For 17 years now, Major League Lacrosse has allowed men the chance to play professionally after finishing up college. Up until last year, however, women’s lacrosse players never had that same opportunity due to the lack of a women’s professional lacrosse league.
For 17 years now, Major League Lacrosse has allowed men the chance to play professionally after finishing up college.
Up until last year, however, women’s lacrosse players never had that same opportunity due to the lack of a women’s professional lacrosse league.
But thanks to Digit Murphy and Aronda Kirby — the co-founders of United Women’s Sports, which works toward raising awareness in women’s sports, and the Pay It Forward Foundation, which plans to advance gender equity in sports — the United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX) was founded in 2016.
The UWLX is currently made up of four teams — the Boston Storm, the Long Island Sound, the Philadelphia Force, and the Baltimore Ride. And while the league is still young, the hope is that it will gain popularity over the years, such that an increase in the number of players will lead to more teams going forward.
“I think the UWLX is creating a great platform for female players playing at a high level to continue their lacrosse careers,” first-year Storm coach Abbey Capobianco, a former standout player at Framingham High, Central Connecticut State, and UMass-Amherst, said. “It’s very special and hopefully it grows into a league similar to the MLL. That’s really the main goal. It’s awesome to be able to showcase women’s lacrosse at an elite level.
“I think it will inspire younger players to keep working hard and keep playing because they now have another level to get to after high school and college. It’s just great for the future of women’s sports, and more specifically women’s lacrosse.”
With play beginning at the end of May, the UWLX season consists of eight weeks.
The first six weeks are the regular season, and each of the four teams plays the other three teams twice.
Week seven is the league semifinals, which this year will be held at Harvard University, before the championship game takes place in week eight — this year in Lake Placid, NY.
And while the hope is that the season becomes longer in the future as more teams are added, players are just grateful for one main thing right now: opportunity.
“I feel so fortunate that I can continue to play during the summer alongside incredible players and athletes,” said second-year Storm midfielder Tanner Guarino, who starred at Framingham High and UMass-Amherst and is the current head coach of the Natick girls varsity team. “It’s just a great opportunity and it’s great to see the game is growing. It’s kind of awesome being pioneers of this league.
“With women’s professional lacrosse existing now, if we can make the league grow, it really just creates even more opportunities for girls to come out of college and continue to play. I hope all younger players can experience this one day.”
But even beyond the chance to keep playing now after college, Guarino, Capobianco, and first-year Storm goalie Jackie Chirco all talked about being able to connect with fans, primarily the younger ones.
“I was invited to a Laxachusetts camp earlier this summer and you could really see the excitement on the girls’ faces knowing that a player from the Boston Storm was there,” Chirco, who was a standout at Hopkinton High and Assumption College, said. “It was pretty clear they looked up to me as a role model.”
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how many of the players have become role models for little girls and younger female lacrosse players,” Capobianco — also the head women’s coach at Assumption — said. “When there’s girls literally waiting for autographs after games, that says a lot about the way those girls look up to the players.”
Besides connecting with fans, Capobianco, Guarino, and Chrico have all connected with each other as part of the Storm.
Capobianco coached Chirco for four years in college, but she also became close with Guarino after watching her play at Framingham. As for Chirco and Guarino, they knew of each other in high school, but have become friends in addition to being teammates.
With Guarino being from Framingham and Chirco being from Hopkinton, it also gives them the chance to meet up to both practice and work out on their own time. And even as coach, Capobianco will also join them to work with Guarino and get shots on Chirco.
But it doesn’t stop there.
“Being local, the three of us travel to both home and away games together,” Guarino said. “It makes traveling that much easier and much more enjoyable, especially when you’re driving to somewhere like Philadelphia.”
When it comes to playing, Capobianco praised Guarino’s versatility, with the ability to play at a high level in transition and at both ends of the field. Capobianco also talked about Chirco’s athletic style, which she feels fits well for the faster-paced pro game, and mentioned that “even though she played Division II, she can hang with anybody.”
Guarino and Chirco will be displaying their talents on Friday, as the Storm (2-2) will be playing the Force at Mount Ida College in Newton at 7 p.m.
According to Capobianco, Chirco will be starting the game because she’s “earned it.”
“It’s just a privilege to be in the position I’m in,” Capobianco said. “We want to win games, but I just hope they’re having as much fun as I am.”
Tag(s): SLV In The Press