Paris Masaracchia and Tanner Scarola will compete on Clemson's inaugural women's lacrosse team.

Kwolek, Clemson Ready to Compete Right Away in ACC

Clemson will step onto the field for the first time in program history this spring. But “rookie mistakes” will be few and far between. The Tigers have raided the transfer portals, bringing in 19 players with at least one year playing Division I lacrosse under their belts. The veteran-heavy lineup includes three players with ACC experience and a one-time top goalie recruit in Emily Lamparter from Maryland.

Although Clemson has plenty of resources to write home about, the atmosphere will be different than what many of these former blue-chip recruits grew accustomed to at schools with established programs.

“The thing about transferring to Clemson is that you need to really want to be a part of building a really strong culture,” head coach Allison Kwolek said. “It’s a lot of work being a part of a new program, and we were looking for players ready to put in that work.”

That work will include helping the nine freshmen on the roster, who will be with the team long after the 11 graduate transfers hang up their Tigers jerseys, get acclimated to Division I lacrosse. To do that, Kwolek says off-field bonding and relationship-building will be as what happens between the lines.

“This isn’t a place where you can just practice,” Kwolek said. “Building genuine relationships takes time. Upperclassmen tend to have more going on as they get older, but we’re looking for people still willing to give that time.”

Jalyn Jimerson is one of those graduate transfers. The midfielder from Syracuse sat out the 2022 season with an injury but competed with the Haudenosaunee Nationals at the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship and the Sixes event at The World Games.

“She is super-savvy on the offensive end,” Kwolek said. “After watching her in the World Cup coming off of that injury, I think she is a really strong player who will inject that experience into the program right away.”

“We want to be competitive and make it look like it’s not the first year we’re competing.”

— Allison Kwolek

Like Jimerson, junior defender Ella Little from North Carolina brings ACC lacrosse experience to Clemson. Little, who will likely have to settle for getting her national championship ring from the 2022 season in the mail, could be a factor in the circle. She corralled 24 draws last year for UNC in 14 games off the bench for the stacked Tar Heels team and appeared motivated to do more for a new team when speaking with Kwolek.

“Her work ethic and drive are really strong, and I think she very much was excited about being a part of a new program and bringing that championship mindset to the team,” Kwolek said.

Junior midfielder Bella Karstien, a transfer from Louisville, rounds out the ACC-tested trio. But arguably the biggest boon is Lamparter. The only sophomore on the team, she has three years of eligibility remaining.

“As a player, she is a really strong goalie and someone who will grow in the program,” Kwolek said. “She has a desire to work at her game and is always striving for improvement.”

Kwolek knows the transfer portal can be a slippery slope. Coaches from various sports have expressed issues with the number of players looking for greener pastures. Notably, UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma gave his hot take on the matter in a now-viral rant that includes him calling it “a mess” and many of the players “delusional.”

Still, there’s no denying teams have benefited from it — as have players, many of whom received a fifth year of eligibility because of COVID-19 and were able to pursue a Master’s degree while receiving scholarship money to play lacrosse. Three of the four teams in last year’s Final Four had notable transfers, including North Carolina. The tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Sam Geiersbach, transferred from Richmond. Charlotte North played her first two seasons at Duke before joining Boston College for the 2020-22 seasons and becoming perhaps the greatest college player of all time.

Kwolek weighed all that when building the inaugural roster with mostly transfers, but she stands by her strategy.

“You are seeing people entering the transfer portal more than before because there’s an opportunity to be a free agent again, but it’s a little different for us because we are relying on it so much [because we’re a first-year program],” she said. “It is a matter of making sure it is the right fit and that the people coming to Clemson are excited about coming to an inaugural team and understanding that it is work.”

And while Kwolek isn’t going to pass on opportunities to add transfers to future rosters, she won’t be relying on the portal long-term.

“Year one and two are going to feel a little different,” she said. “My hope is that the recruiting classes coming in will see that these transfers are bringing valuable experience.”


It’s not hard to sell Clemson, a school with a Power 5 football team and perennial national title contender that is appointment-viewing every Saturday. The success has had a ripple effect on other programs. The university has approved plans for a women’s sports facility, which the lacrosse program will have access to when it’s completed.

“The commitment to lacrosse is obvious,” Kwolek said.

And with the support of the athletics department and university, Kwolek has been able to spend the spring and summer focusing on the long-term future of the program on the recruiting trail. But she’s also been gearing up to get the team on the field together for the first time this fall. Without a previous season together to draw on and with players coming from schools all over the country, Kwolek knows it will take time to get to know one another. Defensive sets and slide packages may look different at Clemson. But she wants the team to come ready to let it rip.

“I want everyone on the field and starting to just play,” Kwolek said. “Now we know the pieces, and it’s about how they fit together as we look toward the spring season. We’re just going to play and figure out where everyone is most comfortable and start to get everyone on the same page.”

The ACC schedule is a gauntlet, and Kwolek knows that. Both teams in the national championship game have hailed from the conference in each of the last two seasons. But she also saw Pitt compete in its first season and win a game in the ACC tournament. She doesn’t expect the Tigers to be an easy out, either.

“Pitt was competitive right away,” Kwolek said. “We’re going to be competitive right away. I got to spend the spring watching a lot of lacrosse and watching a ton of ACC lacrosse. When you watched Pitt, it didn’t look like a new program. They looked like they had been playing together a long time. We want to do that. We want to be competitive and make it look like it’s not the first year we’re competing.”

With so many new programs popping up — Pitt and USF, to name two — Kwolek is optimistic about the sport.

Now, she’s ready to take it a step further.

“At Clemson, people may not be as familiar with lacrosse,” Kwolek said. “I am excited to bring the game to the area and school and build the fan base down here.”