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For Taylor Cummings, Athletes Unlimited lacrosse comes at just the right time

Courtesy of Athletes Unlimited

For Taylor Cummings, the upcoming Athletes Unlimited lacrosse season is both the culmination of a winding professional journey and a departure from everything she’s done before. 

Widely regarded as one of the best lacrosse players of all time, Cummings has excelled at every level of the sport. At Maryland, she was a three-time Tewaaraton Award winner as the nation’s best player (the only three-time winner ever, female or male). She won two national championships with the Terps, has already played in two professional leagues — the United Women’s Lacrosse League and the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League — and has long been a staple of Team USA.

But now she’s ready for a new challenge — a single-site, five-week season in which the teams change every week. With Athletes Unlimited, players earn individual points, and the top four each week are in charge of drafting their respective teams. At the end of the season, the top overall point scorer is crowned the season’s champion.

“So many of us are used to playing with a college team year-round, or a U.S. Team, or even a professional team,” Cummings said. “So that aspect will be different.”

For Cummings and others, Athlete Unlimited’s format isn’t just different — it could also be the future.

Last August, the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League (WPLL) was forced to fold due to economic hardships caused by COVID-19. The league had previously announced a major sponsorship deal with Nike, but with the 2020 season cancelled, was unable to forge on.

Cummings, who had been drafted in the inaugural WPLL draft, was serving on the board at the time.

Almost immediately, rumors started swirling that Athletes Unlimited was in the process of launching its own professional lacrosse league after successfully debuting similar leagues for softball and volleyball.

As soon as the possibility was brought to her attention, Cummings knew it was something she needed to consider. She talked with U.S. teammates and longtime friends Kayla Treanor and Michelle Tumolo, who both serve on AU’s player executive committee, and figured out whether it would fit into her schedule before deciding to sign on for the season.

“It was another opportunity for a shift from the WPLL to something a little different,” she said. “But still very much a professional women’s lacrosse league.”

Cummings knew that AU’s television exposure would draw more eyes to women’s lacrosse. Despite being one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, professional women’s lacrosse has had a hard time finding its footing, in large part due to a lack of visibility and consistent coverage.

“Many of us play not only because we enjoy it, but because we want to help the next generation of players play and have things better than we do right now,” Cummings said. 

“Athletes Unlimited is a great opportunity to get a lot of eyes on our sport — to continue to grow the game at the professional level and inspire that next generation to be able to play and compete at a level as high as ours or even higher.”

Of course, this season’s location helps in that mission. The five-week season will all take place at Maureen Hendricks Field in the Metro DC area.

“We’re playing in a place where the lacrosse history is really rich,” Cummings said. “The lacrosse passion is really deep in Maryland, and to have eyes on that through this league is going to be a great opportunity.”

One of the things that Cummings is looking forward to most is being back on the field with some familiar faces. For many of the players who didn’t have a college season to break up the pandemic, this will serve as their first live action in months, aside from a couple of training weekends this summer for the U.S. team.

Whether it’s been shooting or dodging, running or lifting, Cummings has spent most of the last year and a half training alone. And now in the middle of a tryout year for the 2022 World Cup, Cummings is looking at the Athletes Unlimited season as a necessary opportunity to train and prepare.

“We haven’t really played against live bodies and actually played against other people in a long time,” she said. “Any opportunity to compete against the caliber of teams that we’re competing against on a regular basis now, when we’re in for these five weeks, is going to be awesome.”

During the season, teams will typically play three games per week and drafts will be held every Monday.

“For us to be able to play more lacrosse in five weeks than we have since many of us graduated college is awesome and something that we really are looking forward to,” Cummings said.

“The rules in AU definitely lend themselves to showcasing a really high-level game that we as professionals want to play.”

Athletes Unlimited’s format will consist of eight-minute quarters, 10-on-10 game play and a 60-second shot clock, all played on a field that’s 60 yards in width and 90 yards in length. To Cummings, the fast-paced format and up-and-down style will be lacrosse in its purest form. 

At the same time, the individual focus of Athletes Unlimited will be a major departure for athletes who are used to playing out full seasons on a single team. Cummings isn’t as worried.

