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Matt Rambo PLL MVP Contenders Before Elimination Games Whipsnakes Premier Lacrosse League

PLL MVP Contenders Before Elimination Games

So ends the easy part. We’ve had a lot of fun in the past little-over-a-week, but with the knockout stage set to begin shortly, we’re about to say goodbye to three teams. Sadly, two more will fall 48 hours after that and one more after another 48 hours. The season only ends happily for one team. While Whipsnakes are the favorites so far, no one knows what will happen. It’s a single-elimination tournament in professional sports, for Pete’s sake!

What we do know, so far, is that there have been a ton of fantastic performances so far.

The argument of who is having the best PLL Championship Series is debatable. Only one player will get crowned PLL MVP. Last season, Whipsnakes’ Matt Rambo took home the trophy and after a PLL-record ten points (!!) in the final game of group play, Rambo is very much in the conversation for 2020.

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PLL MVP Candidates after Group Play

Who else is in contention for the PLL’s top individual award?

Let’s talk about the candidates. Oh, and before anybody starts tweeting at me over the order of this list, the following candidates will be discussed alphabetically by last name. If your favorite player isn’t at the top of the list, it doesn’t mean he’s not the favorite to win MVP. If he’s not on the list at all, well, then you can tweet at me (@RyderCochrane).

Grant Ament

Attack | Archers

Look, we all expected that Grant Ament would be a good PLL player. He wasn’t the #1 overall pick in the 2020 College Draft for nothing. Still, the impact that Ament has made in his first four games as a pro has been far more than most of us can honestly say they would’ve expected.

Just as he did at Penn State, he’s quarterbacking one of the scariest offenses in the league, and, just like he did at Penn State, he’s racking up assists at a higher rate than goals. Through four games, Ament is tied for second in the PLL in points, collecting 6 goals and 11 assists. Those goals include some spectacular shots, including a vicious ankle breaker that left Kyle Hartzell stumbling out of the play, and a Jordan-esque dunk in which he leapt from behind GLE to score.

Still, it’s been Ament’s passing that has impressed the most. His eleven assists are also second in the PLL, and include one of the silliest passes of the whole tournament, as he fed Ryan Ambler the OT winner against Chrome. Ament seems like a lock to win Rookie of the Year, but there could be more hardware to come for the young superstar.

Kyle Bernlohr

Goalie | Whipsnakes

In case you’ve somehow missed them bragging about it on Twitter, Whipsnakes haven’t lost in over 340-something days. A lot goes into that, but the defensive dominance is probably the defending champs’ biggest strength.

Kyle Bernlohr Whipsnakes PLL MVP Premier Lacrosse League
Photo: Premier Lacrosse League

The leader of that defense is goalie Kyle Bernlohr, who has been an absolute revelation since, well, always? I mean, this man made arguably the save of the century in the 2016 NCAA National Championship. This year, Bernlohr has been as good, or better, than ever. His 64 percent save rate ranks second in the PLL, less than a point behind Chaos’ Blaze Riorden. He’s scooped up nine GBs, which also ranks second amongst goalies this season, and he’s even forced a turnover. But, really, this comes down to him being the leader of the PLL’s strongest defense. As a team, Whipsnakes have only allowed 33 goals, which comes out to league-best 8.25 goals allowed per game. Somebody on this defense has to be considered for MVP. I’m giving the shoutout to the goalie.

Christian Mazzone

Midfield | Archers

Considering that he fell all the way to the eleventh pick in the 2020 Entry Draft, any team in the league could’ve had Mazzone. Archers have to be thrilled that they got him, and with its second round selection at that. Mazzone has been one of the biggest breakout stars of the 2020 PLL Championship Series. Despite sharing a midfield with Captain America himself, Tom Schreiber, Mazzone has had arguably the biggest impact amongst the Archers midfield. He’s shooting an absurd 73 percent this season, putting up eight goals and five ground balls while limiting his turnovers to just two.

More importantly, Mazzone always seems to be chipping goals in during big moments for the Archers. Sure, there are other midfielders with more points, and other midfielders with big names. However, Mazzone has been so integral to the Archers success so far, and he’s just been so incredibly efficient that it felt right to shout him out here. He’s not going to win it, and he’s not even the best player out of the Entry Draft (we’ll get to that), but what a season it’s been for the former Scarlet Knight.

