Premier Lacrosse League’s Championship Series Recap
Covid-19 has had drastic effects on the Premier Lacrosse League’s (PLL) plans for the 2020 season. After expanding to seven teams and coming in with big plans they were forced to figure out a way to play the season in a safe environment. The cancelation of the Olympics gave them an opportunity to fill those time slots alongside the NHL on NBC.
The PLL decided on having a bubble in Utah and going with a tournament-style season that would happen over the span of two weeks. Teams would play a four game group-stage portion that would seed them for the single-elimination tournament the following week.
Let’s go through seventh to first place and see how each team did.
#7 Waterdogs LC
10-11 L vs Atlas
7-9 L vs Archers
12-13 L vs Chrome
10-9 W vs Chaos
R1: 8-11 L vs Redwoods
Being the new expansion team is always hard in any sport. It becomes much harder when you are given less than a week of training camp to set up your team structure, culture, and organization. However, the Waterdogs looked good in many of their games. In all four group play games they led at times by multiple goals. It was in defending that lead where they fell apart.
They struggled at goalie with coach Andy Copelan going with his old pal Charlie Cipriano over the new rookie from Delaware, Matt DeLuca. I think that if Andy went with DeLuca from day one that could have been a world where the Waterdogs go far in this tournament, building momentum from multiple wins in the group stage.
The midfield and attack looked crisp, their playbook was just not as deep as teams who have been together longer. Ben Reeves, previous Tewaaraton winner in college, was a huge let down and did not provide the firepower that Copelan and co were looking for. Meanwhile, Zach Currier, entry draftee, and Kieran McArdle, ex-Archer, really lead the offense.
MVP: Kieran McArdle (A) (14P, 8G, 6A, 31%SH)
The Surprise: Chris Sabia (D) (6CT, 9GB)
Biggest let down: Ben Reeves (A) (3P, 3A)
#6 Atlas LC
11-10 W vs Waterdogs
10-11 L vs Archers
6-15 L vs Whipsnakes
10-11 L vs Redwoods
R1: 9-11 L vs Archers
Atlas fell absolutely flat this season. With additions of world-class attackman Rob Pannell from the entry draft and mitty Bryan Costabile from the rookie draft everyone was expecting a lot more firepower from this Atlas squad. However, co-founder of the PLL and ex-best player in the world, Paul Rabil, simply had an awful season. This was coupled with the entire midfield, besides Costabile, looking slow and inefficient in their shooting.
A lackluster attack mixed with a defense that completely looked lost the entire season is no winning combination. If it was not for the heroics from goalie Jack Concannon on many occasions, most of these scores would look a lot closer to the Whipsnakes 15-6 grilling of Atlas.
The MVP: Jack Concannon (G) (69SV, 57%Sv%, 12.16 SAA)
The Surprise: Bryan Costabile (M) (9P, 8G, 1A, 28%sh%)
Biggest let down: Paul Rabil (M) (5P, 1G, 4A)
#5 Chrome LC
13-9 W vs Chaos
12-11 W vs Redwoods
12-13 L vs Archers
13-12 W vs Waterdogs
R1: 14-19 L vs Chaos
Chrome, who finished in last place a season ago, came out of the gate on fire. They took down previous #2 and #3 teams Chaos and Redwoods and seem to have had a complete change with the new coaching staff led by Tim Soudan. Conner Farrell was killing it at FO and they were finally getting production from more than just their attack.
The biggest improvement, however, was their defense. No longer were they giving up 15-20 goals a game, giving the offense no chance to win. However, we saw the same old Chrome when they met with Chaos in the first round of the tournament. They had no answer from the bombardment of shots they faced against Chaos’s mittys and this led to a huge defeat.
It showed where the real lack of talent is on the Chrome roster at SSDM. They will be looking to target that in the draft. While disappointing to go out round one after going 3-1 in group play, I think Chrome has a lot to look forward to if lacrosse can deliver a full season next year.
MVP: Jordan Wolf (A) (18p, 10G, 8A, 31%Sh%)
The Surprise: Conner Farrell (FO) (62%Fo%, 34GB, 1P)
Biggest let down: John Galloway (G) (68SV, 54%Sv%, 12.75SAA)
#4 Redwoods LC
9-13 L vs Whipsnakes
11-12 L vs Chrome
8-7 W vs Chaos
11-10 W vs Atlas
R1: 11-8 W vs Waterdogs
R2: 13-12 L (OT) vs Whipsnakes
There was a real mixture of expectations from the Redwoods going into this mini-season. They had only lost in OT in the finals to the Whipsnakes the previous year, and added Myles Jones in the offseason. However, star attackman and star defensemen Jules Heningburg and Matt Landis would both miss the season.
The struggles of the offense without Heningburg were very evident during the group stage. The team completely relied on the two-bomb and a solid defense to even scratch out the two wins they got. However, Kavanagh, Garnsey, Petterson, and Gleason figured it out when it came time for the tournament, putting on a clinic at attack and looking extremely solid.
