achel Hall remembers watching Boston College lacrosse erase its 6-0 deficit during last year’s national semifinal matchup against No. 2 North Carolina.
Avenging their second consecutive ACC Championship loss to UNC, the Eagles stitched together a 5-1 run to end the first half, took the lead in the final frame, and handed the Tar Heels a heartbreaking 15-14 defeat, thanks to Sam Apuzzo’s double overtime game-winner. BC was advancing to its third National Championship in a row, and Homewood Field was electric.
Hall can still picture the sold-out venue, packed with more than 8,500 fans overflowing the bleachers. Kids, teenagers, and parents decked out in North Carolina blue, maroon and gold, and neon green were standing around the perimeter of the fence that enclosed the scorching turf on the 84-degree Baltimore evening.
In Hall’s eyes, it was the perfect night for lacrosse. The only problem was, she was 2,824 miles away, watching it all unfold on TV. Still at Oregon, Hall was finishing her final trimester of her freshman year. But right then and there, she knew that she needed to leave Eugene.
“I just knew if there was a chance that I could even get to play in a game like that, I wanted to take that chance,” Hall said.
Coming off a season in which she led the nation with 246 saves, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year entered the transfer portal and began to look for a place that she could not only call home, but also contend for a title.
After all, playing in a National Championship was something she had always dreamed of. It was a stage that she had been trying to replicate in the backyard with her brother ever since she was 10 years old.
A self-described “tomboy,” Hall grew up competing with her older brother John on a daily basis, despite their two-year age gap. Anything he did, she tried to do better.
“I think Rachel told me at one time that she thought she was his twin,” Hall’s father, Ben, said with a chuckle.
When it came to lacrosse, though, the two couldn’t have been more different. John loved playing in the field, whereas Hall—who had an instinct to protect the goal in almost every youth sport she played—didn’t really want to put in the time to focus on stick work. The dichotomy, however, ended up intertwining them.
One day when she was in fifth grade, she saw John shooting on the net in the backyard of their upstate New York home. Hall grabbed a boy’s lacrosse stick and jumped in the cage. She tried to stop as many of her brother’s shots as she could. Before she knew it, she was hooked.
What was initially just another example of sibling rivalry soon blossomed into Hall’s true passion. Eventually, Ben bought her a goalie stick, and Hall started honing her craft.
Part of what drew Hall to the position was its universality. Having grown up watching the men’s game with her brother, Hall disliked several of the rule differences between men’s and women’s lacrosse. Goalie, however, is played the same in both sports.
Hall’s favorite netminders are men. Without hesitation, she rattles off names like Jack Kelly (Brown, 2013-16), Kyle Bernlohr (Maryland, 2012-16), and Tillman Johnson (Virginia, 2001-04). She’s watched all of their highlights on YouTube, as well as clips of attackers that her brother studied and tried to mimic in the backyard.
But one of Hall’s biggest childhood idols was a young woman from her hometown of Niskayuna, N.Y.—a U-19 World Championships Gold Medal winner: Kayla Treanor.
Hall met Treanor while she was in middle school. Niskayuna High School’s all-time leading scorer, Treanor spent a portion of her senior year coaching Albany Power, Hall’s club team.
“I always knew of Rachel Hall,” Treanor said.
Treanor, who went on to become a three-time Tewaaraton Award finalist at Syracuse, saw Hall’s talent, but before the two could develop a close connection, Hall was gone.
She was on her way to a place that, for much of the lacrosse world, is foreign.
Like more than half the states in the country, Texas doesn’t recognize lacrosse as an official high school sport. There are only two colleges with lacrosse programs in the Lone Star State—the University of Dallas and Southwestern University—neither of which are Division 1.
When Hall moved there in the middle of the summer heading into seventh grade, she felt as if her chances at a college lacrosse career had taken a significant hit. She even told her father that she didn’t think she’d be able to make it to the next level.
