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

2022 Rivalry Series: USA extends lead to 3-0 over Canada in women’s hockey showcase

Hilary Knight #21 of Team United States reacts after scoring a shorthanded goal in the second period during the Women's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match.
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Hilary Knight had two goals and one assist to lead the U.S. women’s hockey team to a 4-2 win over Canada on Sunday, extending Team USA’s series lead to 3-0 in the seven-game 2022-23 Rivalry Series.

Savannah Harmon and Abby Roque also scored for the U.S., which has notched three consecutive wins against Canada for the first time since 2019. Goalie Nicole Hensley made 22 saves in front of a record-setting crown at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, where fan attendance totaled 14,551.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Sarah Nurse scored for Canada, which captured gold \at both the IIHF Women’s World Championship in September and the Beijing Olympics in February.

Knight has enjoyed a standout 2022-23 Rivalry Series to date, registering six points (three goals, three assists) in the first three games including the game-winning goal in a shootout victory in Game 1 of the series on Tuesday and the game-winning assist in Game 2 on Thursday. Prior to the puck drop in Seattle on Sunday, Knight was presented with a golden stick to commemorate her record-breaking 87th career point in world championship play. Knight became the all-time points leader at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in September, when the eight-time world champion recorded one goal and one assist in Team USA’s 12-1 quarterfinal win over Hungary.

Sunday’s matchup between the U.S. and Canada marked the third game of the 2022-23 Rivalry Series and was the third matchup between the two teams in five days. The U.S. came in with a 2-0 series lead following a 2-1 victory on Thursday in Kamloops, B.C., and a 4-3 shootout victory — the first shootout in Rivalry Series history — in Kelowna, B.C., on Tuesday. It also was the first game for the U.S. national team on home soil since Dec. 17, 2021, when the team hosted Canada in St. Louis (Canada won 3-2 in overtime).

The 2022-23 Rivalry Series continues next month with two games in the U.S., set to be played in Las Vegas on Dec. 17 and Los Angeles on Dec. 19.

2022-23 Rivalry Series schedule, results

Tuesday, Nov. 15 USA 4, CAN 3 (SO) Kelowna, British Columbia NHL Network
Thursday, Nov. 17 USA 2, CAN 1 Kamloops, British Columbia NHL Network
Sunday, Nov. 20 USA 4, CAN 2 Seattle, Washington NHL Network
Thursday, Dec. 15 10 p.m. ET Henderson, Nevada NHL Network
Monday, Dec. 19 10 p.m. ET Los Angeles, California NHL Network

What is the Rivalry Series?

The Rivalry Series was introduced by USA Hockey and Hockey Canada during the 2018-19 season and designed as an annual showcase of the highest level of women’s hockey at various locations in the United States and Canada. The first series comprised three games between the two national teams, with Canada winning 2-1. Team USA took 2019-20 title, winning the expanded five-game series 4-1 and wrapping with an overtime win in the finale in front of a then-record-breaking total of 13,320 fans in Anaheim, California.

Following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic and preparation for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the Rivalry Series resumed this season with seven games over three months: three in November, two in December and two in February.

The U.S. and Canada have battled in the gold-medal game of six of seven Winter Olympics and 20 of 21 IIHF Women’s World Championship, with the two exceptions being the 2019 World Championship and 2006 Olympics. The Canadian women are the reigning Olympic and world champions.

2022-23 Rivalry Series rewind: USA takes Games 1-2

Game 1 recap: USA 4, CAN 3, SO (Nov. 15): The series kicked off Tuesday with Team USA grabbing a 2-0 lead off goals from Hannah Brandt and Hilary Knight. But Canada battled back with three unanswered goals and held a 3-2 lead with 13 minutes to go in the third. With just 1:29 remaining in regulation, Alex Carpenter tied it for the Americans, sending the game to overtime. The U.S. ultimately won in a shootout, with Knight and Carpenter scoring while U.S. goalie Nicole Hensley made two key saves.

