Team One: U.S. Women's Box Training Camp Serves as Crash Course
Some of the most talented women's lacrosse players in the world served as pioneers.
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A hush fell over the turf field at St. Luke’s Sports Center when coach Ginny Capicchioni approached the 48 women comprising the first-ever U.S. Women’s Box Training Team.
Each of the women at last weekend’s training camp had attended one of a handful of Box ID camps throughout the late summer and fall, but as soon as Capicchioni started speaking, it was clear the U.S. Women’s Box program had arrived at a new chapter.
Capicchioni briefly and effectively addressed the women looking to be part of history. She told them about her journey as a professional lacrosse goalie — a career in which she became the first woman to play in a men’s professional lacrosse game and the first woman to compete in the men’s lacrosse world championship. She spoke about an NLL tryout she attended in Aston, Pa., (just an hour south), in which U.S. Box legend Randy Fraser offered her advice she wanted to translate to the team she now led.
“Everyone here is one of the top 50 players in the country,” Fraser told Capicchioni. “Everyone has the skill to be a great box player. None of that matters.”
She paused and turned to her coaching staff — including Crysti Foote, Tony Sorci and Ryan Wheeler — and offered up three promises to the women hoping to form the first U.S. Women’s Box team next year.
We promise that nothing you can do will change our certainty of you.
We promise to prepare you to handle any situation that comes your way next year.
We promise that when we’re asked to dance, we’ll dance. We expect you to do the same.
“To be a top-level player, there is one thing that matters,” she said, an ode to more advice shared by Fraser. “When they ask you to dance, you have to dance. Learning that is going to affect the rest of your life.”
The group clapped enthusiastically before U.S. National Team veteran Kristen Carr broke down the huddle with “Team One” — an ode to the trailblazing nature of the first U.S. Women’s Box Training Team.
The initial meeting set the tone for two days of high-energy training, in which some of the best women’s lacrosse players on the planet became acquainted with a new discipline. Tewaaraton winners and national champions spent hours getting used to wearing helmets and chest pads, adjusting to unified box sticks with deeper pockets and embracing contact.
They played their first-ever scrimmage against members of the Baltimore Bombers box lacrosse team, which made the trip and battled for the better part of three hours, playing through specific scenarios illustrated by Capicchioni and stopping to offer tips during and after each scrimmage.
In many ways, the weekend served as much a showcase of the talent of the American women’s box program as a crash course in the intricacies of the new discipline. Players walked off the floor thinking about the potential of this group come September 2024 when the U.S. will travel to Utica, N.Y., for the inaugural World Lacrosse Women’s Box Championship.
“It’s almost 300 days from now, and it’s in the back of our minds at every training camp,” Charlotte North said. “We know we have big things to accomplish and every moment we have, we’re building toward that. I think everyone’s very grateful to be here and just soaking in all the information we can learn about the game.”
The adjustment process was different for each position, but more pronounced with the team of goalies that made the trip to Allentown. College lacrosse stars like Taylor Moreno and Madison Doucette paired with box veterans like Rachel Vallarelli, who followed in Capicchioni’s footsteps and tried out for an NLL team in 2019.
Doucette, who has competed for the U.S. U19 and Sixes teams, initially pictured a tryout as a field player, but she was convinced to give goalie a try. The Johns Hopkins goalie padded up and stepped into the cage, protecting soft spots with her elbows and shoulder rather than a stick.
“There’s a lot less space to cover, and you’re bigger,” Doucette said. “You have to be much more methodical and aware knowing that the ball is buzzing around at a much faster rate. Shots are coming from weird places, so it’s a much more mental game than in field, where you throw your body and hope it works.”
The differences between field and box equipment were a talking point among many who suited up. Saturday morning’s practice became players’ first taste of the contact that comes with box lacrosse. By Saturday night’s scrimmage with the Bombers, a team comprised of mostly men’s players, they were ready for the physicality.
“In field, you’re allowed to make contact, but you have to pull back a little bit,” said former Penn and Maryland star Abby Bosco, who was the Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse defensive player of the year this summer. “Now, we’re going all out, and it’s a lot of fun. You’re not worried about getting called for a foul, and you’re giving 110 percent and doing anything to get the ball.”
“It’s physical on- and off-ball,” North said. “Even when you’re not on the ball on offense, you’re working to disrupt the defensive flow. That’s something we’re learning and picking up as we go. We want to make defenders feel our presence, that we’re there trying to create opportunities to score.”
Players like Bosco and North played more like equals, running in and out of the box and in transition. Defenders played much more offense than they were used to playing, and vice versa. The box game may have been uncharted territory, but Sixes veterans like Doucette, Marge Donovan, Sam Swart, Ally Mastroianni and others used the skills learned in the 6-on-6 field game to their advantage in the box.
For veterans of the U.S. National Team process, last weekend’s training camp served as a new experience but one with a familiar energy. It didn’t take much convincing for a player like Doucette to wear the red, white and blue once again.
“There’s nothing prouder than playing for the U.S.,” Doucette said. “Why not give it a go? It’s just fun to continue to grow the game. We did that with Sixes, and now we see LA2028. We just want to get sticks in more kids’ hands.”