“I said, ‘No, if you become the best girl goalie in Texas, you’ll get noticed and you’ll be playing at the college level’—and that’s eventually what happened,” Ben said.
Hall joined Tenacity, a program designed to develop players in “non-traditional lacrosse” areas, while she was in eighth grade. And soon enough, she got her own coach: Amy Markwort, who played goalie on the U.S. U-19 national team and won gold at the World Championships in 1999, alongside current BC head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein.
It wasn’t long before Markwort noticed Hall’s athleticism. It was her mobility that turned the most heads. Hall, like many of the men’s goalies she watched, wasn’t afraid to drop low, dive across the cage, pick off passes, or bring the ball out of the crease and drive the offense from behind. That style of play fit Texas, where stickhandling often gave way to run-and-gun lacrosse in the heat of the South.
Sometimes, Hall would take part in John’s practices. There, she saw faster shots, as well as attempts from different release points. The boys gave her their all.
“I am two years older than Rachel, but I never had to play down to her level—she would always play up to mine,” John said. “She’s never backed down from a challenge.”
Hall kicked off her first of four years at Cypress Woods High School by starting in net and traveling to a range of recruiting camps, which took her to Dallas, Princeton, and Syracuse, reconnecting her with Treanor along the way. Although she performed well, the offers were few and far between.
Yet, a year later, Hall found her new home—at least that’s what she told herself.
n April 2016, Hall decided to commit to Colgate as a sophomore.
“I think I tricked myself into thinking that was the place that I wanted to be,” she said.
Hall recalled a lot of her peers and competitors committing to schools around the same time. She felt as though she needed to be tied down somewhere, but looking back on her choice, she said that she knows that she jumped the gun.
Over the course of the next 10 months, Hall continued her high school career at Cypress Woods and started to face questions about why she committed to a lesser-known program like Colgate. Leading up to her junior season, she received a call from Oregon.
Led by head coach Katrina Dowd, the Ducks’ coaching staff was stacked with U.S. national team experience, which piqued Hall’s interest. Inspired by Treanor to represent her country on the biggest stage, Hall was driven to reach international play.
As hard as it was to decommit from Colgate, the opportunity at Oregon was too good to pass up. And so, in February 2017, Hall flipped her commitment.
Hall was on the rise. At the 2018 Under Armour All-American game, she allowed just two goals in the first half, recording six saves as the South jumped out to an early lead. After the game, Treanor—in her second year as an assistant coach for BC—talked to Hall and her family. Treanor, who was close with the coaching staff at Oregon because of her national team experience, was excited to see Hall play collegiately.
Little did she, or Hall, know that Dowd would be stepping down from her head coaching role two weeks later. On July 13, 2018, Dowd resigned, and shortly after that, assistant coach Michelle Tumolo—also a member of the national team—left Oregon to become the head coach at Wagner. All of a sudden, Hall was walking into a program that felt vastly different from the one that she committed to the year prior.
This time, though, she wasn’t looking elsewhere.
all joined an Oregon team that, for the previous three years, had been stuck in mediocrity. Posting a 27-25 record during the span, the Ducks failed to log more than five conference wins in a single season or sniff the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately for Oregon, the first year of Chelsea Gamble Hoffman’s tenure saw the Ducks take a step in the wrong direction—and a big step at that. Oregon won just three games in 2019, the fewest in program history. The one bright spot? Hall.
“I think everybody was surprised how much of an impact that she made out at Oregon,” Ben said. “But it’s in line with everything else she did—she’s always trying to prove herself to be bigger than what people expect.”
In addition to leading the nation in saves, Hall ranked eighth nationally in save percentage (.498). What’s more, prior to the start of the season, she accomplished her lifelong goal of being selected to the U-19 national team. In more ways than one, Hall was making a name for herself in college lacrosse as a freshman.