Game 2 recap: USA 2, CAN 1 (Nov. 17): Canada was first to get on the board Thursday when Marie-Philip Poulin capitalized off a penalty shot opportunity in the second period, but USA’s Kendall Coyne Schofield knotted the score just 1:12 later. Alex Carpenter scored the go-ahead tally with 6:36 remaining in the third to give the U.S. a 2-1 win and a 2-0 series lead. U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney recorded 19 saves in net.

Who’s playing in the 2022-23 Rivalry Series?

Team USA’s roster — led by coach John Wroblewski — for the November Rivalry Series games features 23 players, 16 of whom were part of the silver medal-winning team at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship in August:

  • Hannah Brandt (Vadnais Heights, Minn.)
  • Alex Carpenter (North Reading, Mass.)
  • Kendall Coyne Schofield (Palos Heights, Ill.)
  • Jincy Dunne (O’Fallon, Mo.)
  • Aerin Frankel(Chappaqua, N.Y.)
  • Rory Guilday (Minnetonka, Minn.)
  • Savannah Harmon (Downers Grove, Ill.)
  • Nicole Hensley (Lakewood, Colo.)
  • Megan Keller (Farmington Hills, Mich.)
  • Amanda Kessel (Madison, Wis.)
  • Hilary Knight (Sun Valley, Idaho)
  • Kelly Pannek (Plymouth, Minn.)
  • Abby Roque (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.)
  • Hayley Scamurra (Getzville, N.Y.)
  • Maddie Rooney (Andover, Minn.)
  • Lee Stecklein (Roseville, Minn.).

Team Canada’s 23-player roster, selected by coach Troy Ryan and director of hockey operations Gina Kingsbury, features 16 players who were on the gold medal-winning team at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship and the 2022 Beijing Olympics (Canada beat , including:

  • Erin Ambrose
  • Kristen Campbell
  • Emily Clark
  • Ann-Renée Desbiens
  • Renata Fast
  • Brianne Jenner
  • Jocelyne Larocque
  • Emma Maltais
  • Emerance Maschmeyer
  • Sarah Nurse
  • Marie-Philip Poulin
  • Jamie Lee Rattray
  • Ella Shelton
  • Laura Stacey
  • Blayre Turnbull
  • Micah Zandee-Hart

Rivalry Series history

Following Sunday’s victory, the U.S. holds a 6-2-1-2 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record over Canada all time in the Rivalry Series. Canada won the 2018-19 Rivalry Series with a 2-0-0-1 record, while the U.S. won the 2019-20 Rivalry Series with a 3-1-1-0 record.

2019-20 Rivalry Series results

Dec. 14, 2019 USA 4, CAN 1 Hartford, Connecticut Alex Cavallini
Dec. 17, 2019 USA 2, CAN 1 Moncton, N.B. Alex Carpenter
Feb. 3, 2020 CAN 3, USA 2 (OT) Victoria, B.C. Hilary Knight
Feb. 5, 2020 USA 3, CAN 1 Vancouver, B.C. Katie Burt
Feb. 8, 2020 USA 4, CAN 3 (OT) Anaheim, California Megan Bozek

2018-19 Rivalry Series results

Feb. 12 USA 1, CAN 0 London, Ontario
Feb. 14 CAN 4, USA 3 Toronto, Ontario
Feb. 17 CAN 2, USA 0 Detroit Michigan

Atthaya Thitikul takes LPGA rookie-of-year honors in stride ahead of Tour Championship

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand smiles after the birdie on the 6th green during the second round of the TOTO Japan Classic.
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To say that Atthaya Thitikul has enjoyed a breakout rookie LPGA season is a bit of an understatement, but keeping things low-key is exactly how 19-year-old “Jeeno” likes it.

As the 2022 season concludes this week at the CME Group Tour Championship, Thitikul has already captured two LPGA titles, held the No. 1 spot in the world rankings and collected the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors. But the current world No. 2 displays a wise-beyond-her-years ethos when she says what she’s most proud of this season is her mindset.

“[I’m]19 years old — I think I’m still young to handle all the things that I have now,” Thitikul told On Her Turf ahead of this week’s season finale in Naples, Fla. “I didn’t say that I handled it well, but I’ve just said that I think I can handle it. I can do it. And yeah, it’s turned out to be pretty good this year.”

