Nobody on the field. Nobody in the stands. You can feel it as the rain turns to mist and the warm breeze becomes cold. The Archers are PLL Champs.
Lacrosse 2023 is done. The PLL summer is out of reach.
Archers won the PLL title on an overcast and rainy Sunday in Subaru Park, 15-14 over the Waterdogs in a game that is best be described as sensory overload. For those who watched on ABC, this contest had you screaming at the television.
The weather was bleak all weekend as the Archers injury list grew. First team All-Pro SSDM Latrell Harris out with a leg injury. Connor Fields, who took a massive hit in the semis was declared out with a shoulder injury.
That opened the door for lefty Reed Bowering. The Drexel product from British Columbia who made the most of his opportunity, playing on the power play and scoring a goal, two days after meeting many of his Archer teammates for the first time.
If you’re the Waterdogs, blame it on September. A tangled start put them down 8-2. Ryan Conrad and Connor Kelly figured out that when dodging, they were castaways on an island without slides and began to generate quality shots. Jake Carraway hit from distance. Waterdog defense was suddenly emboldened, and you could feel the momentum shift to the team in purple and white.
Waterdog Zach Currier (8 ground balls) tied the match at 12-12 with 9:14 minutes to play, in a game that had no shortage of drama, controversy, a monster hit by Graeme Hossack, a few Sunday yard sales and flashy highlights.
Mac OKeefe and Tre LeClaire struck to give Archers a two-goal cushion with 6:05 to go. But Waterdog goals by Ryan Conrad and Carraway on a power play had the teams even 14-14 with 4:33 on the scoreboard.
Summer MVP Tom Schreiber had one more ace up his sleeve. In a game defined by improbable Archers stepping up, guys like Ryan Aughavin, Connor Maher and Trey LeClaire, it was the main man who found a seam, and sent a high wrister into the goal with just 1:37 left on the clock. Schreiber is a balance of speed and power, of precision and grace, who stamped his greatness while playing with urgency in the clatter of the moment. He decided to takeover on the games most crucial possession. He firmly stamped his legacy as one of the all-timers at the midfield position, and his even-keeled and selfless leadership was very apparent during post game interviews.
Game MVP Brett Dobson put on a master clinic in the goalie position. Playing against his fellow Canadian and idol Dillon Ward, Dobson made 18 saves, (58%) one bigger than the next, and threw rainbow outlets that ignited transition. Waterdogs had more touches, more passes, more shots and more possession time. Dobson, in navy blue sweats and flat turf shoes, was oblivious to the sideways rain that blew off the Delaware River in the shadows of the Commodore Barry Bridge and the shouting crowd that got louder as the game crept from afternoon to evening, the second year pro from St Bonaventure made one final save before being engulfed by his teammates in a orange dog pile.
At dusk the confetti fell. FOGO Mike Sisselberger carried around the WWE styled title belt as if he had just pinned the champ with a flying kick off the top rope. Archers family members streamed out onto the soggy field. Schreiber dowsed Coach Chris Bates with Gatorade and the two shared a hug. Ten years together for this moment.
Archers cut down the net.
Now the nights turn colder and we flip the page towards fall ball and a 2024 regular season that begins with college games in 19 weeks.
Ive got that summertime sadness when it all ends. Summer doesn’t last forever.
We have much to look forward to. The PLL franchise city announcement should be coming in November. A Championship series will help warm the bitterness of winter. College fall ball is in full swing.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to cover the sport with friends who mean so much to me. The players, coaches and PLL folks that we deal with on a weekly basis during the summer that began in Albany in early June, could not have been more professional, helpful, kind, fun and authentic. The players are the games best salesmen – They’re incredible play on the field and their personalities off it. We have great people involved with pro lacrosse.
We’ve made enormous progress and the momentum of lacrosse is strong. For now, we pause and recalibrate to what’s next.
We will keep pushing.
Thanks for watching.