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Charlotte North shepherds the next generation of women’s lacrosse

(Courtesy of Athletes Unlimited)

Charlotte North didn’t have much time to reflect on her storied college career this summer. One month after North and Boston College fell to UNC in the NCAA lacrosse championship, a 12-11 thriller, the attacker was suiting up for Team USA at the World Championships in Maryland. And 12 days after winning a gold medal in that tournament, she started her pro career with Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse.

To North, the past few months have flown by. But she’s also tried her best to enjoy the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to play on the biggest stages of her career so far.

“I’ve tried to soak in every moment I could,” North told Just Women’s Sports this week. “I’m very fortunate that I’ve had an opportunity to continue to play with Athletes Unlimited and with the national team.”

It’s no surprise to see North getting this much exposure so soon after leaving Boston College.

In three seasons with the Eagles, she put together a resume that can be considered one of the greatest of all time. In 2021, she led BC to its first-ever NCAA title, tied the championship game record with six goals against Syracuse, was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament and won the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s best lacrosse player.

Then, North came back this year and did nearly all of it again. With 92 goals on the season, North reached 358 for her career and surpassed Stony Brook’s Courtney Murphy as the NCAA’s all-time goals leader. She also became the fifth women’s player to win the Tewaaraton Award more than once.

The challenge of stepping right from the collegiate season into training camp with Team USA for the World Lacrosse Championships was not lost on North. But rather than get caught up in it, she embraced the experience head on.

At the World Championships, North led Team USA with 23 goals, which included five hat tricks and four games with four plus goals. She also finished the tournament tied for second on the team with 28 points.

From there, like many playing Athletes Unlimited this season, North’s campaign has extended into August. As a rookie, she’s had to adjust to the league’s individual points system and rule quirks that make the game “super fast” and “very physical,” as she calls it.

“It’s a really fun format,” she said. “It is an adjustment, just because you’re hitting the highest level of lacrosse that could be played. And so it is physical, and you’ve got to prepare for that.”

A highlight for North has been getting to play alongside Boston College alums Sam Apuzzo and Kenzie Kent in different weeks. Both graduated before North joined the Eagles on a transfer from Duke.

“I looked up to them both for so long,” she said. “I got to play with them with the U.S., but also just being on their team here has been so much fun. It’s just been an incredible experience.”

As North matures as a player this summer, she’s also been a part of a broader shift in the sport. Lacrosse has been right at the forefront of viewership increases in women’s sports. This year’s NCAA final on ESPN peaked at 590,000 viewers, with an average audience of 428,000, making it the most-watched women’s college lacrosse game in history. The World Lacrosse Championships, fresh off a brand new deal, aired on ESPN’s networks, as has this season of Athletes Unlimited.

It’s that kind of exposure that North believes will continue to grow the game.

“When I was growing up, I mean, I would do anything to get my hands on college games and film and YouTube highlights. It wasn’t as easily accessible as it is now, which is amazing, especially on the women’s side,” she said.

“It’s just showing that once given the chance, there are so many people who are fans of the game, and it’s just growing exponentially.”

There is also hope that the growth of the sport at the collegiate, professional and international levels will spur lacrosse’s inclusion in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“So many people are working extremely hard to get lacrosse to where it deserves to be, which is in the Olympics,” said North, noting that the Sixes format used internationally aligns more with the men’s game and gets everyone involved.

“I think a lot of people will turn their eyes to sport and become fans of it,” she added.

But before that potential opportunity rolls around, and before she returns to Boston this fall to finish her Master’s in Sports Administration and host a few lacrosse camps, North is focused on her final two Athletes Unlimited games this weekend.

Currently 13th on the AU leaderboard with 954 points, North leads the league with 25 goals. She is one of multiple rookies from the 2022 draft class to grace the top half of the leaderboard, led by Apuzzo (1,483 points) with two game days remaining before a champion is crowned. Lauren Gilbert, a rookie out of Northwestern, sits just ahead of North in the player standings but trails her on the scoring leaderboard by one goal.

“Ally Mastroianni (10th) and Emma Trenchard (20th) have both been just dominating,” North said when asked about her fellow rookies. “For them to continue to up their game and play at every level has been awesome. There are so many talented players. The Northwestern girls are very talented and Taylor Moreno has been crushing it. It’s been really fun playing with all of them.”

She also has her sights set on those coming after, with NCAA stars like Northwestern’s Izzy Scane and Syracuse’s Meaghan Tyrrell soon to enter the pro ranks. For the sake of the sport, North welcomes the competition.

“It’s so exciting for our game,” North said. “There’s so much talent here, there’s so much talent at the collegiate level. It’s awesome.”

Emma Hruby is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @EHruby.