“There is a sense of comfort in knowing that most of the people that are in the pool are all people that we’ve played with and against,” she said, adding that it removes an element of the unknown.

“You know how players play and what they’re like. It can help whoever is drafting build teams with a little bit more strategy.”

If Cummings gets the opportunity to be a captain and draft a team, she will be looking to the midfield as an area that needs strength.

“Being a middy, that’s something that I think is really important to the game, is having as many (midfielders) as possible,” she said.

And who would she pick first? “Somebody like Marie McCool or Dempsey Arsenault, who are both really strong, two-way midfielders,” Cummings said.

“I’d be lucky to have anyone in the pool if I’m a captain, but if I had to pick one, I’d say either of those two.”

Catch Cummings, McCool, Arsenault and others as Athletes Unlimited’s inaugural lacrosse season opens Friday. You can find the full schedule here, including how to watch.

Editor’s note: Athletes Unlimited is a sponsor of Just Women’s Sports.

USA Women’s Basketball Releases Olympic Roster, Explains Clark’s Omission

USA Women's Basketball's Diana Taurasi #12, Brittney Griner #15 and Sabrina Ionescu #6 at April's National Team Training Camp
All the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

USA Women's Basketball announced its official Olympic roster on Tuesday, with officials noting that Caitlin Clark’s lack of national team experience played a key role in her omission.

Selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said that the committee evaluated players according to a set of on-court criteria they were given.

"When you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes," she told reporters on Tuesday. "Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for [coach Cheryl Reeve] and then sometimes a vote."

Three first-time Olympians made the squad: Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu, and Kahleah Copper. Additionally, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum will make the switch to the national 5-on-5 team after winning gold in the inaugural 3×3 competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Age, Rizzotti said, was "never brought up" in player selection discussions. It’s the first time in Olympic history that a USA Women’s Basketball 5-on-5 team will travel to the Games without a single player under 26 years old.

Rizzotti commented that all the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience, something that Clark does not have.

"She's certainly going to continue to get better and better," USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley added. "Really hope that she's a big part of our future going forward."

Rizzotti said it would have been "irresponsible" to base roster decisions on anything outside of a basketball context. Marketing and popularity were not on the selection committee’s list of criteria. 

"It would be irresponsible for us to talk about her in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team," Rizzotti said. "Because it wasn't the purview of our committee to decide how many people would watch or how many people would root for the US. It was our purview to create the best team we could for Cheryl."

Clark expressed that she'll be using what some consider a snub as fuel for a run at the 2028 Olympic team. 

"I think it just gives you something to work for," Clark told media after practice Sunday. "It's a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it's just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" on Expert Adjacent

Arsenal Women Confirm US Tour, Preseason Friendlies

Arsenal's Lotte Wubben-Moy battles with Mayra Ramirez of Chelsea at the 2023/24 FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup Final
The last time Chelsea and Arsenal faced off, the Gunners took home the FA Women's League Cup. (Copa/Getty Images)

Arsenal announced on Monday that it will join Chelsea for a series of preseason friendlies in the US in August. 

Arsenal will be based in Washington, DC from August 15th through August 26th. The Gunners are scheduled to play the Washington Spirit on August 18th, followed by a match with fellow WSL team Chelsea on August 25th. It’s the first time that the two London clubs will meet each other on this side of the Atlantic. 

Chelsea had previously announced their game against Gotham FC, confirming reports from ESPN that surfaced last month.

"We always want to create the best conditions for our teams to prepare and perform at their best in pre-season," said Arsenal sporting director Edu Gaspar in a statement. "This gives our players an opportunity to play and train in a new environment, in front of our supporters around the world."

Both Arsenal and Chelsea tout rosters full of international talent — formidable opponents for two equally stacked NWSL teams gearing up for postseason action. Arsenal is home to accomplished England nationals Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, and backheel goal-scorer Alessia Russo alongside Ireland captain Katie McCabe and USWNT defender Emily Fox.

The games are set to be streamed live for free on DAZN.

