on the team and I really want her to own it,” head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein. “[I wanted her to] take over and make all the changes that she wanted to and develop the individual player.”
And Arsenault and Apuzzo have appreciated Treanor’s presence, helping take Boston College from a solid draw team to one of the nation’s elite.
“We have Kayla, so that’s a huge advantage,” Arsenault said. “We just constantly study the other teams and their tendencies. Communication is key, making sure we’re all on the same page.”
Often described as the “game-within-the-game”, the draw in women’s lacrosse is its own craft. There’s a reason why schools hire full-time assistants to almost solely focus on the draw.
The players at Boston College spend countless hours studying tendencies, “tell-signs,” as Arsenault called it, of where they’re placing the ball, where they’re trying to direct the ball.
Then on the draw, Apuzzo and Arsenault (and also Elizabeth Miller, the other “circle girl”) have their own secret communications to indicate where to run to and where the ball is flying out toward. If the ball is leaning toward the other girl’s stick, Apuzzo lets her wings know, so they can adjust and try to intercept the win.
Maybe it’s a foot tap, maybe a head nod — who knows?, it’s secret — but before each draw, Apuzzo plays the role of the third-base coach and orchestrates the whole unit. From there, Arsenault’s athleticism is on full display. She has 102 draw controls this season, despite playing almost entirely off-ball for the draws. For a non-specialist, Arsenault’s total is spectacular.
Last week against Stony Brook, it seemed like whomever the Seawolves tried to line up against Arsenault — whether it was Samantha DiSalvo, Ally Kennedy or Mackenzie Burns — could not compete with the New Hampshire native’s combination of speed and length. Arsenault, who’s listed as 5-foot-8 but plays even taller, won nine draw controls herself in that quarterfinal game.
“Dempsey might be the best athlete we’ve ever had at Boston College,” Walker-Weinstein said in an interview before the season.
It’ll be up to Apuzzo and Arsenault to come through in the circle again on Friday night, when they face the No. 1 Maryland Terrapins in the NCAA Quarterfinals.