Q&A: Charlotte North is blazing the future for women’s lacrosse

Lacrosse player Charlotte North cradles the ball
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Charlotte North is in the midst of a busy few months of lacrosse. The two-time Tewaaraton Award winner — given annually to the nation’s best lacrosse player — just completed her collegiate career at Boston College, where she led the Eagles to a national championship in 2021 and runner-up title in 2022. North is currently representing the U.S. at the 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship, a quadrennial tournament that begins Wednesday night in Towson, Maryland. And at the conclusion of the tournament, she will play in the second season of Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse. 

On Her Turf caught up with North about her expectations for the 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship, the current post-grad landscape, and her goal of seeing lacrosse included in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. 

This Q&A has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

On Her Turf: This will be your first time competing at the Women’s Lacrosse World Championship. What does it mean for you to put on a USA jersey and participate in such a big event?

Charlotte North: It’s huge. And it’s kind of surreal. We’ve been in training camp, and now, heading to the actual (tournament), it still doesn’t really feel real… I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to be able to do this. I’m playing alongside a lot of the people that I’ve looked up to for as long I’ve played the sport. So it’s definitely a dream come true.

OHT: How long have the members of this year’s U.S. women’s lacrosse team known each other and been playing together?

North: The tryouts were at the beginning of last summer so we’ve been going through the process (of team building) for a little over a year.

(The team includes) people I’ve played against, people I’ve looked up, people I watched play in college when I was still in high school. It’s just so fun to see all of us come together on one field… Two of my former coaches are on the team: Kayla Treanor and Sam Apuzzo. I was always so in awe of everything that they did.

Same with Taylor Cummings, Molly Hendrick, Becca Block, Liz Hogan – there’s just so many, I could literally name all of them, because they’re all so talented.

OHT: The U.S. team obviously has a ton of talented players. But given that the amount of time you’ve all spent training as a group is still somewhat limited — at least in comparison to a D1 college team that spends months together — how do you make sure that individual talent translates into team chemistry? 

North: Totally, yeah. We definitely want to work on building chemistry and (putting) all these pieces together. Our coaches do such a good job of that; they’re just incredibly talented and they help us so much. And the older (players) are so good at bringing in the younger people like myself… Just showing us the way and teaching us.

(The international game) is faster pace, a higher level of IQ. There’s more adapting and adjusting… just playing off of each other. Practices have been so fun; we’ve been going full speed. We’re just learning each other’s tendencies and (figuring out) how we’re going to fit those pieces together.

OHT: Given that there aren’t a lot of international competitions, how does scouting opponents work? 

North: Our coaches pull film from wherever they can and break it down. (And then during the tournament), our games are pretty fast. Once you play a game, you have to get ready to scout another team… so we’ll study all the film that we can and get to know kind of what (teams) run and their players’ tendencies.

OHT: You mentioned how you are excited to play with your U.S. teammates, but are there any international players you’re especially excited to play against?

North: Yeah, I think Canada has so much talent. Dana Dobbie played at Maryland; she’s just been incredible for so long… Her stick handling has always been something I looked up to. I’m excited to get a chance to play against her.

OHT: Are there any specific elements of your own game that you’re hoping to focus on and improve during the tournament? 

North: Yeah, definitely. I think the level of IQ on the offensive end is just so high. I just (try to) take a step back and learn all that I can from all the greats around me who are older. It’s been really fun just to see inside of their brains and watch what they’re doing and try to emulate that.

OHT: You’ll certainly be playing a lot of lacrosse these next few weeks — between the World Championship and Athletes Unlimited — but come the fall, do you have a sense of what you’ll be up to at that point and how lacrosse might fit into it?

North: I’m not quite sure exactly what I’m doing yet, but hopefully I’m going to be involved in the sport as much as possible, whether that’s coaching or more on the professional side, we’ll see. But I hope to stay involved as much as possible.

OHT: Did you ever have a moment in high school or college where you realized that because you play lacrosse — and not soccer or basketball — that your post-college playing options might be more limited than women in those sports? Obviously lacrosse has seen a lot of recent growth, but it’s not like it’s at the same level as leagues like the WNBA or NWSL.

