Athletes Unlimited Season Two To Feature Star-Studded Roster
After a successful inaugural season that captured the hearts of many new fans, Athletes Unlimited will return for its second softball season in Rosemont, Ill. this weekend. The 2021 softball season will run from Aug. 28 through Sept. 27.
Ahead of the new season, the league released its 60-player roster, which includes several rookies who are ready to help take AU to new heights.
"What an incredible lineup we have for our second Athletes Unlimited softball season, with more than a third having just returned from the Olympics and half the rookies hot off the super successful NCAA Tournament," Athletes Unlimited co-founder and CEO Jon Patricof said.
On May 10, during the first-ever Athletes Unlimited Softball College Draft, 12 college seniors were invited to join the league, further cementing Athletes Unlimited's impact on changing the way professional softball will be carried on in the future.
Draftees Dejah Mulipola, Aliyah Andrews, Jessie Harper, Ciara Bryan, Alyssa Denham, Sis Bates, Carrie Eberle, Amber Fiser and Sami Williams have all accepted their invite and will be playing for AU this fall.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Sami Williams said. "I don't even think that in high school I would have had the opportunity to play pro. Right now, there is not a ton of other opportunities for professional softball players, but I watched a lot of AU's games last year and followed their season a lot and it was exciting. I liked a lot of the league's work and the platform that they give players."
While at Iowa State, Williams became a Cyclone legend whose legacy is known even beyond the Big 12. She is Iowa State's all-time leader in hits, home runs, doubles, RBI, games played, at-bats and runs scored. During her senior season, Williams hit .445 and posted a career-high 19 home runs, and she is looking to bring that heat with her to the pros.
Among the other recent grads taking the field, five players on the 2021 AU roster competed in the record-breaking 2021 Women's College World Series—Odicci Alexander, Denham, Harper, Mulipola and Eberle.
Alexander posted a 1.71 ERA during her fifth-year season and led JMU to become the first unseeded team ever to start the WCWS 2-0. Throughout this summer, Alexander played with the USSSA Pride, where she competed professionally against various national teams and summer leagues to strengthen her arm for this season's AU competition.
"There is a lot to be excited for," said Williams. "You are playing the best of the best every single day and I think that will be the biggest adjustment that I have to make. But I am ready for it. It definitely helped being able to play this summer with Team Florida and see some live pitching from some of the pitchers that I will play with in the AU season."
From the Olympics to the ever-growing number of summer and professional teams available, many rookies had their shot at practicing during the summer months to prepare for the AU stage.
While Greta Cecchetti and Sydney Romero will come into this season as Olympic competitors who saw action in Tokyo this summer, Mulipola, Sara Groenewegen and Ali Aguilar will enter their AU rookie season as Olympic medalists.
But even before the Olympic Games, Mulipola’s star power came from her decorated career as an Arizona Wildcat. She concluded her final year in college with a .385 batting average and 21 home runs.
From the June Athletes Unlimited open tryout, Nicole Newman and Kayla Wedl will be welcomed with the rest of the rookies.
Newman had a successful stint as a Drake University Bulldog. In 2019, she was named the program's first-ever first-team All-American and led the NCAA in strikeouts with 423. Wedl concluded her final year at the University of Illinois-Chicago as the 2021 Horizon League Softball Player of the Year and departed the program as the second all-time leader in batting average, runs, home runs, stolen bases and total bases.
Concluding the list of rookies on this year's roster are Taran Alvelo, Courtney Gano, Amanda Lorenz and Riley Sartain, who will all come to AU with prior professional experiences from either NPF or USSSA Pride.
This year's class of rookies shows the promising future of professional softball and will allow fans to see depth and talent in every game that is played.
*Editor's note: Gina Snyder from the University of Arizona was a late addition to the Athletes Unlimited roster for the 2021 season and will also be a rookie this year.