PHOTO BY NICK IERADI

Bashful Yet Bold, Sam Apuzzo Loud on the Lacrosse Field


Sam Apuzzo can’t hide from her biggest fear, no matter how much she’d prefer to avoid it.

It happens coming out of an elevator. It happens walking around a corner in the locker room. It even got the best of her during the Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse season’s closing ceremony.

Apuzzo, the former Boston College star and current U.S. women’s training team member, can’t help but jump, fall or shriek at sudden loud noises. There are few that do enjoy these sounds, but Apuzzo’s reactions are, well, abnormally animated — the horror in her eyes, the defensive leap, the ear-piercing scream.

Just ask her teammates and friends. They orchestrated and filmed a handful of devious plans to scare the 2018 Tewaaraton Award winner.

“It’s hilarious when we sneak behind her and scare her,” 2021 Tewaaraton Award winner Charlotte North said. “She’s the jumpiest person I’ve ever met.”

“There were quite a few times that I would hide behind something and wait to scare her, which is so mean,” said Dempsey Arsenault, her Boston College and U.S. teammate. “I know I feel bad a little bit going back, but if I had an opportunity to do it again, I probably would.”

Even when her teammates aren’t plotting against her, Apuzzo is prone to her jumpiness.

“It’s the simplest stuff,” she joked. “Even at practice, I know we have the clock up and I know the time is running out, because I physically can see it. I still jump when the horn goes off.”

Apuzzo grew up easily scared and quite bashful — all it took was a horror movie or (randomly) the sight of Johnny Depp to startle her. Aside from the situational fears, she spent much of her childhood growing into her personality and shaking off a considerable amount of shyness and self-doubt.

When Sam Apuzzo steps onto a lacrosse field, grabs a stick and begins eyeing up her opponents, there is no fear in sight. The West Babylon, N.Y., native, who will suit up with the U.S. women’s national team at Fall Classic this weekend, glides up and down the field with confidence, aggression and a narrow focus on the cage.

Lacrosse quickly became a source of confidence for Apuzzo, who poured in 283 goals in her four seasons at Boston College. As she excelled in lacrosse, a new Apuzzo started to emerge.

“She doesn’t always have that bubbly, outgoing personality,” said Apuzzo’s mother, Rosemary. “I always was worried that she wasn’t like that because sometimes you get overlooked when you don’t put yourself out there. She shows it on the field with lacrosse.”


“I wasn’t comfortable with speaking up. When I became a captain my senior year, that was the biggest stepping stone for me.”

— Sam Apuzzo


“Outside of lacrosse, I’m definitely a little bit more cautious and I step back,” Apuzzo said. “On the field, I’m I feel a lot more comfortable. I know lacrosse so well at this point and I feel most confident when I have a stick in my hand. Instinctually, I know it’s where I want to be and where I’m meant to be at this point in my life.”

While Apuzzo may have found her confidence in lacrosse, that doesn’t mean she’s stopped jumping. What started as an exciting post-goal exaltation at West Babylon High School has turned into one of the most notable celebrations in the sport, and that list includes North, who became a social media sensation this spring.

After she’s done getting past an opposing defender and beating another goalie, Apuzzo has two signature moves — screaming some variation of, “Let’s go!” or launching herself into the air, arms extended.

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Her most notable celebration came in double overtime of the 2019 NCAA semifinal. She created enough space on multiple dodges against fellow U.S. national team player Emma Trenchard to score the game-winner against North Carolina. She tossed her stick to the ground, leaped three times and spun around before her teammates mobbed her behind the cage.

“I went in like a spin cycle,” she remembered. “I’ve never done that before, but I was like twirling around like I couldn’t control my body. It was such an intense game, and I think after, my body could not handle it.”

Apuzzo’s celebrations only got more emotive as her games at Boston College took on more significance. She helped the Eagles to three straight national championship games, ushering in a new era at Boston College.

Now, as a professional lacrosse player with Athletes Unlimited, her opportunities to score and celebrate are much scarcer with fewer games per season. However, she’s continued to bring the energy each and every time her team scores, whether it from her stick or one from a teammate.

“A few times, I would literally laugh and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is wild,’” Arsenault said of Apuzzo’s celebrations. “That’s kind of like her ‘it’ factor. It just shows how competitive she is and how bad she wants to win. Recently, she’s been screaming more. She crouches down and screams real loud.”