North: Yeah, totally. It’s so cool to see how lacrosse — from when I started playing in high school and had the goal to play in college — has just grown from then to now. But obviously it’s not as big (as it could be). There’s been more international growth in lacrosse, (which is) what we need to put the sport at the next level and in line with all those other sports you mentioned. It’s challenging, but it’s a fun challenge to work on.

You hope to inspire the next generation of players and pave the way for everyone that is going to follow you (so they can) have a really cool life after college and continue to play the sport they love. We credit all the people who came before my generation, who are playing in the pro league and still playing on the national team. (They) paved the way for us to now be able to open this door. Hopefully we’ll just continue to grow (the sport).

OHT: One of the things I appreciate about covering a variety of women’s sports is that I get to compare and contrast what different sports and leagues are trying, but I’m never sure how much individual athletes in those sports are able to connect and share ideas. I was curious if you’ve had a chance to talk athletes in other sports? Like women’s softball players, given that they’re trying to get back into the Olympics in 2028? Or women’s hockey players, who are looking to accelerate the growth of the professional game? 

North: Totally. I’ve talked to a lot of women’s hockey players about how their professional landscape has transformed over the years, (which has been) really interesting to me. Hopefully they’ll just continue to grow.

Same thing with soccer… This spring, we met the Washington Spirit (NWSL). That was pretty cool just to take a step back and see where they are in the professional ranks… To talk to them about what (playing pro soccer) year-round looks like. It’s inspiring and I also think it’s achievable for our sport.

Our national coaching staff is so adamant on just inspiring the next generation and (helping us) be those role models to little girls… We talk about the 99ers a lot (because) they were that for us when we were little. We want to do the same thing for lacrosse.

OHT: While some sports have very clear gender disparities, lacrosse is interesting because… it’s not like men’s lacrosse is in the Olympics, but women’s lacrosse isn’t. Both sides still have a long way to go. What’s your sense of how the two groups are working together in terms of their shared goals? 

North: Yeah, definitely. I think both (men’s and women’s lacrosse) are working as hard as they can to come to a format that will be submitted to the Olympics. There’s a new format called “Sixes,” which is an international format that that has been developed to (more closely) align the rules between men and women. Because, as is, men’s and women’s lacrosse are very different in terms of rules, how many people are on the field, obviously, and men wear helmets and pads. And I think (organizers) are just working very hard to do whatever it takes to get into the Olympics, which is awesome and I’m excited to see it happen.

OHT: Given how different men’s and women’s lacrosse are, as they are coming up with a proposed new format, are there any women’s lacrosse rules that you definitely wouldn’t want to see change as a result of the process?

North: I’m not sure. It’s hard because they are two very different games. I hope that the Sixes format gets into the Olympics, but additionally, I hope the pure sports of women’s lacrosse and men’s lacrosse both make it as well, because, you know, it’s just beautiful to watch.

OHT: I’m also curious to get your thoughts on increasing racial diversity in the sport. According to the NCAA statistics, only 3% of women who play D1 college lacrosse are Black. What do you think needs to happen to make lacrosse more diverse? 

North: I think about this a lot. It starts at the youth level and just making lacrosse more accessible across all of America. It’s traditionally been an East Coast sport and only been in certain areas, but it needs to continue to expand and grow.

And the way to do that is to make it accessible, from the grassroots level up. It’s (starts with) getting sticks in kids’ hands. There are so many organizations out there working (on increasing access). I actually worked for one — Bridge Lacrosse, in Dallas, Texas, where I’m from — which is serving underprivileged communities and giving (kids) an opportunity to try it out and see if it’s something they love.

Lacrosse takes a little bit more (equipment to get started): you need a stick and goggles and a ball and a net — and if you’re a men’s player, you need a helmet and gloves. It’s a little harder to access those things than to play basketball or soccer with your friends. So I think just putting in a lot more effort towards (accessibility) is going spark change.

We also have so many great role models in the sport right now who are just showing those kids that it is possible to be a part of the lacrosse community.

