If Northwestern’s softball and lacrosse postseason runs left you in a devastating spiral of sadness and waiting until next year for more action from your favorite players, look no further.
We touched on Athletes Unlimited earlier this summer, but the role of ex-Wildcat athletes in their respective professional leagues has only grown — therefore, we’re introducing a new series built to keep up with Northwestern alumni in AU’s softball, lacrosse, volleyball and basketball spheres. The format and concept of AU is a bit confusing upon first glance, so before diving into the nitty gritty, here are the basics:
Imagine the leaderboard properties of a video game and point breakdowns of all-star skills challenges somehow infused into the regular game setup of your favorite sports — that’s kind of how AU leagues work. A player-centric model allows competitors to notch individual scores based on their own performances (e.g. winning a draw control is two points, hitting a double is 20 points, etc.) while fighting for a team victory. For a more comprehensive look at how scoring works, see here for softball and here for lacrosse.
Individual points are reflected on a leaderboard at the end of each week, and the top four scorers are then named team captains for the next week. Now, this is where it gets a bit confusing. Each week is a different “season” and the team captains, as determined by the previous week’s individual points, redraft all of the players in the pool onto new teams named after them. So, each week or “season” breeds a whole different slate of teams and points reset.
Thankfully, AU was picked up by ESPN with most contests broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPNU in addition to subscriber-exclusive broadcasts on ESPN+ so pretty much anyone can catch a game if they want. Now, entering week four of summer lacrosse and week three of summer softball, here are how some of Northwestern’s former stars have fared in recent weeks.
Lauren Gilbert (‘22), Jill Girardi (‘22), Ally Palermo (‘22), Lindsay McKone (‘21)
After the final horn sounded for these four Wildcat Lacrosse standouts, their dominance on the field surely didn’t. Gilbert currently leads the league with 24 goals going into the final weekend of play, also contributing 10 draw controls. The speed and footwork that highlighted her All-American career at Northwestern have allowed her to make plays like these against some of the best players in lacrosse history:
Gilbert will be in orange this weekend, where she’s been a mainstay for captain Sam Apuzzo.
Jill Girardi, another dominant ‘Cat from the 2022 Final Four run, will be suiting up in gold for fellow Final Four contender and ex-UNC goalkeeper Taylor Moreno. She has continued to dominate in the draw circle at the professional level, with 13 draw controls as well as four goals.
Ally Palermo, another 2022 Northwestern graduate, has tallied 11 ground balls and 8 caused turnovers. Palermo and a fourth Wildcat in Lindsey McKone will both be in gold this weekend for Moreno as well.
McKone, in her second season of AU, has contributed 36 draw controls, 8 goals, and 26 ground balls thus far.
Gilbert and Team Apuzzo take on Team Johansen today at 4:30 P.M. CST on ESPNU while the other three Wildcats and Team Moreno face Team Glynn at 7:00 P.M. CST on ESPN2. The schedule for the remainder of the week can be found here with all games this week taking place at the US Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md.
Rachel Lewis (‘22), Andrea Filler (‘16)
AU hosts two professional softball leagues, each one hosting a different former Wildcat. Northwestern’s newly crowned home run record holder Rachel Lewis was drafted into AU’s regular softball league, with the schedule spread out over five weeks. Andrea Filler, a member of Kate Drohan’s squad in Evanston from 2014 to 2016 after transferring from Boston College, plays in AU’s AUX softball league — a condensed version of the regular league Lewis is participating in currently.
AUX lasted only two weeks in the middle of June and consisted of three series for a total of 18 games with 42 players and three teams instead of 60 players and four teams in the regular season. Filler finished seventh overall on the individual leaderboard and started in all 12 games she played, totaling nine hits for nine runs. Oh, and she also hit this monster home run in her fourth start of the season.
Though she didn’t get into the rotation until week two, Lewis certainly made her first start worth the wait. Batting for Team Harshman in purple once again, Lewis went two for three for two singles and a run and only kept at it. In her second start, Lewis walked three times — reminiscent of her time as an absolute slugger at The J — and rounded the bases once.
Lewis’s totals after week two place her near the bottom of the leaderboard with a total of 224 points by virtue of her not appearing on the diamond in week one. Yet, again in purple for week three, Lewis was drafted to Team Chidester and will play on ESPNU at 8:00 P.M. CST on August 12 in Rosemont, Ill. at Parkway Bank Sports Complex — notably within driving distance from Evanston. Lewis will also suit up on August 13 at 5:00 P.M. CST on ESPNU and August 14 at 4:30 P.M. CST on ESPN+.