North Carolina women's lacrosse head coach Jenny Levy has built the program on many pillars — one of which is development.
Levy witnessed the product of this development last month, when six former Tar Heels were named to the 2024 U.S. Women's Box Lacrosse Training Team. Kristen Carr, Ally Mastroianni, Taylor Moreno, Melissa Sconone, Caroline Wakefield and Kayla Wood all earned a spot on the roster after participating in three player ID camps earlier this year. They will practice on the training team for three camps ahead of the inaugural 2024 Box Lacrosse World Championships next September.
While at UNC, these players had the chance to expand their lacrosse skills on the field. However, box lacrosse is a completely different game, with a unique playing style.
Box lacrosse is a much more fast-paced, physical and confined game. Instead of playing on a 120-yard field, players are forced to navigate a 180 to 200-foot-long playing surface surrounded by boards. Each team can have six players on the floor at a time, five runners and one goaltender — a stark difference from the 12 that are standard in NCAA field lacrosse. Players wear additional padding and the ball can be played off the boards, which keeps the ball in play for most of the 45-minute game.
In addition, the net is smaller, which makes the goalie position more physical and forces goalies to have to adapt their playing style.
"It's pretty much taking everything I've ever been taught as a field goalie and completely turning it upside down, both literally and figuratively," Moreno, a former goalkeeper for the Tar Heels from 2018 to 2022, said. "My stick head being between my legs and my shaft up through my armpit is definitely something that took a lot of adjustment."
The goalie position is not the only one that is affected by an altered playing style. Mastroianni was a former midfielder for North Carolina, from 2018 to 2022, and she holds the school record for draw controls. However, she said playing box lacrosse was much different than what she was familiar with in college.
"I'm used to a lot of space, a lot of being able to run and pick up speed through 50, 60, 70 to 100 yards," Mastroianni said. "The box game is definitely a lot smaller, but I am really excited because I think it makes players so much better, and I'm really excited to learn a new game and develop my skills, and I really think the skills you develop in the box game are only going to help you on the field."
Levy has produced top talent from her program in Chapel Hill, winning three national championships in her time as head coach, and seeing many of her former players go on to play on the national team. She said she focuses on expanding upon her player’s lacrosse skills but also developing them as humans.