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DC Metro and Orange County at USA Lacrosse Women's National Tournament

Growth Showcased at USA Lacrosse Women's National Tournament

May 25, 2024
Brian Logue
Andy Mead

RALEIGH, N.C. — For more than 90 years the women’s lacrosse community has celebrated the sport on Memorial Day Weekend by doing what it loves most – playing the game.

The Triad region in North Carolina is host to two of the sport’s marquee events this weekend — the NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship and the 91st annual USA Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament.

The USA Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament has evolved over the years and now serves as the kickoff to the college recruiting season. This year’s event features more than 1,000 high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors competing on 53 regional all-star teams after tryouts held through the winter and spring around the country. For some, it’s their first foray into the recruiting circuit and for others, they’ve already committed to a college and are playing to represent their region.

No matter the case for the individual, they’re all playing for their love of the game and carrying on a tradition that dates to 1933.

Perhaps no one bridges the two events better than National Lacrosse Hall of Fame coach Cindy Timchal. The Navy head coach was watching the NCAA tournament games on Friday evening and on Sunday, two of her former Maryland players – Kelly Amonte Hiller and Acacia Walker-Weinstein – will go head-to-head for the national championship as coaches for Northwestern and Boston College, respectively.

This morning, she was at the WRAL Soccer Park to begin evaluating the next wave of players for her Navy program, hoping to find the next Amonte or Walker, both of whom played in this event during their playing days before moving on to careers that culminated with the U.S. national team. Those national team careers are still going strong as coaches with Amonte Hiller leading the U.S. Women’s U20 team at this summer’s world championship in Hong Kong while Walker-Weinstein was recently named as the U.S. Women’s Senior team head coach for the 2026 world championship in Japan.

Before dreams of U.S. teams can become reality, the focus for the players is on the here and now. Some know where they want to go, and some are just getting a taste of what the future could hold.

The growth of the sport has been showcased over the years in the National Tournament as new regions add teams. This year’s field includes teams representing 27 states, including a combined Iowa and Nebraska team for the first time. 

“The youth program is really starting to take off and kids are playing for a little bit longer and they’re also getting bigger aspirations,” said Iowa/Nebraska coach Meghan Gruver. “They never really thought they could go play in college, but we’ve had kids who are, ‘Oh, I can actually do this.’”

Gruver, a Maryland native who played collegiately at Randolph-Macon, has now lived in Iowa for a decade after coaching for years in Virginia. The Iowa/Nebraska players went to the NCAA games on Friday night, the first time most of the players had seen that level of lacrosse in person.

“For the girls, they were like ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so much better in person’,” Gruver said. “They were just loving that they could see the games and be a part of the whole atmosphere.”

Iowa / Nebraska team at USA Lacrosse Women's National Tournament
Iowa / Nebraska sent a team to the USA Lacrosse Women's National Tournament for the first time.
Andy Mead

Today, they got their own exposure to a new level of play. 

“Moving faster, passing the ball faster, thinking faster,” Gruver said. “They are very big fish in a little pond in the Midwest and out here we are very, very small fish in a very big pond.  What I told them in the beginning before we even started was, ‘You guys are the ambassadors of the game. Go back to your teams, take what you learned from today and what you see from out here and push your teams to be better so that we raise the level of lacrosse in the Nebraska/Iowa area.”

One of their games was against a combined Idaho, Montana and Wyoming team. Just three years ago, that trio of states was the new kid on the block, but they went 3-0 on Saturday and will play in the championship game of the Indigo Division.

They weren’t the only team from a far-flung geographic reason to taste success on Saturday. Washington has represented the Pacific Northwest very well over the years, but reached new ground by earning a spot in the championship game of the top division. Washington pulled out two one-goal wins on Saturday – a 6-5 victory over Philadelphia 1 and a 7-6 win over last year’s champion, DC Metro 1, that sent them to Sunday’s championship game against Massachusetts/Rhode Island 1.

Washington coach Grace Hamilton said that the majority of her team played deep into the recent state high school championships, which helped them keep their stick skills sharp. Playing for the region also provides inspiration.

“We said it right before that game, we said, ‘Let’s see who the better Washington is’ sort of like tongue in cheek,” Hamilton said. “I went to college in D.C. and I love that town, but that is a piece of it. We play with a chip on our shoulder, ready to work hard, but all the confidence that we can go toe-to-toe with these teams. They’ve shown that. It’s really cool to see them have success against the teams we want to play. We travel all this way, we want to play these teams. That’s what we travel for and it makes them better.”

They’ll get another big test on Sunday in the Red Division I championship game against Massachusetts/Rhode Island 1. The Massachusetts/Rhode Island region has won the top division in the USA Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament four of the last six years and this year’s roster is one of the more experienced in the tournament with 13 college commits on the roster. 

Action resumes on Sunday morning at 7 a.m. at the WRAL Soccer Park with all six championship games slated for 10 a.m. starts. Here’s the championship game match-ups (complete schedules and results are available on Tourney Machine.)

Championship Games • May 26

Red Division: Massachusetts/Rhode Island 1 vs. Washington, Field 21    
Green Division: D.C. Metro 4 vs. Nation United 2, Field 10    
Blue Division: South Carolina 1 vs. Greater Houston, Field 11

The Yellow and Orange Divisions each have semifinal matchups on Sunday morning to determine the 10 a.m. championship participants.

Orange Division Semifinals

D.C. Metro 2 vs. Maryland Metro 1, Field 1 (7 a.m.)    
Long Island Metro 2 vs. Massachusetts/Rhode Island 2, Field 3 (7 a.m.)

Yellow Division Semifinals

Massachusetts 3 vs. Philadelphia 3, Field 4 (7 a.m.)    
New Hampshire vs. Georgia 2, Field 5 (7 a.m.)

The Indigo Division will have the second and third place teams play a semifinal game with the winner advancing to play No. 1 seed Idaho/Montana/Wyoming.

Indigo Semifinal

Pittsburgh vs. South Florida, Field 12 (8 a.m.)    
Winners plays Idaho/Montana/Wyoming in championship game at 10 a.m.