In less than a month, some of the best lacrosse players in the world will take the field as professionals for the first time. The United Women's Lacrosse League will begin its first-ever season at Lehigh University.
Around 100 players took the field at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia on Sunday in the league's first-ever draft camp. Each team (Baltimore Ride, Boston Storm, Philadelphia Force, and Long Island Sound) has 10 more draft picks from the draft camp pool; however, teams also want to select players who are still playing college lacrosse, so those may not be announced until after championship weekend.
"To have the first-ever draft camp is amazing," said league CEO Digit Murphy on the league's YouTube page following the camp. "To have this many athletes that care about the sport, and all our GMs, and all our head coaches here -- it's incredible."
The new league will be the first look at new rules in the women's game. The 90-second shot clock should speed up the pace of play, and not stopping on every foul will create a more fluid game. This will be the first look at women's lacrosse using a shot clock, so it's an opportunity for the UWLX to showcase both itself and its new rules.
The overtime rules will also be unique to the new league. After a five-minute period of six-on-six overtime, the game will go to a shootout if it's still tied. This hasn't been used at the college level for either the men's or the women's game, and the only time it's been used at the pro level is in the indoor National Lacrosse League's pre-season.
The first season will have the four teams in traditional lacrosse markets, but in years to come, the league could expand to the non-traditional markets that we have seen emerge in men's professional lacrosse leagues. Southern markets such as Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina have found success, and women's lacrosse at the college level has more southern and western markets than the men's game, with programs in both Florida and USC.
"We have several of the draftees here, and they're amazing," Murphy said. "But now when you look at this next 40 [roster spots available] I think it's going to be hard for the coaches to pick because we have some really good candidates. The biggest thing that I'm excited about is to keep the energy moving, whether they make it or not to the top 80, they're still involved in the sport, still out in the community being coaches. This is what we want. UWLX isn't just about winning games, it's about winning in the community."
The interest level is certainly there. With over 250 players signed up for the player pool in the past five months, and the league live streaming the draft camp for viewers to watch, this seems to be the perfect time for a professional women's lacrosse league.
The league begins play on May 28th, and it will be the first time that "professional" and "women's lacrosse" can come together.
(Photo credit: UWLX/YouTube)