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UWLX Boston Storm Ryan Conwell 2017
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UWLX Finds an Edge: Competitive Product in Year Two

The United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX) is nearing the end of their second regular season. I have been to a few of their games in person, and watched several via live stream as well.

This past Friday, the Boston Storm was having a home game, actually in the Boston area, so I went to go check it out. I originally had planned on just watching it as a spectator, take a few photos, but skip any sort of write-up.

That changed after about two minutes of play.

A Turn For the Best

Boston was playing the Philadelphia Force. I had seen their season opener during NCAA Championship weekend, which actually went into overtime, so I was expecting a good game.

During that weekend, the overall feel of the game was very similar to what 2016 had.

As Kayla Treanor described last year,

“It’s like a pickup game with the best players in the world”.

UWLX Boston Storm Ryan Conwell 2017

They were of course competitive, but it was obvious that the players were having quite a bit of fun at the same time.

So what changed about two minutes into this game? It manifested itself in many ways, but this league has turned into what you expect out of a professional league. These teams were on the field for one reason: to win.

Making Adjustments

The first major sign of this was actually the shooting. As fans of the men’s game know, if you get your hands free, a shot gets fired off.

Typically in the women’s game, it is not that straightforward. With packed-in defenses, shooting space, dangerous shot calls, and some dodging limitations, those types of looks are just not as prevalent.

UWLX Boston Storm Ryan Conwell 2017Since the UWLX has fewer players in the offensive end, there is more space to operate. They have the two point line, so defense has to play further out.

More of the calls are also of the “play on” type, meaning there is not an immediate whistle. This creates the opportunity for offensive players to create shots you don’t see nearly as often under NCAA rules.

Let It Rip

UWLX Boston Storm Ryan Conwell 2017One of the first shots in this game actually bounced off the goalie, went about fifty feet into the air and almost landed out of bounds on the sideline. Anyone who has watched enough lacrosse games knows that a rebound like that takes some serious shooting force.

This was not an exception in this game, either. Nearly every offensive possession for each team turned into a two point shot, a wind up, a behind the back look, or a diving goal.

This was one of the most exciting lacrosse games I have seen. Not exciting women’s lacrosse. Exciting lacrosse. Full stop. No qualifiers.

Getting Serious About This

The end of the game even started getting a little physical. OK, more than a little. Philadelphia had built up a big lead, which Boston slowly chipped away from. With fast breaks and two point goals as their preferred method, they were still down by two in the final minutes.

UWLX Boston Storm Ryan Conwell 2017While trying to force a turnover, some big time hits took place. No, they were not all legal, either.

Boston wound up losing by two in front of their home town crowd. When I spoke to Philadelphia’s Kara Mupo after the game and described my impression of the game, she laughed as said,

“Yeah, we have started developing a bit of a rivalry with Boston.”

With more consistent rosters, the teams have been able to really come together and gel through this season. Those consistent rosters playing each other regularly makes things ripe for familiarity and competition.

Looking Forward to the UWLX Finale

The best part is that this is not just in the players’ heads. It shows on the field.

There is only one more weekend of regular season games, which are on July 20th, and July 21st. Then, they are holding their playoff round in Boston, at Harvard, right before the Boston Cannons play the Florida Launch.

UWLX Boston Storm Ryan Conwell 2017 (17 of 17)If you’re an MLL fan going to that game, I cannot recommend enough that you go earlier to check out a game or two of the UWLX. What they have built is a great fan experience, and a glimpse of how exciting this league can be.