Ever-Mindful Taylor Moreno Wins Athletes Unlimited Crown in Nail-Biter

PHOTO BY KAIT DEVIR/ATHLETES UNLIMITED

Rookie goalie Taylor Moreno edged Sam Apuzzo by 17 points on the leaderboard to claim the Athletes Unlimited championship.


The final day of the Athletes Unlimited season felt like Election Night. The race was too close to call.

Goalie Taylor Moreno and midfielder Sam Apuzzo, who captained the two teams that squared off in the season finale, were deadlocked in the final minute of the final game. Moreno banked 45 points when the buzzer sounded and her team won 9-7. But Apuzzo picked up 15 points for being selected as the third MVP of the game. Moreno held a slight edge and was announced the provisional winner, pending reviews and statistical appeals.

This morning, Athletes Unlimited made it official. Moreno, a rookie out of North Carolina and the last goalie cut from the U.S. national team, was the league’s second champion. Taylor Cummings, who announced her retirement from the national team and did not play in AU this year, won the inaugural season.

“It was crazy to think that Sam and I were that close and that it was going to come down to the last game,” Moreno said. “The environment it created was awesome. It’s been a crazy past 18 hours with people asking what was going on. It really came down to those final stats.”

Moreno edged Apuzzo 1,798-1,782. She admits the wait from the final buzzer to her official win was “nerve-racking.” But Moreno remained mindful — and appreciative — of the journey, even as she received text after text asking what was going on and if she won.

“I would’ve been happy with either one, even being in the top four, because I would never in a million years have thought that could happen,” Moreno said. “Standing up there with Sam was an honor. She’s an amazing person and lacrosse player.”







The win caps a whirlwind eight months for Moreno — one that saw her end her fifth and final collegiate season at North Carolina with her first national title. But Moreno learned more than X’s and O’s in Chapel Hill. During her junior year, she began working closely with Dr. Jeni Shannon, the athletic department’s director of mental health and performance psychology.

“She was a rock for me,” Moreno said. “[She helped me] work on how to adjust my mind to adapt, especially when things aren’t going my way or competing for a spot.”

Moreno will be the first to tell you that lacrosse has been good to her in 2022. But things haven’t always gone her way. In the national semifinal, she was temporarily pulled in the third quarter with UNC on the ropes against Northwestern but returned and made a game-sealing save in the final 30 seconds. She watched the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship from her couch as the last goalie cut from the gold medal-winning team.

But Moreno, who hopes to get another crack at playing for a world championship with starting goalie Liz Hogan retiring, says she didn’t approach AU with something to prove to the national team coaching staff. Instead, she was ready to embrace the new challenge and an opportunity to continue her career. After watching the season from the stands and at home last year, Moreno knew she would be up against a faster-paced game and a steady flow of high-quality shots from some of the world’s best shooters. She drew on the lessons she learned at UNC — and breathed.

“Mindfulness helped me calm myself down,” Moreno said. “Lacrosse is a game of runs, and it helped me stay composed in those moments.”

Moreno also got a little help from an old college friend. Emma Trenchard joined her on the All-Defensive team, and the two played together all four weeks. She credits playing with and for Trenchard — and all her teammates — rather than for individual accolades for fueling her success.

“Something I learned from [Shannon] that propelled me to the rest of my career and something that added and helped me fall in love with my position a little bit more is to appreciate the girls in front of me,” Moreno said. “My play is a reflection of how hard those guys work.”

Moreno showed up — for her teammates and herself — during her first year in the pros. She led the league in save percentage (.560) and tallied double-digit saves in 11 of 13 games. But beyond the stat line and individual title, Moreno wants young girls at home to see the value of work ethic and team spirit.

“I hope they learn to never give up no matter what life throws at you, whether it’s the politics of lacrosse in high school or club or injuries,” Moreno said. “As long as you put your head down and you work hard, all that hard work does pay off, and it’s not something anyone can take away from you.”

And Moreno wants young kids to be kind to themselves and mindful during the rollercoaster they experience throughout a single game and their careers

“One of the big things these kids ask me is how I forget about letting a goal in,” Moreno said. “Those things are on the back of my mind, but when you ignore them and give yourself some positive reinforcement, it shines over the negativity. That’s something kids should remember.  You get to talk to yourself. What you say to yourself is going to show in your performance.”

Clearly, Moreno elected to treat herself well in 2022.

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