But while she was reeling in individual accolades, Oregon was losing games in bunches. Playing under a new coaching staff as a freshman while living in a new part of the country is hard enough—losing almost every game made the season even more difficult. Still, Hall didn’t waver.
“You can’t just quit,” Hall said. “Even though sometimes you [ask yourself], ‘Why am I playing if I’m just going to lose?’ You can’t quit.”
Hall had served as a captain her final two years at Cypress Woods, but she felt that she transformed into even more of a leader during her freshman season at Oregon. She played all but 21 minutes and 21 seconds of her 18-game rookie campaign. In close to half of her appearances, she tallied 15 or more stops, reaching the 20-save mark on two separate occasions, the latter of which came in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Facing then-No. 20 Stanford, Hall piled up a program-record 21 saves. All she could think about during the game was extending her team’s season—for the seniors. Despite her milestone outing, which earned her a spot on the Pac-12 All-Tournament team, the Ducks still suffered a season-ending 17-6 loss.
A 3-15 season is ugly on paper, but inside the locker room, there was a lot more magic. Hall knew how close she had become with her teammates. The strength of those relationships made her next decision all the more challenging.
he 2019 National Championship wasn’t the first BC title game that Hall had watched. In fact, she was right on the 50-yard line of Gillette Stadium for the Eagles’ 2017 National Championship against top-ranked and undefeated Maryland.
Hall had made the trek from Texas to see the game, but she was quite familiar with the area. Her father is from Marblehead, and she and her family visit her grandmother in western Massachusetts every summer.
The game featured an exciting second-half comeback from the Eagles, the Cinderella team of the tournament. Ultimately, though, BC’s five-goal deficit proved too much to overcome. What stuck with Hall the most was a conversation she had with a parent of a BC player at Boston’s Logan Airport. She spotted their neon green BC women’s lacrosse Superfan shirt and asked if they had expected this kind of tournament run.
“Whoever’s parent it was, was like, ‘We knew from the beginning of the season that this was going to happen because Acacia believes it, the parents believe it, everybody was all in,’” Hall recounted. “I just thought that was the coolest thing.”
So when Hall watched the 2019 Final Four and then called her father about entering the transfer portal, she was well aware of the energy surrounding the program she could very well end up playing for. Because Hall had gone back and forth with the decision for two months following the end of Oregon’s regular season, Ben feared that it was a little late to transfer.
But as soon as Hall got into the portal, Walker-Weinstein FaceTimed her—and that same spirit that Hall heard about years earlier in Logan was palpable. While Hall also talked to UNC and Virginia during the transfer process, her heart was with BC, where she’d be reunited with Treanor.
“It’s kind of amazing how our paths have crossed,” Treanor said. “I was really excited for Rachel to come to Boston College because I think it’s a great program with really amazing people, and I think she’d have an opportunity to compete for championships.”
Heading into this season, a fourth straight trip to the National Championship wasn’t out of the question for BC, especially with the addition of both Hall and Duke transfer Charlotte North. BC was ranked No. 5 in the country in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll.
But an upset loss to an unranked UMass team on Feb. 8—the Eagles’ first regular season defeat since April 8, 2017—shocked the nation and, ever so briefly, made Hall feel as though she couldn’t catch a break.
“For maybe a split second it felt that way,” Hall said. “But there was never a second where I doubted my teammates’ ability to bounce back from that.”
Hall said there’s a resilience that this BC team possesses that’s reassuring. She’s confident that early-season setbacks to UMass and USC will simply be reference points at the end of the year. Once again, BC is an underdog—a role Hall has been playing her whole lacrosse career.
From New York to Texas to Oregon to Boston, Hall’s been in a state of perpetual motion since she was in middle school. Now, back with her childhood idol in her father’s home state, Hall finds herself at the end of a long winding path. But she’s just beginning the final act. She has three years to win the title she dreamed of as a kid—even if the odds still aren’t in her favor.
“I wouldn’t bet against her,” Ben said.