JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Lacrosse is increasing in popularity around Florida’s First Coast. Now, a local college women’s lacrosse player is at the forefront — helping to grow the sport and cashing in on one of the most lucrative Name, Image, and Likeness deals ever.
Episcopal graduate Sofia Chepenik started playing lacrosse in the sixth grade because her three older siblings played. Fast forward to the present, Chepenik is entering her sophomore year. She was announced as part of the seven-member inaugural transfer class for the University of South Florida women’s lacrosse team.
“To be able to come back home and grow the game,” Chepenik said. “Give back to it because it’s given me so much was really exciting.”
Chepenik started her college career at Clemson University, which was also simultaneously the Tigers’ first season with women’s lacrosse. The starter finished third in scoring for Clemson with 33 goals and a team-leading 20 assists to earn ACC All-Freshman team honors.
One month into the season - she signed an NIL deal with LootMogul, a Web-3 gaming and e-commerce platform, which pays her endorsement money and grants an equity stake in the company. Her agent, Christian Addison of Addison Sports & Entertainment helped make the deal.
“I wanted to only really partner with companies that believed in me and believed in what I also stood for,” Chepenik said.
She became the first female college athlete to sign a lifetime NIL deal.
“I knew that I really wanted to leave a legacy and I hope in doing so I can show other girls that anything can be accomplished through hard work and dedication,” Chepenik said.
Chepenik will be the face of LootMogul’s online lacrosse game, which has yet to be released.
“It’s going to be great for athletes to develop their IQ when they’re not actually in season and playing,” Chepenik said. “They’re able to go onto the sports metaverse and basically play in virtual reality.”
The landmark NIL deal is part of Chepenik’s rise in the sport.
“Brought me like a lot of recognition so I’m very thankful that they believed in me and wanted to create a lifetime deal and that we’re able to grow together,” Chepenik said.
Now she’s bringing that attention to her home state. With three years of eligibility, she’s reuniting with Bulls head coach Mindy McCord to build a new program that will begin competing in the American Athletic Conference in Spring 2025. McCord is credited with bringing lacrosse the Northeast Florida. She ran one of the first lacrosse clinics Chepenik attended in Jacksonville.
“To see how much it’s grown in the last four years, I think it’s like only going up. To be able to kind of be in the midst of the growth process is really cool.”