PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Champs at Last: Boston College Finally On Top of Women's Lacrosse


Rachel Hall wasn’t sure exactly what she’d hear in her first call with Boston College head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein.

It was May 31, 2019, five days after the Eagles lost to Maryland in the national championship game. After one season at Oregon, Hall entered the transfer portal. BC was one of the first schools to reach out.

Walker-Weinstein could have based her pitch on the program’s long list of accomplishments at that point — three consecutive NCAA championship game appearances, an established pedigree that included a Tewaaraton winner (Sam Apuzzo) and two-sport star (Kenzie Kent), a stretch of 61 wins across three seasons. 

But what Hall heard on that FaceTime call wasn’t about what the Eagles had already done. It was about what they hadn’t done yet. 

“She assured me, ‘Yes, we have won a ton of games, and this program is at a different place than it has been in the past. But we’re nowhere near where we want to be,’” Hall said. “‘We haven’t won the meaningful games. And we want to bring you here to get what all of us want done.’”

Two years after that call, Boston College did what Walker-Weinstein had long dreamt of doing. After three straight defeats in the final, the Eagles finally made it over the hump and won their first NCAA championship May 30.  They did so with a generational talent in this year’s Tewaaraton winner Charlotte North — another transfer who bought into that pitch and had one of the best seasons by any individual in the sport’s history — and with a team full of players hungry to make up for opportunities lost in previous seasons or because of the pandemic.

Theirs is the story of a team that didn’t linger on the failures of the past, but instead focused on small gains it could make for its future. And with a walnut-and-bronze trophy now finally in the cabinet, that future looks even brighter.

“We wanted to turn BC into a lacrosse school,” Walker-Weinstein said. “Now it feels like it won’t be a risk to choose BC over some of these other schools. It’s a good decision. And we’ve always known that, but now I think the world is really seeing that.”


"We wanted to turn BC into a lacrosse school. Now it feels like it won’t be a risk to choose BC over some of these other schools."

— Acacia Walker-Weinstein


Four years ago, Hall sat on the 50-yard line among the nearly 7,000 fans at Gillette Stadium about 25 miles away from the Boston College campus to watch BC play Navy in the program’s first-ever final four.

The Eagles beat the Midshipmen in a 16-15 barnburner that afternoon in 2017, advancing to the NCAA championship game against Maryland. Two days later, BC would keep it closer than most had that season against the undefeated Terrapins, and even though the game ended in a 16-13 loss, it did mark the start of something new in Chestnut Hill.

“There were whispers. ‘Maryland’s going to blow out BC. BC doesn’t have a shot.’ All this stuff. And in the back of my head, I’m like, ‘If they’ve made it this far, and nobody’s really given them credit, there’s belief inside that team. They don’t care if they’re underdogs,’” Hall said. “That was the game where I was like, ‘BC would be my absolute dream school.’”

BC’s Big Three of Apuzzo, Kent and Dempsey Arsenault had helped transform a program that traditionally resided on the outskirts of the ACC — lurking near the fringes of the national rankings, with only two winning records in conference play in 12 years — into one of its steady powers. In 2018, the Eagles finished 22-2 and undefeated in the ACC, advancing to another NCAA final only to lose to James Madison. In 2019, they were back again, with their three stars in their senior seasons. They beat North Carolina in a double-overtime semifinal thriller to set up yet another date in the championship game. 

But once again, Boston College was on the losing side of the trophy celebration, as top-seeded Maryland won 12-10. All three of the championship losses had been hard to swallow, but that one was especially acerbic.

“It was my first time, but it was their third time at a national championship, and I think that’s the one that they really thought that they were going to do it,” said attacker Jenn Medjid, a freshman on the 2019 team. “It was tough to pick up the pieces, get back onto the field and gather together as a team. But that’s what we did.”  

After three seasons in a row ended with a loss on Memorial Day weekend, Boston College became accustomed to starting each following season fresh and not dwelling on what could’ve been.

“What Acacia, Kayla [Treanor] and Jen [Kent] did a really great job of is each year, when we start in the fall, they’re not talking about the national championship we played in last year,” said Cara Urbank, a fifth-year attacker who was one of three BC players to play in four NCAA finals. “It’s a completely new start, and they want us to figure out who we want to be as a team.”

Even after the departure of Arsenault and Kent — Apuzzo stayed on as a graduate assistant — Walker-Weinstein and her staff still felt like they weren’t far away from a national title. There wasn’t need for a massive reset or a grand restructure, just some sharpening around the edges.

