As Boston College lacrosse took the field against North Carolina in the 2022 National Championship game, something about the experience was different from years past, even though it was the fifth consecutive year the Eagles had played for the title.
BC faced a familiar opponent—it was the third time the Eagles played North Carolina this season—and its roster featured many of the key players from its National Championship win in 2021.
But the 2022 National Championship was different from any previous title game. For the first time ever, the game was broadcast on ESPN.
In recent years—largely since the start of Acacia Walker-Weinstein’s tenure as head coach—BC lacrosse has become the national standard. Since BC’s 2021 National Championship win, more fans have filled Alumni Stadium for lacrosse games—a record 6,000 people packed the stands for BC’s first matchup against the Tar Heels of the season.
At this year’s National Championship—and at most regular season games as well—young girls lined up chanting Charlotte North’s name, and the crowd at Homewood Field was flooded with signature BC neon yellow shirts.
While the Eagles’ 2022 National Championship run didn’t end with a win, one thing is clear: BC lacrosse has increased the visibility of women’s sports as a whole.
Through recruiting the country’s top talents and developing an uplifting culture, year after year BC consistently finds success. The Eagles’ competitiveness has helped demonstrate to any doubters that women’s sports deserve the same recognition, fan base, and viewership that men’s college athletics receive.
Charlotte North has played a leading role in growing the national recognition of women’s lacrosse. The Eagles’ leading scorer, North won the Tewaaraton Award, given to the NCAA’s top lacrosse player, in both 2021 and 2022.
In the second round of the NCAA Tournament, North broke the all-time NCAA goals record with 342, and she was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse Draft.
But more than her records and accolades, North’s lasting impact will be the way she’s inspired other girls to play like her. Lacrosse players have begun copying the way North winds up to take a shot, and some girls even dressed up as her for Halloween, donning her No. 8 jersey and signature braid.
North hasn’t just racked up awards and recognitions, she’s changed the way lacrosse is played, and as a result, she has increased the visibility of women’s sports and female athletes.
North has also capitalized extensively on Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) legislation. On Nov. 10 she filed three trademark applications for logos using her name and likeness, becoming the first athlete at BC—male or female—to do so. She has held a number of youth lacrosse camps, made possible by NIL, helping encourage young girls to become involved in lacrosse.
After BC’s National Championship loss this year, amid heartbreak and tears, North took a moment to reflect on something larger than the final numbers on the scoreboard.
The game drew a sold-out, 8,500-fan crowd, demonstrating the huge interest fans have in watching BC play and the growth women’s lacrosse has undergone in recent years.
“The game is in a great place, and it’s only growing more,” she said after the game.
While North’s stardom has undoubtedly helped keep BC’s name in the headlines and promoted the involvement of young girls in sports, Walker-Weinstein and her coaching staff have also played a huge role.
Walker-Weinstein put together an all-female coaching staff made up of defensive specialist Jennifer Kent, former BC player and Tewaaraton winner Sam Apuzzo, and Callahan Kent.
“It is a great thing that we’re all female, but I don’t really think about it like that—I just hire the best people,” Walker-Weinstein said. “It’s something to be proud of, but we just want the best coaches in the country and in the game.”
Apuzzo said she feels empowered to work on an all-female staff, something she believes is a part of the future of lacrosse and the NCAA as a whole.
“I think especially now, the women’s game is growing in a sense that more players are going into coaching, so a lot of the girls in the NCAA are going right to coaching after graduation which I think is incredible to keep boosting up women in lacrosse, but also just women in sports,” Apuzzo said. “I think we’re taking the right steps.”
While Walker-Weinstein’s goal was not to exclusively hire female coaches, her all-female staff makes an empowering statement. For female athletes and young girls, seeing four women on the sideline coaching a team to success at the highest level tells them that they have a place in the sports world.
The journey for women’s sports to earn the same respect and recognition as men’s sports is far from over, but the contributions BC lacrosse has made are significant. Each time a young lacrosse player gets to learn from her role model at one of North’s clinics or a fan can turn on ESPN to watch the Eagles play, the world takes a step in the right direction toward creating more spaces for women in sports.