The historic USA Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament gets underway on Saturday at Cedar Lane Regional Sports Park in Bel Air, Maryland. A total of 58 teams, featuring more than 1,100 high school players from 25 states will compete in the event, one of the biggest and most important college recruiting events on the calendar each year.
With roots dating to 1933, this year’s tournament will be a little more special after the 2020 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s event was limited to 40 teams and NCAA Division I coaches were not permitted to attend due to an in-person recruiting blackout for COVID reasons. As of earlier this week, coaches representing more than 80 NCAA programs were already registered to attend the event.
Unlike many recruiting events, the players in this event try out to represent their region of the country versus playing on club teams. The result is a geographically diverse event that eliminates some of the traditional costs of recruiting tournaments.
“The goal of the USA Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament is to provide an unique opportunity for female high school players to compete on a national scale in front of college coaches without the hurdle of travel club as a requirement,” said Caitlin Kelley, director of women’s lacrosse for USA Lacrosse.
Expanding on that commitment will be the inclusion of two teams from Nation United this year.
Nation United is a program aimed at creating more opportunities for girls of color to play the sport at a high level. Nation United, which welcomes players from all races and backgrounds, normally brings its players together after the traditional club season, allowing players to go through the recruiting process with their clubs. Last August, it welcomed nearly 80 players to USA Lacrosse headquarters for its third annual summit. This will be its first foray directly into the recruiting calendar before its players move back to their club teams for the summer.
“Nation United provides a unique opportunity for female players of color to be on a team characterized by diversity,” Kelley said. “Having their teams here this weekend strengthens the intent of the tournament and USA Lacrosse’s commitment to growing the game for all.”
“I’m really excited to do this,” said Artie West, the director of the Nation United girls’ program and a former player at Towson. “There hasn’t been very much representation at this tournament from a minority perspective. To have the talent level we’re bringing will be a great showcase.”
The majority of the Class of 2023 graduates for Nation United have committed to colleges, but a few are still looking for spots. The second Nation United team is a combination of 2024 and 2025 high school graduation classes and are in the earlier phases of the recruiting process. More importantly, it’s a chance for the players from both teams to renew their friendships this weekend.
“It’s going to be great to get them together,” West said. “It’s such a unique experience to see kids who don’t even live in the same state become such good friends.”
The 58 teams in the tournament will compete in seven divisions with champions crowned in each division. The Massachusetts/Rhode Island regional squad is the reigning champion in the top division, having beaten Maryland Metro 8-5 in the championship game last year. The Massachusetts/Rhode Island region also won the top flight in 2019.
The tournament will feature the naming of the Heather Leigh Albert Award, presented to the best player in the event. First awarded in 1994, some of the best players in the sport are past recipients, including current Tewaaraton Award finalists Ally Mastroianni and Jamie Ortega. Mastroianni won the award in 2015 while competing for New Jersey North and Ortega won in the award in 2016 after leading Long Island to the team championship.
The 2022 sponsors of the USA Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament are Game On, Gatorade, HLA Foundation, NCSA and First Scout Productions.