PHOTO COURTESY OF BOSTON COLLEGE ATHLETICS
THU MAR 4 2021 | NELSON RICE | COLLEGE
This story appears in the March edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join or renew today. Thanks for your support!
Rachel Hall knew she didn’t have much to lose.
In the waning seconds of the first half during Boston College’s final Maroon and Gold scrimmage this past fall, Hall launched a clearing pass from her crease to well over midfield. She was confident that if she threw it up anywhere near the stick of her “partner in crime,” she’d catch it.
Charlotte North did just that.
North proceeded to shake her defender with a right-to-left split dodge and score on the run.
Hall and North — both Texas residents who transferred to BC in 2019 from Oregon and Duke, respectively — wanted to connect for a goal ever since they arrived in Chestnut Hill. The roommates sprinted toward the centerline of the Newton campus lacrosse field. They celebrated with a side chest bump, like you’ve seen countless times after touchdowns on NFL Sundays.
“Count it on the stat sheet!” North wrote on Twitter, tagging Hall.
“It was just fun and also awesome and spectacular,” Boston College coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said.
No adjectives were spared, either, in the reactions on social media in January 2020 after ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra shared a post-practice goal North scored a couple months earlier. In case you haven’t seen it (or have yet to discover the internet), North fakes a jump shot at the hash mark, then in a single movement with her back turned to the goal throws another fake between her legs before she uncorks an over-the-shoulder shot.
Hall, who led the nation in saves in 2019 and knows North’s tendencies better than anyone, looked baffled after the ball sailed over her right shoulder. The whole sequence took five seconds and went viral — before that word took on a much grimmer connotation — almost as quickly. Carcaterra’s original tweet has more than 180,000 views.
Although North scored 141 goals in 36 games at Duke and rewrote the record books at The Episcopal School of Dallas, it took a shootaround goal long relegated to a sea of stories on her Instagram account to make the wider lacrosse world stop and watch.
“Hold up,” Paul Rabil replied on Twitter.
“I just love the attention that it got for the girls’ game,” North said from her dorm room at Boston College almost a year to the day when the clip took off. “Any way to shed light on women’s lacrosse and how we can do fancy things with our sticks too like the boys can is great.”
IF YOU’RE ON THE HIGHWAY AND YOU SEE A DOG WITH ITS HEAD OUT THE WINDOW AND ITS TONGUE FLAPPING IN THE WIND, I LOOK AT THAT DOG AND I THINK, ‘I HOPE I’M THAT HAPPY AT SOME POINT TODAY.’ THAT IS CHARLOTTE WITH A LACROSSE STICK IN HER HAND.”
A coast away in Palo Alto, Calif., Jay Browne was perplexed scrolling through the reactions to the highlight, but for a different reason.
“Why are people freaking out?” the Stanford attacker wondered. “This is so, like, nothing out of the ordinary for her.”
Browne watched North pull off similar moves every day back in Dallas while training during the pandemic. The two first met when North, then a junior, gave Browne a tour of The Episcopal School of Dallas campus. North showed her the All Saints Chapel, the Quarry and the 800-seat Gene & Jerry Jones Family Stadium. (Yes, that Jerry Jones.) Though separated by two grades, they soon became best friends through their love of lacrosse.
North uses that word as a verb more than most people.
She loves being on the field with her teammates. She loves her coaches and Boston College’s campus. She loves the Cowboys and all her hometown teams. She loves where she comes from, even when people ask her why she doesn’t have an accent or if she grew up on a farm. She loves playing wall ball, whether that’s at the back wall of Boston College’s Alumni Stadium next to the concourse or the brick siding of the all-boys St. Mark’s School. She spent countless hours there underneath the lights almost every night in high school after she finished her homework. She called the practice “soothing.”
“It’s the most fun thing to work on,” North said of her stickwork. “I’m lucky I’m an attacker because that’s all stuff we get to do all the time, so it’s always fun.”
ESD girls’ lacrosse program director Maggie Koch has a ready analogy she once used in a recommendation letter for North to describe her affinity for the game.
“If you’re on the highway and you see a dog with its head out the window and its tongue flapping in the wind, I look at that dog and I think, ‘I hope I’m that happy at some point today.’ That is Charlotte with a lacrosse stick in her hand,” Koch said.
North’s first love, however, was basketball. She dreamed of playing in college, especially for Duke, and attended skills camps in Durham every summer throughout middle school. She had her heart set on one day playing in the WNBA.
That ambition sounds more attainable when Duke senior midfielder Nakeie Montgomery tells you he believed his former ESD classmate could have played Division I basketball. Field hockey, too. Montgomery once likened the lacrosse moves of teammate Michael Sowers to Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving but chose a different all-star when asked about North’s skills on the hardwood.
