Advertisement

Carolina Chaos, new Premier Lacrosse team, plays first home game in Charlotte

It was a humbling feeling for Josh Byrne when he arrived in Charlotte.

Byrne, a 30-year-old Canadian standout for the Carolina Chaos, spotted a former coach at Friday’s Premier Lacrosse League showcase. He had a message for Kevin Unterstein — now UNC’s defensive coordinator — after reuniting with him from their Hofstra days.

“I saw an old coach who coaches down here,” Byrne told reporters. “I looked at him and I said: ‘This is our city now.’”

Byrne totaled four points in the Chaos’ thrilling 12-11 victory over the California Redwoods on Friday evening at American Legion Memorial Stadium.

The PLL’s four-game schedule in uptown this weekend includes a doubleheader that starts at 5 p.m. Saturday, opening with the Chaos hosting the New York Atlas. The league has used a touring model since its inaugural season in 2019, and the teams that are now geographically affiliated will move into their new cities next year.

“A little bit of butterflies, definitely, stepping onto the field,” Byrne said. “Just seeing a sea of red.”

Carolina Chaos attackman Jules Heningberg celebrates one of his four goals in the Chaos’ victory in the Premier Lacrosse League showcase in Charlotte, N.C., on June 7, 2024.
Carolina Chaos attackman Jules Heningberg celebrates one of his four goals in the Chaos’ victory in the Premier Lacrosse League showcase in Charlotte, N.C., on June 7, 2024.

Southern Swagger, Carolina Style

Contrary to previous PLL events inside American Legion Memorial Stadium that promoted the league as a whole, red and black Carolina Chaos branding is on full display this weekend.

Red ribbons highlighting the phrase, “Southern Swagger, Carolina Style,” line the walls surrounding the playing field. Parts of the uptown skyline are visible to the west side of the venue, where the stadium’s 60-foot video board stands behind the goal.

There’s an underpass traversing Charlottetowne Avenue outside the stadium’s east side — which leads to a fan fest that features a number of activities, including 3-on-3 box lacrosse.

Andy Towers, the head coach and general manager of the Carolina Chaos, during the team’s inaugural home game on June 7, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C.
Andy Towers, the head coach and general manager of the Carolina Chaos, during the team’s inaugural home game on June 7, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C.

“There’s a ton of passion that they have for the sports teams in the area. They showed that tonight,” Chaos head coach and general manager Andy Towers said. “But they’ve also shown that on social media leading up to this weekend. And it’s not lost on us that we are representing a very passionate crowd.

“To be able to go out and secure the win in the first official home game in the PLL for us is humbling. And hopefully we can continue to have success.”

‘Something we haven’t had in a long time’

It was a tightly-contested lacrosse game between the Chaos and Redwoods on a sunny Friday evening.

Both sides went on runs throughout and entered the fourth quarter knotted at 11-11. Attackman Tye Kurtz netted the eventual game-winner with roughly seven minutes to play, and the Chaos held on. Jules Heningburg paced Carolina’s attack with four goals.

Carolina Chaos defenseman Jack Rowlett makes a play during the Premier Lacrosse League showcase in Charlotte, N.C., on June 7, 2024.
Carolina Chaos defenseman Jack Rowlett makes a play during the Premier Lacrosse League showcase in Charlotte, N.C., on June 7, 2024.

A decent-sized crowd showed up to American Legion Memorial Stadium on Friday night.

While it’s not the Carolina Chaos’ full-season “home” until 2025, it provided a unique experience for athletes in one of the fastest-growing sports.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen a team play to the crowd a little bit,” Byrne said. “Seeing them genuinely cheering for us. To have a whole crowd cheering for us. It’s just something we haven’t had in a long time here.”

Schedule for PLL Saturday in Charlotte

Carolina Chaos vs. New York Atlas, 5 p.m. on ESPN2 and ESPN+.

Maryland Whipsnakes vs. Boston Cannons, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN+.