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‘We want to make history for this sport’ – U.S. Women’s National Box Lacrosse Team embraces ‘Team One’ mentality ahead of the historic box championships in New York 

via @USAWLax

The first-ever World Lacrosse Women’s Box Championship will be held in Upstate New York in September 2024 with 10 teams competing at the new, state-of-the-art Nexus Center in Utica. Among the field is the United States, the longstanding powerhouse in field lacrosse, which faces the challenge of a new discipline and a virtually fresh start. 

The United States selected Ginny Capicchioni as its head coach to build the program after she had already made history as the first woman to play in the National Lacrosse League (the professional men’s box lacrosse league in North America) and for the U.S. men’s box team. 

After World Lacrosse confirmed in early 2023 that there would be a first-ever women’s box world championship, USA Lacrosse laid the foundation for the coming years with a player ID camp, which was new territory for the national organization that already has a robust identification and development program in field lacrosse. 

The first camp was held in March with 20 players and among the standout attendees were three recent U.S. national team training members from the field discipline – Molly Garrett, Emily Hawryschuk and Sam Swart – as well as former U.S. U19 national training team member Rachel Vallarelli. 

“Our experience, and a lot of the other players there, was pretty limited in box,” said Hawryschuk. “We signed up because any opportunity to represent your country is special, but the first camp was a lot of teaching, learning and understanding the level we were starting at.” 

That camp was held in the championship venue and local coaches from the Utica Yeti helped with the camp, which was memorable thanks to a moment from Capicchioni. 

“That camp was extremely special because after some skill work, Coach Cap basically walked us into the arena and told us this was the place where it was all going to happen,” said Hawryschuk. “It was just powerful – I still have a photo of the arena posted in my room to remind me of the goal.” 

“I wanted them to feel where they were going to play and what it was going to be like,” said Capicchioni at the time. “We made some declarations, and it was just very powerful expressing what I wasn’t able to do 20 years ago. Regardless of what the team looks like in the future, this is the first day of women’s box lacrosse in our country.” 

via @USAWLax

That understanding of history and acceptance of the significance of being the first national team in women’s box for a superpower of the sport has been the theme of the program’s development until now, which Capicchioni has embraced with the internal moniker ‘Team One.’ 

“A lot of us have experience with the field program, but recently we’ve realized this is box lacrosse now,” said Hawryschuk. “You look at the program and the past teams, they had to build their success and their culture from team to team and then share and pass it down. Now we have the opportunity to do that.” 

Since that first camp in March, there have been two more ID camps before the formation of a training team of 48 players in September. That group has now held three camps in November and December, including one the weekend before the announcement of the 10-team field in the competition.  

The growth of the player pool in its size and makeup shows the rapidly expanding appetite for everyone involved to succeed. There have been collegiate athletes, recently graduated players and players in their 30s all in attendance, and athletes with only box experience to players with none before the camps.  

“I can tell you the growth up until now is just incredible,” said Hawryschuk. “It shows all of our interest, passion and excitement for the history we’re making, and it’s cool to compare to where we started.” 

The beating heart of it all, the players agree, is Coach Capicchioni, a true trailblazer of the sport who commands respect and inspires her group.  

Vallarelli, who has been part of the training group since the first March camp, has also played lacrosse with both men and women like Capicchioni. After a standout collegiate career, Vallarelli played in the United Women’s Lacrosse League and has played in several men’s box leagues. 

“I consider her a mentor for me, in the box lacrosse realm especially,” Vallarelli said in March. “Some people say, ‘Rachel you know you’re the first in this and that?’ Yes, because those leagues, those opportunities didn’t exist when Cap played. There is no me without her. The opportunity to play for her is something so special.” 

“I’ve never had a coach like her in the best way possible,” said Hawryschuk. “Everybody views her with the utmost respect, and when she talks there’s absolute silence. We’re ready to fight for her and every coach on her staff. You just want to do anything for this woman.” 

The energy and bond Capicchioni has with the players has flourished through the game of box lacrosse, which was new to many of the players but caught on quickly because of how fun it is to play. 

“It’s just an awesome game and I love it,” said Hawryschuk. “The physical aspect combined with the skillfulness and finesse needed to score on these goals makes it beautiful. One thing that stands out is the energy this game has, and a lot of that comes from our coaches, but that deeper connection to the game and appreciation of the game stands out to me.” 

That energy at the core of lacrosse is what makes it special, and the historic opportunity for 10 teams to compete in the first women’s box championship means the newfound connections and spirit specific to this discipline are happening all over the globe. 

Women’s box lacrosse is in its early stages for many countries outside of Europe and Canada. Hawryschuk noted that it takes lots of organizational fortitude and player bravery to take on the challenge of being the first to compete on a stage that can show how great the game can be. 

The trail blazing is a key part of it, but with a strong lineup of teams, the actual competition will be fierce for Team USA, which always can be counted on to perform. 

“It’s a lot of unknowns, but you look at women’s field and men’s box rankings and get excited about seeing some of those rivalries come to life in this event,” said Hawryschuk, who also referenced her exposure to box from her head coach at Syracuse University: Gary Gait, a Canadian lacrosse legend whose many accomplishments include a storied box career. 

“We know there are going to be massive competitors, and there are incredible players across the world who are just as driven as we are. We’re all interested to see what it’s going to look like.” 

Ultimately, the doubled weight of history for women’s box lacrosse and for United States lacrosse to succeed is going to frame the internal and external context for the championship. But the players have taken their fearless coach’s lead and championed the pressure into an unsurprising rallying mentality. 

“We have expectations, but we’re excited about the opportunity to succeed and thrive in this environment” concluded Hawryschuk. “We want to make history for the sport and with success as ‘Team One.’” 

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