Apuzzo’s celebrations are an embodiment of a competitive fire that has been burning since she was playing basketball on the streets of West Babylon. With three older brothers (Michael, Daniel and Chris) and few girls among her many cousins, she was used to fighting for her worth.

From hide and seek to the basketball court, Apuzzo’s brothers showed little mercy.

“There would be like 15 of us at my house playing knockout,” she remembered. “I was the only girl and the youngest. People were getting thrown on the ground.”

“We would be sitting at the kitchen table and she’d maybe get a little emotional and they’d be like, ‘Oh, are you going to cry now?’” Rosemary Apuzzo said.

While she was developed the will to win that would make her a Tewaaraton Award recipient, Apuzzo struggled with coming out of her shell. She lived an active lifestyle, playing multiple sports and working at Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices (where she is the self-proclaimed “Employee of the Century”), but she hadn’t yet found the confidence in social situations.

Rosemary Apuzzo said she and her four siblings were also shy growing up and admitted the trait could be hereditary. Apuzzo was soft-spoken, doubted herself at times and had trouble growing out of those attributes.

“She had a lot of friends, but she just didn’t feel like she fit in or she wasn’t good enough,” Rosemary Apuzzo said. “We were always lifting her up, but always struggled thinking she wasn’t as good as people she used to play against.”

When Apuzzo arrived on campus at Boston College in the fall of 2015, she began the maturation process that has led to where she is today. She met her lifelong friend in Arsenault, whose bubbly personality helped bring out a side in Apuzzo she hadn’t been entirely comfortable showing.

On the field, her confidence continued to grow. She missed much of her freshman season after tearing her ACL but returned in 2017 to the tune of 119 points and All-American honors — leading Boston College to its first national championship game in school history.

Apuzzo’s next two seasons are well documented, as she led the Eagles to two more national title game appearances. She capped her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer, regularly appearing on SportsCenter’s Top 10 and capturing the attention of the entire lacrosse community.

She inspired future stars like North, who continues to give women's lacrosse more visibility with every shot on goal.

"I'll never forget watching her score against Maryland [in 2018] and breaking that girl's ankles behind the net," North said. "That's the play, I see someone take their defender behind the cage and I'm like, 'Oh, she's going to 'Sam Apuzzo' her. It's a trademark move now."




PHOTO COURTESY OF ATHLETES UNLIMITED


She played with the same intensity that she once did against her three brothers on the basketball court. As she developed into one of the top players in the world and a leader of her program, she started stepping out of her comfort zone off the field.

“I wasn’t comfortable with speaking up,” she said. “When I became a captain my senior year, that was the biggest stepping stone for me, vocally. I learned how people respond to things and how people like to be led in certain ways. I’m still not perfect. I still have so much more to learn about leading a team.”

Apuzzo’s platform continued to grow after she graduated from Boston College. She signed with Nike Lacrosse, became an assistant coach at Boston College and joined the WPLL for two seasons until the league folded and Athletes Unlimited arrived in 2021.

For five weeks this summer, Apuzzo was among her contemporaries, competing at the highest level and exploring her passions off the field. When she wasn’t scoring goals, she was hitting targets at TopGolf or watching some of her favorite shows — she mixes in intense shows like HBO’s “White Lotus” and “Succession” with softer series like “New Girl” and “The Office.”

Intense with a little laughter mixed in? Apuzzo’s television preferences come as no surprise considering her personality. One of the most competitive and talented lacrosse players on the planet is happy to be a leader and excited to show off her fun side.

Apuzzo’s maturation is coming to fruition both on the U.S. women’s national team and at Boston College, where she was recently promoted from a grad assistant to a full-time assistant. After three years of painful losses, she celebrated a national championship with the Eagles in 2021.

The win was a milestone for the Eagles, and another marker in Apuzzo’s growing process.

“Each day gets easier,” she said. “Even the first day as coach, I was so nervous. Meanwhile, I’ve been here for six years at this point and I know these girls like the back of my hand. I’m communicating more and getting comfortable speaking to new people. It’s something I’m not as scared of now as I was two or three years ago. Now, I’m comfortable with getting out of my comfort zone. I’ve seen a lot of growth in myself.”