Arsenal's US tour builds off of a trip to Melbourne, Australia at the tail end of the 2023/24 season, where they beat A-League All Stars women 1-0 in front of 42,120 fans.

US Women Defeat NC Courage to Claim $1 Million TST Prize

TST team US Women celebrate a semifinal win
USWNT legend Heather O’Reilly led the 7-on-7 side to victory at Monday's TST championship. (The Soccer Tournament)

The US Women 7-on-7 team won the first-ever edition of The Soccer Tournament’s women’s bracket, taking home the $1 million prize.

The TST concluded on Monday, with Ali Krieger and Heather O’Reilly leading the US Women past the North Carolina Courage’s 7-on-7 team to a 6-3 victory.

"I mean, at that moment, you're not thinking right? Like, I just saw the ball come to me and i was able to put it in the back of the net," said game-winning goal-scorer Talia DellaPeruta. "And it was just... everything kind of stopped for a second. When it went in, I just could not believe it. Like, that was the winning goal, everything that we had worked for this whole weekend.

"I'm just so grateful that I can contribute in that way and to be surrounded by such legends on the field. I mean, to be able to get us over that line, it's the best feeling I've ever felt. This is the best day ever."

Each team member will take home $40,000, with the winnings split equally amongst the 25-person group. First launched in 2023, TST is now the world’s highest-stakes women’s soccer tournament, offering equal $1 million prizes for both the men’s and women’s champions.

"Every single person, staff, players — we deserve it. One million dollars!" O'Reilly said in a team huddle after the victory.

USA Basketball Reportedly Finalizes 2024 Olympic Roster

Jewell Loyd #4 of the United States and Breanna Stewart #10 of the United States celebrate the teams victory during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Japan V USA basketball final
This will be the first year since 1976 that USA Women's Basketball travels to the Summer Games without a single player under 26 years old. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The women’s basketball roster for the Paris Olympics has reportedly been decided, with star WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark left off the 12-player roster.

Three first-time Olympians are slated to join the team: the Sun's Alyssa Thomas, the Mercury's Kahleah Copper, and the Liberty's Sabrina Ionescu. Meanwhile Clark, Brionna Jones, and Aliyah Boston are reportedly on the short-list for an injury replacement should any of the rostered players not make it to Paris, according to The Athletic.

Chelsea Gray and Brittney Griner, who were both named to the team, are currently in the process of returning from injury.

"I'm excited for the girls that are on the team," Clark told reporters Sunday. "I know it's the most competitive team in the world and I know it could have gone either way — me being on the team or me not being on the team. I'm going to be rooting them on to win gold. I was a kid that grew up watching the Olympics, so it will be fun to watch them.

"Honestly, no disappointment. It just gives me something to work for — it's a dream... Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

The reported Olympic lineup leans heavily on its veterans, with Diana Taurasi preparing for her sixth Olympic Games — a new all-time international basketball record. In fact, not a single player under the age of 26 was listed, a noteworthy departure from previous years.

In every Olympic roster dating back to 1976, at least two players under the age of 25 made it onto the US women's basketball team. Nancy Lieberman, the youngest player to ever compete for the US Olympic basketball team, was just 18 when she joined the 1976 Summer Games. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, WNBA stars Napheesa Collier and A’ja Wilson were both rostered at 24 years old.

Clark said USA Basketball officials called to tell her the news before it reached the press, the same approach they used for all other Olympic hopefuls. But according to Fever head coach Christie Sides, what some might see as a snub could also act as the catalyst for improved performance in the future.

"The thing she said was, 'Hey coach, they woke a monster,' which I thought was awesome," Sides said.

Clark also expressed excitement about the potential to get some much-needed rest during the Olympic break.

"Absolutely, it's going to be really nice," Clark said. "I've loved competing every single second. But it's going to be a great month for my body to get rest, get healthy and just get a little time away from basketball and the craziness of everything that's been going on. And just find some peace and quiet for myself.

"But then additionally, it's a great opportunity for us to work and get better. A great opportunity for myself to get in the weight room. To work on the court, at things that I want to get better at that I maybe didn't have time [to] going from college to the pro season."

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