The two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors also happens to be North’s all-time favorite player.
“People talk about his style being nothing they’ve ever seen before,” she said. “He’s changing the game in that sense with his creativity, so I love watching him.”
The comparison seems uncanny after you watch North’s junior year basketball highlights. They’re set to “Do The John Wall,” by the rap group Troop 41. There are deep threes, no-look assists and a lot of steals. Sound familiar? Hall called the seven-minute reel “iconic.” There was plenty of footage to pull from. North averaged 21.6 points, 2.3 three-pointers and 3.7 steals per game that year.
Koch said beating North in “PIG” still remains on her bucket list. In their free time, Hall and North often play “HORSE” on the courts at the Connell Recreation Center. “She wins every time,” Hall said. “I never really played pickup against her because she would literally obliterate me.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic cut short the 2020 lacrosse season, North had considered pursuing a fifth year in basketball — like former Loyola lacrosse star Pat Spencer, who went on to become the starting point guard at Northwestern. North made sure she was in the stands at Conte Forum to watch Spencer and the Wildcats take on Boston College in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in December 2019. Spencer scored six points, including a breakaway slam dunk, during a 82-64 win.
“He is definitely an inspiration to me,” North said.
“The dominant player that she was on the field, she was the same way in basketball,” Browne said. “You could see a lot of the stuff she learned in basketball translates to her game in lacrosse.”
That crossover was evident when North slammed home an alley-oop on a pass from BC teammate Cara Urbank during the fall. It also shows in the way North keeps her head up at all times, ever the point guard, and how she shields her defender once she gets separation.
Then there are the 8-meter free position shots. It’s common for players to race toward the goal before their defenders can descend upon them. Instead, the player who wrote “Fearless” on a piece of tape on her right wrist her freshman year at Duke stands her ground. North often unfurls a low-to-high rip.
“She’s not immune to nerves and fear, but she could be up on the line [for] an 8-meter in a tie ball game and she’ll stick a corner where some kids freeze,” Walker-Weinstein said. “In those moments, Charlotte shows guts. … That’s not something you can teach. I love that about her.”
North holds the all-time scoring record in basketball at ESD. She achieved the same distinction in lacrosse. That accolade might be even more impressive considering North didn’t pick up a stick until seventh grade. At the time, she did not play a spring sport and her friends suggested to give lacrosse a try. They said it would be fun.
It was outdoors and fast paced, but perhaps most of all, the creative possibilities seemed limitless.
“The artistic flare of the sport is juice for a young player because you’re not boxed in and you can have your own imagination,” Carcaterra said. “You could be your own artist and paint any picture you want.”
Koch, a three-time captain at Georgetown and 2006 IWLCA National Goalkeeper of the Year who also coached at Syracuse, moved to Dallas in February 2015 right before North’s sophomore season. With Koch’s guidance, North took her game to the next level and helped put ESD lacrosse on the map. She scored 372 goals in four years on varsity, including 322 after her freshman year.
While Koch and North joked that she was a “little fish from Texas,” Koch also told her that “can’t is a choice.” If North outworked everyone else, the lofty goals Koch set would soon play out.
“She really believed in me, so then I started to really believe in myself,” North said.
North’s lacrosse stick soon became almost like an extra appendage. Syracuse games with Kayla Treanor, who now coaches North at Boston College, became appointment viewing. So did those featuring Lyle Thompson and Connor Fields at Albany. North started binge-watching their YouTube highlights. She still does and often catches herself staring at Treanor when the offensive coordinator hops in drills at practice.
The admiration goes both ways.
“The greatest players all have this incredible love for the game and are students of it,” Treanor said. “Charlotte certainly is.”
After ESD won its first Southwest Preparatory Conference title North’s senior year, she carried the trophy with her everywhere she went for the next two days. She helped lift ESD to its first state title a couple weeks later.
The capstone of North’s high school career was the Under Armour All-American Game. North scored the overtime game winner on a backhand shot to lift the South to a 16-15 victory over the North team. In a picture of North on the track at Towson’s Johnny Unitas Stadium afterwards, she held the MVP trophy in her right hand. In her left, she clutched a Texas state flag, like the one that now hangs on her dorm room wall.
North’s BC decor also includes a poster of “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Katsushika Hokusai. It’s known more commonly as “The Wave.” You’ve probably seen it before. The woodblock print was created sometime in the 1820s and is a part of a series called “36 Views of Mt. Fuji.” In the piece, three swift fishing boats encounter an imposing wave that seems bound to crash on top of them. Still, they press on.
“While Hokusai’s work prior to this series is certainly important,” reads a description on a website dedicated to the artist’s complete works, “it was not until this series that he gained broad recognition and left a lasting impact on the art world.”