It’s just so important and it’s something that definitely needs to change.

OHT: Transitioning a little bit… I was reading through the NCAA reports on gender equity that were released in the last year. The first one focused on basketball, but the second one looked at gender disparities across all NCAA tournaments, including lacrosse. And I hadn’t realized before that the men’s lacrosse championship includes all three NCAA divisions together, while the women’s tournaments are staged separately. I think the plan is to combine the D1 women with the D1/D2/D3 men’s tournament (beginning in 2025). Do you have any thoughts on that change? 

North: Yeah, I think it’s cool to be able to combine (the tournaments) and get all eyes on this high level of lacrosse at once. But this past year, we played in the national championship at Johns Hopkins and it was sold out.

What I really want to see that change is (women’s lacrosse) in a venue that can host even more people. (This year’s championship) was televised on ESPN for the first time, and we had half a million viewers. It was just so cool to see that, when (the sport) is given the chance to be on a stage like that, there are a lot people who want to watch and will come support, which is amazing.

OHT: That attendance figure was one of the takeaways from the report. While women have historically sold out the smaller venue, the men’s championship game at the larger stadium has been half full. It feels like a risk is being taken on the men that isn’t being taken on the women, even though the women have clearly shown there is a demand. It also is so strange to me — as a former D3 field hockey player myself — that the men’s NCAA tournament includes all three divisions. Do you have any thoughts on whether you’d like to see D2 and D3 women included in the future, too? 

North: The fact that they do it like that (with all three men’s divisions), I think (the D2 and D3) women should definitely be included. I don’t really understand why the men have it all together. Maybe it’s because of that venue being a little bigger and they can host more more teams?

It’s definitely something the women’s (tournament) should incorporate. The (D2 and D3) women aren’t as accessible as the division one games, especially on television. So I think just bringing it to the same location, same venue, so aspiring younger players, can see the different levels. It would just shed light on how much talent there is across all divisions.

2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship: Tournament overview, how to watch, USA roster

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

2023 LPGA Drive On Championship: How to watch, who’s playing in season’s first full-field event

Jin-young Ko of South Korea and Nelly Korda on the 17th tee during the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship.
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The LPGA Tour makes its return to the Arizona desert this week at the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club. The season’s first full-field event features eight of the world’s top 10 players plus a slew of fresh faces as this year’s rookie class gets its first taste of competition as tour members.

This week’s event features 144 players (plus two Monday qualifiers) competing for the $1.75 million prize purse in a 72-hole tournament that will implement the LPGA’s new cutline policy for the first time. Beginning this week, the 36-hole cut will change from the top 70 players and ties to the top 65 and ties advancing to weekend action. The LPGA says it hopes to “establish a faster pace of play” with the change.”

Arizona last hosted the LPGA for the 2019 Bank of Hope Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club, where Jin Young Ko earned her first of four LPGA titles that season. The tour last played at Superstition Mountain in the Safeway International from 2004 to 2008, where Hall of Famers Annika Sorenstam (2004, 2005) and Lorena Ochoa (2007, 2008) each won twice, and Juli Inkster won in 2006.

The tournament marks the first of four events over the next five weeks (taking off the week of the Masters, April 7-10) and kicks off the crescendo that’s building to the LPGA’s first major of the season, The Chevron Championship, April 20-23 in its new location at The Woodlands, Texas. The 72-hole LPGA Drive On Championship features 144 players, in addition to two Monday qualifiers, who will compete for a $1.75 million purse.