Again, the Redwoods fell short to the Whipsnakes in overtime. It is hard to pin the blame of the loss on anyone. Redwoods battled back down 8-2 with both the offense and defense being on fire for the second half. The last few positions on offense were pretty poor, but the Whips are a great team. Nat St. Laurent, coach of the Redwoods, will not be happy with the result but extremely happy with how his team played those final two games.
MVP: Garrett Epple (D) (9CT, 17GB)
The Surprise: Sergio Perkovic (M) (15P, 6 two-pointers, 82% 2ptSOG% )
Biggest let down: Greg Puslkuldjian (FO) (38%Fo%, 9GB)
#3 Archers LC
11-10 W vs Atlas
9-7 W vs Waterdogs
13-12 W vs Chrome
11-17 L vs Whipsnakes
R1: 11-9W vs Atlas
R2: 9-13 L vs Chaos
The Archers were heavy favorites to be in the championship this year following an extremely solid season one, and then earning the #1 draft pick by winning the losers bracket. They ended up selecting Grant Ament (A) out of Penn State. The Archers’ attack and midfield looked potent and extremely scary.
Watching the group stage games, they impressed, the attack and midfield produced and often controlled the game. They would eat up the clock and score late into the shot clock. Their defense looked stout. After Chaos had a surprise round one victory most people predicted them to steamroll their way into the championship.
However, that is not how things went. The entire Archers’ midfield and attack disappointed against an average at best defense with the Chaos. Meanwhile, their usually stout D gave up a lot of easy goals that the Archers usually do better against. It was an extremely disappointing end to a great tournament from the Archers.
MVP: Tom Schriber (M) (16P, 12G, 4A, 41%Sh%)
The Surprise: Gran Ament (A) (20P, 6G, 14A)
Biggest let down: Marcus Holeman (A) (7P, 6G, 1A, 23%Sh%)
#2 Chaos LC
9-13 L vs Chrome
7-8 L vs Redwoods
7-12 L vs Whipsnakes
9-10 L vs Waterdogs
R1: 19-14 W vs Chrome
R2: 13-9 W vs Archers
Finals: 6-12 L vs Whipsnakes
Chaos was a wildcard coming into the season. You expected fireworks from their midfield and attack with a lackluster defense. What you ended up getting was a lackluster attack and midfield and a bad defense for the four games of groupstage. Something was off and the whole team looked bad.
Coach Andy Towers made the extremely bold move of sitting possibly a top-five talent in Conner Fields at attack for the elimination part of the series. Fields was playing a lot of one-on-one lacrosse, and oftentimes the passing stopped when the ball got to him. This decision to sit fields ignited their offense; the midfield and attack both came alive scoring 32 combined goals in two games.
The offense looked unstoppable heading into the championship against the 2019 champion Whipsnakes. They even took a 6-3 lead heading into the 4th quarter. Their offense had slowed a bit, but Goalie Blaze Riroden was on fire. Then it all unraveled. Thomas Kelley could not win a faceoff, the D headed by Jarrod Neumann could not stop the Whips from getting easy shots, and Blaze could no longer bail them out. They lost that quarter 9-0.
MVP: Blaze Riorden (G) (119SV, 61%Sv%, 10.97SAA)
The Surprise: Dhane Smith (M) (10P, 6G, 4A, 32%Sh%)
Biggest let down: Conner Fields (A) (7P, 6G, 1A. 32%Sh%)
#1 Whipsnakes LC
13-9 W vs Redwoods
15-6 W vs Atlas
12-7 W vs Chaos
17-11 W vs Archers
R2: 13-12 W (OT) vs Redwoods
Finals: 12-6 W vs Chaos
Whipsnakes came into the year as decently heavy favorites. Their attack had been depleted in the expansion draft with the Waterdogs basically taking all starters besides protected MVP, Matt Rambo. However, they had picked up star player Zed Williams in the entry draft. This acquisition really proved to be the tipping point for Whipsnakes to turn into a dominant roster.
Their defense throughout the entire tournament was solid, goalie Kyle Bernlohr was at his peak game. On top of this FO man, Joe Nardella was the best in the league at not only winning the draw but also scoring points from the FO spot.
The only trouble they ran into was in the Redwoods game when Epple and the Redwoods’ D completely shut down Matt Rambo and Zed Williams. However, they were able to manufacture just enough to come away with the overtime victory.
The finals as we already talked about were won with a crazy fourth quarter where they destroyed Chaos at every facet of the game. They will now be champions for another year as they enter into the 2021 season.
MVP: Kyle Bernlohr (G) (83SV, 63%Sv%, 8.44SAA)
The Surprise: Joseph Nardella (FO) (72%Fo%, 65GB, 6P)
Biggest let down: None