Over the next two years, they paid closer attention to the team’s weight training program, putting a greater emphasis on the fueling and recovery aspects. They shortened practices to maximize player output and dove even deeper into their performance data and analytics studies — for one, measuring how much players were running day to day, week to week, position to position.

The BC coaches had the support and resources of their school behind them, too. The Eagles utilized sports tech and nutritional resources. They started practicing inside the Fish Field House, the school’s $200 million indoor athletic facility. Hockey coach Jerry York, the NCAA’s winningest active coach, advised Walker-Weinstein  to trust her process and stay the course.

That path included some unconventional turns. After 2019, BC took to the transfer portal to get a pair of Texas natives in North, then a sophomore at Duke, and Hall at Oregon. This year, they added former UNC sharpshooter Billy Bitter as a volunteer assistant, specifically to fine-tune the team’s goalie play.

“We were this one team in 2019, and we knew we couldn’t be that same exact team in 2020 and 2021,” Apuzzo said. “We were figuring out our identity, and where we wanted to go moving forward.”








The new era didn’t start as the Eagles envisioned. They opened the 2020 campaign with a jolting 15-11 loss to UMass and sat at 4-3, floating through the back half of the top 20 when the NCAA canceled the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That experience fueled how BC would enter fall ball six months later. Whether they were returning fifth-year players who’d lost their senior season or incoming freshmen who’d lost their final high school campaigns, everyone in the group brought a hunger and drive. They also reset expectations after such a so-so start to the previous season.

“Acacia said to me that we reminded her a lot of her first national championship [finalist], and that stuck with me, because we weren’t very confident coming off the COVID year that we had,” Medjid said. “For her to say that, it gave us confidence to see something in ourselves.”

In the season opener against Albany in February, North exploded for a career-high eight goals. Urbank and Medjid combined for five goals and two assists, and freshman Belle Smith excelled in her first college game. 

The Eagles dropped their first ACC matchup against the Tar Heels — a 21-9 blowout loss they would ultimately avenge in the NCAA semifinals — but rebounded to win their next nine games. North went on a tear, scoring 45 goals in that stretch. Medjid, Smith and Urbank were playing the best lacrosse of their lives.

When BC arrived in Towson, Md., for championship weekend, the coaching staff did its best to treat the weekend like any other. No getting lost in the hype of the moment or the bright lights. (No pregame steakhouse dinner, either — a team meal of chicken parmesan would do.)

“We’ve been in this position three times before, and didn’t achieve our ultimate goal. The coaches did a great job of taking a bit of a different approach and trying to keep us as focused on ourselves as our opponent,” Urbank said. “I’ve never seen so much focus.”




PHOTO BY GREG FIUME


In a rematch with No. 1 North Carolina, the presumptive favorite that came in on a 27-game winning streak, the Eagles looked like a completely different team than the one that had lost to the Tar Heels by 12 goals two months earlier. They held Carolina’s top-ranked scoring offense to just 10 goals, as Hall sprawled every which way to make 11 saves. When North was swamped by UNC defenders, Medjid stepped up with a game-high four goals. 

In the championship game two days later, they gave another nearly perfect performance against a familiar foe. Syracuse had beaten BC two out of the three times they played earlier in the spring. But the Eagles rode a record-setting showing from North — her fifth goal of the game set the NCAA single-season mark and she finished with a total of 102 — and a dominant second-half defense to a 16-10 victory.

Finally, BC celebrated.

“From the first phone call with Acacia in June 2019, I felt it right away. I could feel the passion and the culture and the bond,” North said. “We have ‘family’ on the back of our shirts when we warm up. We embody that because of our coaches, because of the people who came before us and our leaders. It’s all over the program, and I think that’s why we won.”

In the press conference after the 2019 loss to Maryland, Walker-Weinstein fought back tears as she listened to a question about the impact of that team’s upperclassmen.

“Boston College wasn’t a lacrosse school four years ago, and now it is,” she said then. “Now, because of them, lots of little girls want to come and play at BC, and a lot of the top players in the world want to come and play at BC. Because of what they’ve built, the legacy will live on.”

The legacy of those teams indeed lived in the group that finally took home the title in Towson. That win, in turn, ensured that the 2021 team will leave a legacy of its own.

The attention garnered on the Eagles’ victory tour back in Boston — trips to the Massachusetts State House, Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park and TD Garden, all in the span of four days — confirmed that.

“It shows that it wasn’t just a fluke — that we didn’t just have a few good players for four or five years. The players that filter through are going to be elite players that want to win, that want to play at the highest level,” Apuzzo said. “This is a program that’s going to build a huge legacy.”

This story appears in the Championship Edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.