This summer, Athletes Unlimited launched a professional women’s lacrosse league following the conclusion of the World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship.
After the season started in late July, many former Tar Heels made their debut in the league and quickly found major success. In a format that emphasized personal performance over team play, some went on to hold captain positions for consecutive weeks, while all continued to dominate the game offensively and defensively.
The league operated much differently than most normal leagues would. While there are no set teams, the top four players of the week are named team captains and are tasked with drafting their own teams for the following weeks. Additionally, individual athletes earn a variety of points, such as win points, stat points and MVP points. The league also played in a fast-paced, shortened format that includes a 60-second shot clock and 10-on-10 gameplay.
Here are the former Tar Heels who found the most success.
After preparing for the pro league by training with the U.S. women’s national team, former UNC goalkeeper Caylee Waters made her mark as a strong veteran player this season.
Several outstanding performances during Week 4 earned Waters the honor of team captain in the league’s final week of play. Three of her most notable performances throughout the season included making an impressive eight saves against Team Glynn, rejecting six shots against Team Arsenault and totaling nine saves in a win over Team Treanor.
Waters headed into finals play with 920 win points, 337 stat points and 165 MVP points. At the conclusion of the season, Waters finished runner-up for league MVP, just behind Taylor Cummings of the University of Maryland.
Kayla Wood established herself as one of the best players in the Athletes Unlimited league this summer. The former Tar Heel’s stellar performances led her to be selected as team captain for Team Wood for the first three weeks of her rookie career.
Wood’s scrappy play and defensive talent allowed her team to beat out some tough competition and remain undefeated in the first two weeks of league play. Her stats speak for themselves, including winning eight draws and collecting six groundballs while causing two turnovers, all in just the first three games of the season.
Wood has consistently topped the leaderboard as the highest-ranked defender, totaling 980 win points, 188 stat points and 105 MVP points.
Wood was considered the breakout star of the league’s opening season straight out of her North Carolina career. Heading into championship weekend, she was selected as one of three nominees for the GEICO Defensive Player of the Year Award. Wood made a strong rookie debut in this league and will likely continue to flourish in the rest of her pro career.
Marie McCool came to the AU Pro League this year after serving as a volunteer assistant coach at UNC this past spring. She is one of the most highly-decorated women’s lacrosse players in UNC program history, including consecutive Tewaarton Award finalist finishes in 2017 and 2018 and winning National Midfielder of the Year in the latter year.
As a dynamic two-way midfielder, McCool consistently helped fuel her team’s efforts on both sides of the ball. Offensively, she totaled 28 goals and 11 assists on the season, while causing 10 turnovers on the defensive side.
McCool played a huge role in leading her team in a successful championship run as she continued to dominate the field offensively and defensively, eventually finishing the season ninth overall.