Unlimited Excitement. Athletes Unlimited opened their 2023, four-week (24 game) season on Thursday July 20 from USA Lacrosse in Sparks, MD. 56 professional women’s lacrosse players are divided into four teams each weekend and compete for points and an overall individual championship. It’s a who’s who of women’s lacrosse.
The games are becoming quite popular with fans. If you’re a young player, or parent of a player, or coach women’s lacrosse – Athletes Unlimited is must see TV.
I spoke with ESPN announcer Joe Beninati about opening night.
“We could tell right from the start that the crowd on opening night would be a good one,” said Joe. “The fans were fired up during the opening ceremonies. They loudly recognized a lot of their favorite players from the past two seasons and warmly welcomed the new “rookie” class. It was a 5 pm start on that Thursday, so the crowd kept filling in as the games went along and they gave the players a great atmosphere to begin a new season.”
If you attend some games at USA Lacrosse be sure to tour the Hall of Fame and eat dinner or lunch at Sammy’s Trattoria in Hunt Valley.
Athletes Unlimited Women’s Pro Lacrosse
The AU product is world class. The talent on the field is undeniably elite. Players in their early 20’s and as old as their mid 30’s, continuing to sculpt and chisel at their craft, pushing the boundaries of the game. Many are college, high school or club coaches and the merging of the minds becomes a women’s lacrosse laboratory. The athletes play for a cause during the AU four week slate. A portion of their earnings is donated to a cause of choice.
“There’s more than meets the eye in Athletes Unlimited. Visually you can’t help but notice the talent on the field, at every position. But what stands out to me is the genuine camaraderie the athletes have for each other. We don’t get to see them interacting throughout the week, but we hear stories about how this professional league allows them an opportunity to feel like they’re back in college again,” explained Beninati.
Can you imagine the fun?
“Just watch the celebrations on the field, they all want to win and they all want to share in the joy the game provides them,” he added.
Who should fans be watching? Charlotte North is a star. Taylor Moreno and Britt Read are the two best goalies on the planet. Sam Apuzzo is a household name.
“Nobody will argue with you if you say that Taylor Moreno and Sam Apuzzo are the favorites to win the title in Athletes Unlimited, they’re both masterful at each end of the field. But if I were asked to pick a long shot or two, I would go with Marie McCool and Lizzie Colson,” says the voice of the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
“McCool is healthy and fresh this summer and has all the offensive skills necessary to score big points in this league, plus the way she defends and works around the draw circle gets rewarded quickly on the leaderboard scoring system.”
The updated leaderboard can be found at AUprosports.com It changes after every play, every quarter and every game.
“With Becca Block not playing in Athletes Unlimited this summer, there will be a new Defender of the Year and Colson may just be the one to earn that award,” explains Beninati. “She’s fearless and fast to erase whomever she’s guarding and that kind of defense can lead to a bunch of caused turnover points. If she’s a helpful part of a consistent winning team throughout the summer, she will climb fast.”
Defenders have scored remarkably well in early 2023 action. There are 16 new faces in AU this summer. Who’s got unlimited potential?
“So far I think the strongest rookies are on the defensive end of the field. Katie Detwiler had a tough match up in her first game and did a great job,” says ESPN analyst Courtney Connor. Connor is a Maryland alum, who’s coached at the D1 level. She’s recently accepted the head coaching position at Garrison Forest School in Reisterstown, Maryland.
“Marge Donovan was solid as well with both of them not committing any turnovers. Abby Bosco has strong potential on the defensive end as well as her circle play at the draw, Halle Ranigan was outstanding in the scrimmages but received a red card in her first game, so I’m curious how well she adjusts and dials it back with the understanding of taking smart, non-dangerous shots. And Amy Munro had a surprise performance with two goals and she had the only free position shots during both games and she converted on both of them… That takes a lot of confidence stepping up to the line so it could mean a bright season is in front of her as well.”
The format isn’t college, it’s unique. Every play gets scored. Goals, assists, turnovers, draw controls, ground balls, caused turnovers, and saves each earn a player points.
“Some of the biggest differences between the college game to the pro game has to do with the physicality of play on the field,” explains Courtney. “Less fouls are called and they allow each players athleticism and strength to shine through. So unless a player is really displaced in their positioning, don’t expect for a foul to be called. There are only 10 players on the field per team as opposed to 12 players, and the field dimensions are smaller.”
Rules enhancements benefit the fan.
“There aren’t any shooting space or three seconds calls on the defensive end of the field which means less 8 meter free position shots being awarded to the offense, which is incredibly exciting to watch,” says Connor.
You will see action, not constant whistles inside the critical scoring area. The 62 second shot clock makes for a fast pace of play.
Check out Athletes Unlimited Womens pro lacrosse action this summer. I’ll be at the games on Thursday August 3 and hope to see you there.
The AU coverage can be seen live on ESPN+ each Thursday, Saturday and Sunday with a handful of games being shown live on ESPNU and ESPN2. Joe Beninati and Courtney Connor are calling the games live from USA Lacrosse.
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