North started taking piano lessons around age 8. In passing, she mentions she picked up the guitar, too. She doesn’t get to play as much music these days. The lacrosse field now suffices as her primary canvass for expression.
While Walker-Weinstein has watched that creativity in person enough recently to gain a thorough appreciation, she is not sure what forces conspired to leave North off their recruiting radar in the first place. “I’m ashamed,” Walker-Weinstein said. “I missed her.”
A lot of coaches did. Despite North’s credentials (two-time US Lacrosse All-American, four-time all-conference honoree and ESD team MVP), she did not commit to Duke until the spring of her junior year. In a 2018 US Lacrosse Magazine article, Duke coach Kerstin Kimel referred to North as a “last-spot kid.”
“If you aren’t recruited out of the gate or super early, that doesn’t mean you can’t be an excellent player at the college level,” Kimel said.
North proved that point. She scored 59 goals as a freshman in 2018 and led Duke in 2019 with 105 points on 82 goals and 23 assists. Boston College, however, held North to one goal in the two games against Duke during which the Eagles face-guarded her. Walker-Weinstein estimated North forced the coaching staff to do 20 extra hours of film review.
On May 30, 2019, North entered the transfer portal. She said she needed to reevaluate what was the best fit for her. It was four days after Boston College finished as NCAA runner-up for the third straight year. Walker-Weinstein resolved not to make the same mistake.
“I’m not going to miss this kid again,” Walker-Weinstein told herself. “She’s a generational player.”
Walker-Weinstein was the first coach to contact North. They FaceTimed. Even over the phone, North could feel Walker-Weinstein’s passion. After talking with some of her future teammates on a campus visit, North said it seemed like they would run through a brick wall for each other.
“I believe that love wins,” Walker-Weinstein said.
She also believes that there are a few players that have transcended the game because of some factor, like stick work or deception or athleticism. There’s Jen Adams, of course. There’s Treanor and Sam Apuzzo, who are on the BC staff. Katrina Dowd, Michelle Tumolo, Dempsey Arsenault, Kenzie Kent and Lindsey Munday also come to mind. North called getting the email to try out for the U.S. national team with many of them a “surreal dream.”
“We all look to them as heroes of our game,” Walker-Weinstein said. “I do believe that Charlotte is a part of that group.”
North led Boston College in goals (23) and assists (12) through seven games in 2020. She’s already registered 14 goals, many of them highlight reel worthy, in three games this season. Beyond that, Walker-Weinstein said, North, Hall and Bridget Simmons, who transferred from Albany in 2019, have helped foster a different mentality at BC. Most of the teams she has coached had a serious disposition that produced a hard-to-match intensity at practice. The current team takes a different tact.
Why can’t you take your work seriously and have fun along the way? That dynamic is most visible after North or one of her teammates score. Her post-goal reactions range somewhere between a Tiger Woods fist pump and Megan Rapinoe in the World Cup.
Still, Walker-Weinstein said what makes North and Hall unique is their ability to be light and fun without losing their intensity. They lugged a black ION block speaker to the final Maroon and Gold scrimmage but want nothing more than to outduel each other in 3, 2, 1 practice scenarios that replicate game-on-the-line situations. They can joke about it afterward.
Whenever Hall goes back home to Texas and talks with her younger sister’s friends, the trick shot goal often surfaces again. “I’m like, ‘OK guys, yeah, I’m the one who got scored on,’” Hall said. “But it was a sick shot, so it’s cool.”
The same way Treanor and Tumolo inspired North to try to replicate their moves in the backyard, North now acts as a North Star for the next wave of talent. She’s encouraged every time she returns home to see the improvement in play or when she hears about another Division I commit from Texas. Her favorite part about the life the trick shot has taken on is when she gets tagged in posts by younger players attempting to copy it.
When North wasn’t training with Browne or watching the PLL Championship Series over the summer, she was coaching. That included her younger brother, Kevin, 8, who she wants to help become the next big thing in Texas lacrosse, but also GRIT Lacrosse and Bridge Lacrosse. The latter, part of the US Lacrosse Urban Lacrosse Alliance, focuses on providing access to the sport for under-resourced and urban communities of North Texas.
North, who said that Koch “totally changed my life,” would like to do the same for others. Carcaterra saw that influence in person around the holidays when he shot around with North and his daughter Peyla, who is in the fifth grade.
“Charlotte wants to make herself an ambassador for the game,” Carcaterra said. “Her overall love of the game will fuel the next generation because she’ll be available for them.”
In other words, she wants to spread the love.
“I’m very proud to be from Texas,” North said. “I hope to be someone that people can look up to and know that no matter where you’re coming from — if there’s not a lot of lacrosse, if it’s not a hotbed, if you feel like you’re struggling to get looked at — it’s still possible and there are ways to do it.”