All eyes are on Sparks, Maryland as AU LAX’s second season races to the finish line.
Don’t look now, lacrosse fans––almost as quickly as it began, Athletes Unlimited LAX’s 2022 season is rocketing to its conclusion. Week Four is already underway, with the final quartet of matches set to take place on Saturday and Sunday.
A lot has happened over the course of the season, making the prospect of tuning into its final stretch rather intimidating for newcomers. But we at She Plays are here to catch casuals up on the juicy details––from the tight race to the Championship to the rise of the goalkeepers. Here are four things to be aware of heading into the final weekend of AU Lacrosse.
Mind the Gap
We absolutely have to start this primer off with the biggest story of the season: the tiny, tiny gulf separating first and second place on the league leaderboard. After Week Three, Sam Apuzzo trailed Taylor Moreno by just six points. Now, the former has taken first place––with only a twenty-point cushion.
But that’s not all. Apuzzo and Moreno’s teams are set to face off in the final match of the season on Sunday. The win and MVP points of that match could determine the claimant of the overall crown––and finish this year’s AU LAX season off with a loud, spectacular bang. Both of the previous matches that saw the two athletes face off as captains were narrowly won by Apuzzo. However, this is Athletes Unlimited, meaning that no win is guaranteed (more on that later). As a result, fans should pay close attention to the concluding match at the USA LAX headquarters on Sunday.
A Goalkeeping Renaissance
Take a look at the current Athletes Unlimited leaderboard, and you’ll notice that four out of the top ten performers are goalkeepers. This stat might be confusing at first glance; after all, goalkeepers only gain six points per save, compared to the twelve-point boost that attackers get when they score goals.
But AU LAX’s goalkeeping takeover makes more sense when considering one common occurrence throughout the weeks of competition: MVP-worthy performances. A goalie making multiple tough saves during a match can easily earn an MVP 1 designation, which are worth 45 points apiece.
So six points can quickly multiply into dozens when a goalkeeper is on form. Just ask current No. 2 Moreno and her 240+ point performance in Week 2. Or Kady Glynn, who earned enough to snatch a Week 4 captain’s spot despite her team’s loss on Sunday. Clearly, the stock of goalkeepers keeps rising in this competition. Fans shouldn’t be surprised if that trend continues during the final weekend of league action.
No One Is Safe (Except for Sam Apuzzo)
The longest winning streak of this year’s lacrosse season belongs to the aforementioned Sam Apuzzo, who went undefeated for seven straight matches up until Week 3. She revealed to Just Women’s Sports that keeping her win-loss record clean is a major part of her season-long game plan. “I think the biggest thing for what I learned from last year to this year is the importance of actually having a lot of wins,” she said. “So I’m just focused on winning this year with my team and every team that may be on, getting that team going because that’s what matters the most.”
But here’s the catch: Apuzzo is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to win records. Aside from the odd undefeated week, many captains haven’t been able to translate their victories into a consistent streak.
What this should tell fans tuning into the final four games is that no one in Athletes Unlimited (besides Apuzzo for like, three weeks) is safe from dropped points or lost games. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. The unexpected should be expected, and teams can go from dominating one match to getting hard done by in the next. And to be honest, that’s what makes things even more exciting.
Business as Usual
Depending on who you ask, Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse’s second season is “the future of women’s lacrosse.” Or it’s a league full of “promise.” Sometimes it’s even a way to “give players a voice” and “shake up women’s professional sports.” But to fans familiar with AU’s modus operandi, this year’s season of lacrosse should appear to be business as usual for the organization. And in this case, getting more of the same is a fantastic thing.
“I kind of look at [playing in AU] as like a gift and an opportunity today to be able to play the sport that I love,” Lacrosse World Champion and Season 2 participant Marie McCool explained to Just Women’s Sports. It’s no coincidence that McCool’s opinion reflects the testimony of dozens of athletes before her. Athletes Unlimited LAX undoubtedly took a gamble on an unusual format. And coming to the end of its second year, fans should continue to expect that gamble to pay off handsomely.
A schedule for the final two days of the second season of Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse can be found here.