How to watch the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship

You can watch the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship on Golf Channel, Peacock, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Check out the complete TV and streaming schedule:

  • Thursday, March 23: 9-11 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, March 24: 9-11 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, March 25: 6-10 p.m. ET, live stream; 7-9 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, March 26: 6-10 p.m. ET, live stream; 7-9 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship

Sitting out this week are world No. 1 Lydia Ko and No. 5 Minjee Lee, but No. 2 Nelly Korda and No. 3 Jin Young Ko are back in action following Ko’s return to the winner’s circle two weeks ago in Singapore, where she held off Korda by two strokes. Also in the field this week are:

  • No. 4 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 7 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 8 In Gee Chun
  • No. 9 Hyo-Joo Kim
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka
  • 2022 major winners Ashleigh Buhai, Jennifer Kupcho, Chun, Henderson

Rookies and Epson Tour graduates making their first starts as LPGA members include 20-year-old Lucy Li, a two-time Epson Tour winner who might be best known for playing the 2014 U.S.  Women’s Open as an 11-year-old; South Korea’s Hae Ran Ryu, who took medalist honors at LPGA Q-Series; and 18-year-old Alexa Pano, who finished tied for 21st at Q School to earn her card but might be best known from her role in the 2013 Netflix documentary, “The Short Game.”

Past winners, history of the Drive On Championship

The Drive On Championship was initially created as a series of LPGA events that marked the tour’s back-to-competition efforts following the pandemic. Each tournament used the “Drive On” slogan in support of the tour’s resilience, beginning with the first series event in July 2020 at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, where Danielle Kang won by one stroke over Celine Boutier. The second event, held in October 2020, replaced the three stops originally scheduled in Asia, and was held at Reynolds Lake Oconee Great Waters Course in Greensboro, Georgia. Ally McDonald captured her career first LPGA title by one stroke over Kang.

The last two “Drive On” events were staged in Florida, at Golden Ocala Golf Club (Ocala) in March 2021 and at Crown Colony Golf Club (Fort Myers) in February 2022. Austin Ernst cruised to her third career title at the 2021 edition, beating Jennifer Kupcho by five shots. The 2022 tournament marked a fresh start for the event (no longer including results or records from the 2020 and 2021 events), where Leona Maguire became the first Irish winner on tour with her victory in 2022.

Last year at the Drive On Championship

Ireland’s Leona Maguire gifted her mom and early birthday present with her first career win at the 2022 LPGA Drive On Championship. A 27-year-old Maguire, a standout at Duke and former No. 1 amateur, carded a final-round 67 to finish at 18-under 198 and won the 54-hole event by three strokes over Lexi Thompson. She became the first woman from Ireland to win on tour, and her 198 tied her career-best 54-hole score.

More about Superstition Mountain

Superstition Mountain’s Prospector Golf Course opened in 1998 and was a combined design effort by Jack Nicklaus and his son Gary. The course plays as a par-72 and stretches to 7,225 yards in length, with the women playing it at 6,526 yards. The course was home of the LPGA Safeway International from 2004-08, and was recently selected by Golfweek as one of the “Top 100 Residential Courses.”

Of note, Superstition Mountain is a female-owned facility, originally purchased in 2009 by Susan Hladky and her husband James, who died in 2011. Hladky has made a point of opening her courses to women and college players, twice hosting U.S. Women’s Open qualifying and the site of a 2025 NCAA women’s regional tournament. She’s also given membership to eight LPGA players, who play out of the club: Carlota Ciganda, Mina Harigae, Dana Finkelstein, Jaclyn Lee, Charlotte Thomas, Caroline Inglis, Jennifer Kupcho and Brianna Do.

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: 2023 March Madness — Utah Utes engineer dramatic turnaround for third-ever Sweet 16 appearance

2023 March Madness: Utah Utes engineer dramatic turnaround for third-ever Sweet 16 appearance

Members of the Utah Utes celebrate their win over the Princeton Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament.
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The No. 2-seeded Utah (27-4) women’s basketball team held off a pesky 10th-seeded Princeton squad on Sunday, winning 63-56 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships for the first time since 2005-06 and just the third time in the program’s history.

“I’m proud of our team,” said eighth-year head coach Lynne Roberts after the second-round win at Utah’s Hunstman Center. “We set out to do this a year ago. We lost in this game at University of Texas and the goal was to be able to host (this year) so that we could have that home-court advantage and it made a difference.”

Utah’s fourth-year junior Alissa Pili backed up her recent second-team All-American honor with another 20-plus-point performance, scoring 28 on 8-for 13 shooting with 10 rebounds and going 11-for 13 on free throws. Sophomore forward Jenna Johnson added 15 points and six rebounds.

