After a bye week, we are back for PLL Semifinal Sunday in Philly. We’ve got back-to-back matchups for an incredible four-and-a-half hours of lacrosse.
PLL Semifinal Sunday
#6 Chaos vs #2 Atlas – Sunday, Sept. 5 at 11:30 a.m. EST (NBCSN, Peacock)
If the first PLL Semifinal contest were a meme, it would be a picture of Ben Rubeor and the Atlas as “YOU” and the Chaos and Andy Towers as “The One They Told You Not to Worry About.”
That in itself sums up the Chaos in the playoffs. You can draw some similarities to the Duke teams in the early-to-mid-2010s as a team that puts more stock in how it plays when it matters most and not in the early season. The worst thing anyone could do is give the Chaos any bulletin board material, but that’s what it had when it went into the first round of the playoffs. Only 12 percent of voters picked them to move on, and that’s something they made sure to remind everyone of. This is a team that is now playing with an even bigger chip on its shoulder and is extremely difficult to beat in the playoffs.
As we’ve talked about all season, faceoffs and goalie play will be a huge factor in this game. Blaze Riordan can steal possessions back for the Chaos as they are at a distinct disadvantage at the faceoff X. Trevor Baptiste is going to win draws, but the Chaos’ ability to create disruption once the ball gets picked up will be huge. If they can limit the clean possessions for the Atlas, then the game will be much more even than people may expect.
The test for the Atlas this week will be their ability to maintain their composure and play within their system and style of play. The Chaos did a phenomenal job of mucking it up all over the field and forcing the Archers into a lot of uncharacteristic plays, and if they can continue to do that and force the Atlas to play their style, then things may end up not working in the Atlas’ favor.
The team that has the ability to manage the highs and lows of the game will have the best opportunity at escape this semifinal and punching its ticket to the final. It’s easy to win games when things are going your way and you have one of the best players in the world, but what happens when a team that thrives on chaos drags you out to the deep end and makes you fight your way out? We’ll see this weekend.
#5 Whipsnakes vs. #1 Whipsnakes – Sunday, Sept. 5 at 1 p.m. EST (NBCSN, Peacock)
In a normal season, I would say the bye to the semifinal has a lot of benefits for the team that has it in the playoffs, but with all the extra time off over the course of the year, it’ll be hard to tell for the Waterdogs. In the NFL, you see more upsets than not in the divisional round because of the bye week, but who knows here.
What we do know is that Matt Rambo and Zed Williams are on point come playoff time, and that will be a major problem. The Waterdogs have really figured it out over the course of the season and gotten steady play all over the field. They’ve seen some great balance on offense, and Dillon Ward has settled in and been the goalie we all know him as. A major issue I see is that the Waterdogs have only played three games over the last month, and two of those came in a three-day span.
You may see some rust early on, and you can bet a Jim Stagnitta team will jump all over that early. But an area for concern for the Whipsnakes is in the goal. Brian Phipps came in and supplanted Kyle Bernlohr, and the Whips were able to get a big win. But at this stage of the season, they’ll need a good showing in net to help them beat the Waterdogs. If they can manage that well and give up good shots on defense, then they have the ability to let Rambo and company go to work.
Like most games this year, expect this semifinal to come down to the final possession.