2021 National Champions
Boston College (16) vs Syracuse (10)
Title IX in Action
Article and photos by Leigh Ernst Friestedt
Boston College's Destiny
Every team dreams of winning a National Championship, but only a select few will experience this reality. After three consecutive NCAA Championship Game appearances, Boston College finally broke through to capture the program’s first national title in 2021. The 16-10 win against Syracuse marked a milestone and fulfilled BC’s destiny to become National Champions.
Charlotte scores opening goal against Syracuse
Boston College’s journey to become National Champions started a decade ago under Head Coach, Acacia Walker-Weinstein. The All-American Maryland graduate took over the Eagles program in 2012 with a dream to win a National Championship.
“We had a dream a long time ago that we were going to win a championship, and people told us we were crazy.”
BC entered the 2021 season focused on a National Championship, but faced an uphill battle after graduating an outstanding class in 2019. During the abbreviated 2020 season, BC lost to UMass, USC and Notre Dame before the season was shut down due to the pandemic. But the 2020 losses translated into an opportunity to develop and provided BC time to integrate top recruits and transfers onto the team.
Road to a National Championship
BC’s journey to a National Championship was not easy. After losing three consecutive NCAA Championship Games (2017, ’18 & ’19), the Eagles graduated three of the best players in the history of women’s lacrosse: Sam Apuzzo, Kenzie Kent and Dempsey Arsenault – many questioned whether BC could ever reach such heights again.
But Acacia Walker-Weinstein turned the page in the BC history book and focused on a new team led by veterans (Cara Urbank and Jill Reilly) layered with talented recruits and key transfers (Charlotte North and Rachel Hall).
Devastated by the losses, Acacia consulted with colleague, Jerry York, the winningest ice hockey coach. BC learned to trust the process – believe in each other and understand that at the right time – all of the pieces would come together.
Captains Jill Reilly and Cara Urbank served as leaders, and Charlotte North was the blessing who fit perfectly with the program. Charlotte was the right player at the right time to help the Eagles win their first National Championship.
Charlotte North transferred to Boston College from Duke in 2019 after her sophomore season with one goal in mind – to win a National Championship. The arrival of Charlotte North coincided perfectly with the departure of BC’s superstar trio: Sam Apuzzo, Kenzie Kent and Dempsey Arsenault.
Charlotte scores goal 101 to break NCAA record
In addition to Charlotte North, Boston College transferred in goalie, Rachel Hall from Oregon in 2019. North and Hall came from a less traditional lacrosse haven which is now gaining national attention – Texas. The superstar attacker and goalie watched the 2019 Championship Game against Maryland and knew BC was the program for them to go after a national title.
Find a Way to Win
At the heart of BC’s success was an appreciation for how hard it is to win. Despite years of success, the Eagles never won an ACC or NCAA title. Having already lost to UNC and Syracuse (twice) during the 2021 season – the Eagles took nothing for granted heading into Championship Weekend, where they met both teams again.
The losses were critical to BC’s ultimate success – they forced the Eagles to reassess and find new ways to win. UNC defeated BC 21-9 early in the 2021 season, but the Eagles were a much stronger team and peaking when they took on the number one seed at the Final Four.
UNC was a on 27 game win streak heading into Championship Weekend. The last time UNC lost was in the same game at the 2019 NCAA Semi-Finals, when the Eagles defeated the Tar Heels 15-14 in double-overtime.
The 2021 Semi-Finals rematch, proved to be another devastating blow to the Tar Heels who lost by one goal 10-11. The undefeated UNC squad was expected to go all the way this year, but met a fearless BC team who was determined to Find a Way to Win.
Key to BC’s win against UNC was the Eagles defense who stepped up and held the Tar Heels to 10 goals. The younger BC defense played like veterans with Freshman, Sydney Scales, shutting down UNC’s powerhouse attacker, Jamie Ortega.
Rachel Hall also stepped up in goal for the Eagles, making a season-high 11 saves against UNC. Hall’s outstanding performance in the cage carried over to the Championship Game against Syracuse with big saves serving as a catalyst for the BC attack to score at the other end.
Full Team Effort
But beyond the superstar perforce of Charlotte North, who captured every possible award in women’s lacrosse this year, the entire BC team won the National Championship. Charlotte plays fearlessly and performs at the highest level under pressure which exemplifies a true champion. But more importantly, Charlotte raises the level of play of her teammates – striking the perfect balance between intensity, focus and fun.
The 2021 Championship Game marked the fourth time BC and Syracuse met during the season. The Orange led the series 2-1, but BC was finally figuring out how to defend against Syracuse’s weave attack.
Syracuse came out firing, but lost momentum when Emma Tyrrell fouled out with a second yellow card midway through the first half. Already compensating for the loss of top players: Emily Hawryschuk and Megan Carney (due to ACL injuries), Syracuse came up short on attack and could not hold off the high-powered BC team.
The Eagles put together a full team effort for the entire game, never letting up until the last whistle to fulfill BC’s destiny and become 2021 National Champions. Charlotte North led the team with 6 goals, breaking the NCAA record for most goals scored in a single-season 102, but the victory represented years of hard work by previous BC student-athletes and a dedicated coaching staff.
The 2021 National Championship represented a win not just for the players on the team but for the entire BC Family. Alumnae, parents and fans travelled from all over the country during a pandemic on Memorial Day weekend to support the Eagles.
The sold-out reduced capacity stadium was packed with former teammates and their parents who had come within one game of winning a national title, but failed to reach the pinnacle of success. When BC finally won – the 2021 team literally handed the Championship trophy to the Eagles in the stands.
The BC culture is built around a Family. Acacia’s family is part of the team with her children often attending practice, games and virtual press conferences. Additionally, the BC team has multiple generations of student-athletes and coaches from the same family:
- Courtney and Cassidy Weeks
- Annie and Erin Walsh (Christine Walsh ’19)
- Kenzie (’19) and Addison Kent – daughters of Assistant Coach, Jennifer Kent
- Hollie Schleicher and Belle Smith – cousins
In their hearts, the previous teams never finished what they set out to accomplish, which served as inspiration for the Eagles to break through and win the National Championship.
We dedicate this win to all the alumni, all the people who came before us, the coaches, the staff, the administration, everyone who has worked so hard to get us to this point and get us through that threshold. And this win is for them. They created this foundation and the culture of BC lacrosse.” Hollie Schleicher
Winning a National Championship during a pandemic required many sacrifices. Perhaps the greatest sacrifice was players being restricted from seeing their families. So, when the Eagles finally held up the Championship trophy and embraced – the BC family was together again.
BC’s Destiny has opened a new chapter in the history of women’s lacrosse. For Acacia Walker-Weinstein, 2021 represented her first National Championship. BC’s Associate Coach, Kayla Treanor, replaced Gary Gait as the Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach at her alma mater Syracuse, and Sam Apuzzo stepped up as Assistant Coach at BC.
With an extra year of eligibility, Charlotte North will return to BC for 2022 to go after a second national title and continue the BC Legacy with her teammates. Lots of records were broken in 2021, but the most important one was Boston College winning its first National Championship.