BOYDS, Md. (WDVM) – The inaugural Athletes Unlimited women’s lacrosse league started its five-week season, holding its first games and opening ceremonies at Maureen Hendricks field at the Maryland Soccerplex on Friday.
In front of family and friends of players, the excitement started with performances and speeches and in the sky, as the all-female highlight pro skydiving team landed on the field with the game ball.
“To be in the D.C. area, clearly the home of lacrosse around the world, it’s a sport that’s growing, it’s on the rise, it’s expanding,” Athletes Unlimited founder and CEO John Patricoff said. “But nonetheless this is where you find the best players in the world, best fans in the world and we’re excited to bring pro women’s lacrosse back to this area.”
Prior to the games, nearly all of the league’s 55 players were introduced.
“It’s so surreal, I mean I never thought I’d be playing at this stage,” former Virginia Tech and Towson goalie Angie Benson, who is one of the first week’s team captains said. “I never thought my name would be on a flag, I never thought my name would be on the scoreboard, never thought I would be captain. It’s a really great experience, I’m just happy that I’m a part of it.”
Benson’s parents John and Denise Benson, drove 14 hours from Florida, to see her professional debut.
“She works very hard to get where she’s at, so it’s nice to be able to bathe in a little bit of that hard work. It’s nice to be here and see her on the field with other women that are so talented and passionate about the sport like she is.”
The Bensons told WDVM, that they wouldn’t miss their daughter’s first game. The Bensons tried to surprise their daughter, but she caught what they were trying to do.
“They weren’t going to miss my first game, they tried to sneak in, they’re like, ‘oh we’ll come Sunday.’ I was like there’s no way they’re missing the first game,” Benson said. “They tried to get it past me and it didn’t work. I actually sent them the tickets this morning knowing they were going to come.”
The league includes six former University of Maryland players, with a fifth of the players hailing from D.C., Maryland or Virginia. The players say that the league is already making an impression on girls nationwide.
“I think back to the little girl that I was and I think that I would have loved something like this,” Kathy Rudkin, who played college lacrosse at Syracuse and Maryland, and is a defender on Team Ohlmiller. “Getting to watch such powerful women play the sport and lacrosse is an awesome sport and it’s one that’s growing, especially in our country and bringing it to new heights on a stage like this is awesome.”
The league is player driven and runs on a individual points system. At the end of each week, the top four point scorers, will be captains for the next week. Players receive points for their team winning a quarter or a game, or being named MVP of a game. At the end of the season, the player with the most overall points will be named the champion and receive a bonus for themselves and the charity that they’re playing for.
After day one, Kayla Wood, Kayla Treanor, Caylee Waters and former Terps star Taylor Cummings are the top four point scorers in that order.
Skydiving point of view footage courtesy of highlights pro skydiving team.