To keep herself in check, the Thailand native keeps her philosophy posted on her Instagram profile, which reads, “Be you, be happy and everything will be fine.” Thitikul, who on Oct. 31 joined 18-time LPGA winner Lydia Ko as the only players in tour history to reach No. 1 before their 20th birthday, said she took stock of poor performances on the golf course and found they all had one thing in common: She wasn’t being herself.

“I didn’t have fun,” she says of those unsatisfactory rounds. “I was expecting a lot of results on the golf course, not really talking, not really enjoying it. So I think being myself, have fun, keep smiling, keep laughing and talking with other players or talking with my caddie, joking around — I think it’s the best that I can do.”

Golf has always been fun for Thitikul, who grew up in northeast Thailand and was introduced to the sport at age 6 through her father and grandfather, both of whom were not golfers themselves but recognized the opportunity that golf might provide. Thitikul teases that her grandfather was enamored with Tiger Woods, but after her first golf experience with a professional in Bangkok, she was hooked, too.

“They asked me when I finished practicing, do I like it? And I say, ‘Yeah, I do.’ Because [there were] a lot of friends and when I practice, it seemed fun and it seemed not like other sports that I have been watching on TV,” she recalls.

Thitikul’s ascent to the top of her sport was swift: In February 2017, just three days after her 14th birthday, she made her first LPGA tournament appearance at the Honda LPGA Thailand and finished 37th out of 66 players. Just five months later, Thitikul made headlines when she became the youngest person ever to win a professional golf tour event at age 14 years, 4 months and 19 days old, winning the Ladies European Thailand Championship on the Ladies European Tour (LET).

RELATED: 2022 CME Group Tour Championship — How to watch, who’s playing in LPGA’s season finale

For three more years, Thitikul resisted turning professional, racking up multiple international amateur victories and plenty of tour experience, notching her first LPGA top-10 finish in March 2018 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship (T-8) and earning low amateur honors that same year at two majors, the ANA Inspiration (T-30) and Women’s British Open (T-64). The following year, she won the Ladies European Thailand Championship for the second time in three years, earned low amateur honors at the British Open (finishing T-29) for the second straight year and was No. 1 on the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.

In her first year as a pro, during the pandemic-impacted 2020 season, Thitikul broke through for her first professional win in July at the Thai LPGA Championship. She finished the season with five Thai LPGA wins and topped the money list.

Thitikul moved to the LET in 2021, winning the Czech Ladies Open in June, and just a month later she moved into the top 100 on the world rankings for the first time at No. 89. She finished 2021 with two wins, three runner-ups and nine additional top-10 finishes, securing the LET Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year titles and becoming just the fourth player to win both awards in the same season.

After finishing third at LPGA Qualifying School to earn her card for 2022, Thitikul didn’t miss a beat in her meteoric rise this season. She posted two top-10s in her first four starts before striking a staff deal with Callaway, which she followed up by winning her first LPGA title in March at the JTBC Classic. She carded an 8-under 64 in the final round to force a playoff and Nanna Koerstz Madsen on the second extra hole. She earned her second LPGA title in September at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, tying the tournament record of 61 in the second round and beating Danielle Kang in a playoff.

As for the pressure of being a teen phenom, Thitikul admits she can’t ignore it but has figured out how to turn it around to her advantage: “It’s still so hard because I think as players want to be on top and we put the pressure on ourselves, and there’s a lot of eyes on us. … But at the same time, it’s kind of like you couldn’t win every week, you couldn’t have a good day every day. It’s golf. I like to think of pressure as a challenge. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I think of it as challenging.”

Away from the golf course, Thitikul enjoys spending time with friends, watching Korean television dramas and indulging in Asian food (Chinese and Korean are favorites). Although she doesn’t have a pet, she says she’s a dog person, and prefers the mountains to the beach, as she loves to hike.

But don’t expect too much lounging, hiking or other non-golf activities on Thitikul’s itinerary after this season wraps on Sunday.

“This offseason, we have a lot of work to do,” she says.” There are a lot of things I still have to learn – not just for next year but for [beyond.] … But hopefully next year, it’s going to be nice and good for me as well. I really want to have a major win in my career. I don’t know if it’s going to happen next year, but hopefully.”