There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about how the Utes’ previous few seasons have ended – beginning with a rough 14-17 season that was cut short in 2020 due to the pandemic, followed by an abysmal 5-16 record in 2020-21. But the tide turned last year, as Utah rebounded with a 21-12 season that ended with a 78-56 loss to Texas in Austin in the second round of the NCAA tournament one year ago.

So, what changed?

“Last year, everyone was new to the NCAA tournament, so I think everyone was just experiencing it for the first time,” mused Johnson. “Losing in the second round last year, we’re definitely a lot hungrier this year, and then obviously hosting in Salt Lake, it’s fun just being in your own environment, to be around your own fans. I think it gives us an elevated level of confidence, both knowing what it’s like to play in this tournament and also getting to be at home.”

“Yeah, freshman year was kind of rough,” added third-year sophomore Kennady McQueen, who chipped in nine points Sunday. “We did experience losing a lot. … Coach Roberts, she said we are not going to have another season like that. We all stood behind her — the people that stayed — and brought in great people like starting last year with Jenna and Gi (Gianna Kneepkens) and people like that who have had a huge impact in helping us to where we are today. …

“When you get together a group of people that have the same goal in mind and will do make anything to make it happen, I think that’s where we have seen our success rate going up. This past offseason, we just kept getting better, and of course, the addition of the Alissa Pili really helped. When you bring a group of girls that have the same dream and same goal at the end of the year and doesn’t care about personal stats more than winning, I think we get the season that we have today, and it prepares us for deep run in March.”

In particular, McQueen believe it was Utah’s improvement in their defense that was crucial to the turnaround. “Everyone knows how good we are on offense, but if we can’t get stops, it doesn’t matter how good you are on offense,” she said. “So that’s just been a key the whole past off-season and all of this season — just getting better on defense.”

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: Alissa Pili revives her love of basketball with record season at Utah

Roberts credits their defensive improvement with a “philosophical mindset change,” explaining, “We worked on [defense] a lot differently, a lot more intentionally. Strategically we made some changes of how we are going to defend, and I won’t bore you with that. But there was a lot, just different things because you have to play to your strengths. You can’t be a run-and-jump pressing team if you don’t have the depth and athletes to do it. You can’t be a zone team if you are not super big. You have to figure out what fits your personnel, and so that’s what we did.”

There’s also the undeniable impact of Pili, a transfer from USC who has found her stride as a Ute, where she recently was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

“She kind of is the straw that stirs the drink for us right now,” Roberts said regarding the 21-year-old Alaska native. “She’s a nightmare to defend because she can shoot the three, and she’s also really athletic and mobile, so it doesn’t matter who we are playing. I think you have to gameplan for her. But then with her three-point shooting, you know, you have to pick your poison.”

But Roberts also gave plenty of kudos to Johnson, whom she describes as “phenomenal.”

“She’s 19 going on 40,” Roberts said of Johnson. “She’s the most mature, even-keeled consistent player we have. What I love about her is she is who she is. She’s confident in who she is. She knows who she is. She also is incredibly busy off the court.

“We were talking as we were getting ready to watch film, just shooting the breeze a bunch of us, we were talking about movies. And she was like, Oh, I don’t watch movies. Why not? I don’t have time. I get bored. What do you mean you don’t have time? Do you watch shows? No, I don’t ever watch TV. It is because she is doing all of these other extracurricular activities.”

As for guiding the Utes to becoming a championship program, Roberts still sees it as an uphill battle – but one that she and her players are ready for.

“I always use the analogy of pushing the boulder up the hill,” she said. “And doing things for the first time, you have to have that mindset. You have to keep pushing. It’s been incredibly fun to see the support, and I think the swell is a perfect word for it. Most importantly, our players feel it.

“This is why you play, right? And it means so much. I know I say it over and over, but this is not going to be a flash-in-the-pan [season]. This isn’t going to be a ‘Oh, remember that year they had such an incredible year?’ We are going to keep doing it.”

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