The 2023 Premier Lacrosse League season has poised the Archers for the potential to etch their name into the PLL history books as the most dominant team the league has ever witnessed. As the PLL reaches its half-decade milestone after five seasons, it is time to start looking at each season and comparing accolades amongst specific teams, mainly champions. While engaging in a comprehensive debate on the league’s greatest teams based on player talent, accolades, and records is a topic deserving of its own dedicated discussion, this article centers on the Archers’ prospect of culminating the 2023 season as unrivaled champions.
With just one week remaining in the PLL regular season, the Archers stand on the cusp of finishing with a remarkable 9-1 record. This would mirror the Whipsnakes’ regular season achievement from the previous year. A direct comparison between the two is the score differential, where the Whipsnakes boasted a +20, while the Archers presently maintain a commanding +28 going into the final week of the regular season. Anticipation is palpable as the Archers prepare to clash with the Waterdogs in Utah, knowing that their initial meeting this season ended in a tightly contested 19-18 victory for the Archers.
Crucially, securing a first-round bye would mark a pivotal achievement for the Archers, given their historical playoff struggles. It is baffling that the Archers haven’t secured a championship appearance in the past four seasons. The recurring obstacle in their path has been Chaos, a hurdle they’ve been unable to overcome. The Whipsnakes’ semifinal loss last year, by a mere goal, against the eventual champions, the Waterdogs, shows that a bye week is not always the answer. While it doesn’t guarantee a championship berth, the Archers’ current position and performance have fans feeling optimistic.
Drawing from the Whipsnakes’ experience last year, the Archers can stand as champions by emerging triumphant in their remaining games, concluding the season with just a single blemish on their record. The only other instance of comparable accolade outside of 2022 belongs to the Whipsnakes again, who navigated the isolated circumstances of the 2020 COVID-19 season to finish undefeated. While undoubtedly deserving of the championship title, the circumstances of condensed gameplay over a two-week period devoid of fan presence warrants an asterisk, but don’t tell Lebron James fans that.
For devoted Archers fans, the narrative has been one of perseverance through regular-season highs met with playoff heartbreak. Their journey has seen them finish the 2019 season with a 5-5 record, resulting in a semifinal exit. The truncated 2020 season bore similar frustrations, with a 4-2 record and another semifinal defeat. 2021 witnessed a 5-4 record and a loss in the quarterfinals, while the 2022 campaign saw a commendable 6-4 record only to falter in the semifinals. Evidently, the team’s history is marked by potent offenses that often fail to translate into playoff success.
However, the narrative has taken a different trajectory in 2023. The decision to part ways with figures such as Will Manny, Marcus Holman, and Adam Ghitelman appears to have paid dividends for the club. The rejuvenated attacking trio of Connor Fields, Matt Moore, and Mac O’Keefe is thriving, showcasing seamless synergy. Brett Dobson has ascended into the echelons of elite goalkeepers, challenging Blaze Riorden for supremacy. Tom Schreiber continues to substantiate his claim as the best midfielder in the world, propelling the team to new heights. Grant Ament’s versatility coming out of the box has been evident, influenced by his standout performance at the World Lacrosse Men’s Championship. Steering this revitalized roster is Head Coach Chris Bates, a mastermind responsible for assembling this amalgamation of emerging talents that seems destined to govern the league’s landscape.
Inevitably, the lingering question remains: Can the Archers prevail in the final stretch and etch their name in PLL history as the most dominant team to date? The affirmative response seems compelling, as their resurgent form, strategic vision, and collective prowess make the prospect increasingly plausible.