Boston College's Melanie Welch Honors Welles Crowther, Wears No. 19

PHOTO COURTESY OF BOSTON COLLEGE ATHLETICS


Melanie Welch grew up hearing the story of the Man in the Red Bandanna.

The redshirt-junior defender is from Pearl River, N.Y., less than 10 miles away from his hometown of Nyack. With a number of firefighters in her family, she’d learned about Welles Crowther, the Boston College alum and former lacrosse player who lost his life rescuing others on Sept. 11, 2001, whose story of selflessness, courage and a trademark red bandanna inspired people all around the world.

So, when she found out that she was the Eagles player selected to wear Crowther’s No. 19 against Duke last week — a jersey number given annually to one player inside the Boston College program who embodies Crowther’s characteristics and legacy — she couldn’t find the right words.

“I remember afterwards, people were like, ‘Speech, speech!’ And I was like, ‘I don’t even have anything to say right now because I was just so in awe that I would even be thought of for that,’” Welch said. “Wearing 19 was one of the greatest honors and one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve had because I didn’t expect it.”

Last week’s honor was another memorable moment in Welch’s four-year journey at Boston College. Since arriving on The Heights in 2017, she’s grown from a quiet but quick walk-on who cold-emailed the Eagles’ coaching staff about trying out for the team to a starter and key contributor for one of the country’s top teams.

“She’s unselfish, and determined, and a team player,” coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said. “She’s just a winner in general. And everything she touches, she makes better.”

Welch was a four-year starter in high school at the Academy of the Holy Angels (N.J.), tallying 254 career points and leading the team to two league titles, but she wasn’t sure if it was soccer or lacrosse that she wanted to pursue in college until late in the recruiting game. She’d decided on lacrosse by the time she was accepted into Boston College’s business school and immediately looked into the walk-on route.

She reached out to former Eagles All-American midfielder Mikaela Rix, who connected her with Walker-Weinstein, assistant coach Kayla Treanor and the rest of the coaching staff. A few emails later, Welch had earned an eye at a run test and then a tryout, where she immediately impressed.

“I was really attracted to the courage she had, trying to step onto a team where everybody was recruited, and we were doing really well. It embodied the whole thought of what we’re trying to do: Dream big, go for it, don’t be afraid,” Walker-Weinstein said. “She was so gritty and so fast, and I just remember being like, ‘Well, this is an easy decision.’”

Welch still remembers the first huddle she ever stood in at one of those early tryouts — looking around and seeing program legends like Sam Apuzzo, Dempsey Arsenault, Kenzie Kent and Elizabeth Miller, coming right off their 2017 run to the school’s first-ever national championship game.

“I was just looking around the circle, and it felt so surreal that I was even in this position,” Welch said. “Acacia made a little speech about how our goal was the national championship, and I remember, I just got the chills. I was like, ‘How am I even here?’”







Welch was there, and there to stay. The staff called her into the office a few weeks later to tell her she’d earned a place on the roster of one of the hottest programs in college lacrosse, a team that would make two more title game appearances in the next two years.

She celebrated the accomplishment, and then got to work. She prided herself on being a part of Boston College’s scout defense, learning opposing schemes inside and out to help the Eagles’ offense become as dominant as it was, and saw action in six games.

A major setback, though, would come in October of her sophomore year — a left ACL tear. It was a nearly year-long road to recovery, but one she spent learning, standing behind the cage during practice and taking notes on slide patterns, studying film and breaking down stats.

“She was just her normal, quiet, hardworking, selfless self,” Walker-Weinstein said. “She did everything she was supposed to in terms of rebuilding her knee, and she was basically a player-coach for us, communicating to all the players coming in and out of the game.”

The second came sooner than expected. After the Eagles’ 2020 season opener, she suffered another blow — this time, an ACL tear in her right leg. Coming so soon after her first season-ending injury, that recovery was difficult on a deeper, mental level.

But she made it through. She was back at full strength by the start of this 2021 season, and after all the ebbs and flows of her journey to the Eagles, she had earned a starting place on the Boston College backline. She’s started all nine of the team’s games this year, tallying seven ground balls and two caused turnovers.

In the Red Bandanna Game against the Blue Devils, she helped the Eagles to their eighth win of the campaign and a jump up to No. 5 in the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Women’s Top 20.

Her career hasn’t come to a close yet, but no matter how it ends, it’s been a journey like few others, with an unconventional start and a number of challenging roadblocks along the way. But that has only made Welch appreciate it all more.

“I was just so happy to fill whatever role we needed on this team, but obviously everyone wants to be on the field, so I was so excited when I did get that opportunity,” she said. “My whole mindset was just [that] when you work hard, good things happen to you. So I just worked as hard as I could, and everything happened.”

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