Joe Nardella

Face-off Specialist | Whipsnakes

Only one face-off man has ever won the MVP Award in professional lacrosse, which was Greg Gurenlian back in the olden days. Joe Nardella could become the second. Overshadowed last season and again this offseason by Trevor Baptiste, Nardella came into the Championship Series seemingly with a chip on his shoulder. Hoo buddy, he’s made an impact so far. Nardella’s 75 percent win rate is tops amongst face-off men by a whopping FOURTEEN percent, and has taken forty-seven more face-offs than the second place man, Drew Simoneau. His three goals lead all face-off fellas and he’s one of only two FOS with an assist.

Joe Nardella PLL Championship Series Day 7 Recaps - MAKE PICKS | Video | MORE
Photo: Premier Lacrosse League

His forty-two ground balls not only lead the PLL, but put him ahead of the next closest face-off specialist by literally double, 42 to 21. Also, just to prove a point, Nardella’s head-to-head showdown with Baptiste saw him walk away with 76 percent of the wins, leaving Baptiste to win only a quarter of his attempts which forced Atlas to throw three different guys at him throughout the game. If a face-off guy is going to win another MVP any time soon, it’s gonna be Nardella for his play in the Championship Series.

Sergio Perkovic

Midfield | Redwoods

The Steph Curry comps have begun leaking out, including a Splash Bros nickname that Myles Jones is trying to make happen. That’s a weird comparison for a player as massive and powerful as Perk, but the range is certainly there. Redwoods haven’t exactly had the strongest offense, and its attack has been pretty anemic at times. But, just as he used to do for Notre Dame, the Motor City Hitman has been taking things into his own hands.

Perkovic has knocked down a whopping six two-pointers through four games, which I think officially makes him the new king. The next closest, Mike Chanenchuk, has two. Perkovic is not only leading midfielders in total points so far, but he’s the only midfielder in the top 10. He’s put 20-27 shots on goal, and he’s kept his team alive in games they shouldn’t have been. Redwoods almost certainly lose to Atlas without him. Relegated to a SSDM role in 2019, it’s been a hell of a bounce-back season for the former Golden Domer. There have been a lot of great performances in this series, but the way Perkovic is playing makes him one of the few that seem like they could revolutionize how the pro game is played. His two-point bouncer is one of the scariest, most successful shots in the whole PLL. As long as he keeps getting open from two, the Redwoods aren’t out of any game.

Matt Rambo

Attack | Whipsnakes

Before Whipsnakes’ fourth game, the argument could’ve been made that Rambo was out of the MVP race. The reigning PLL MVP had seemingly taken a backseat in the Whipsnakes offense, and seemed content to aim for a team title. Then, in the Whipsnakes’ biggest game of the year, so far, Rambo came alive in a way that very few players can.

Perhaps he’d heard the talk of rookie Grant Ament taking his title as the best attackman in the PLL. Maybe he just got a good night’s sleep beforehand. Whatever the case might be, the self-described “thicc boi” went OFF against Archers in the final game of group play. His 10 points, of which eight were assists, set the PLL single-game record for both points and assists. That massive performance shot him straight to the top of the PLL points leaderboard. Rambo’s ahead of second place by four whole points, and his 15 assists are also four points ahead of second place.

He hasn’t necessarily been the goal-scoring threat that he was in 2019, but Rambo is still entirely capable of owning a game in a way that an extremely short list of players can claim to be able to. 11 turnovers and a lower shooting percentage than his competitors aren’t great, but I cannot argue against what he did to Archers. If that’s the Rambo we get moving forward, mail him his second MVP trophy right now.

Blaze Riorden

Goalie | Chaos

I will get the big caveat out of the way right off the bat: there’s no way that the MVP is going to go to a player on the PLL’s least successful team in 2020. If I’m being honest, I’m not entirely sure that Riorden will even repeat as the Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year, considering the way Kyle Bernlohr and his defense are performing.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, sweet mother of GOD, Blaze Riorden has been on one. After the chirps heard ‘round the world in game one, Riorden has been amazing. He’s leading the PLL with a 65 percent save rate despite no other goalies have seen the number of shots that Riorden has. He has 17 more saves than the next closest goalie, and 21 more saves than Bernlohr. The Chaos defense has done basically nothing to help him out, and they clearly miss Brodie Merrill as their leader. Still, Riorden has been keeping things close for his team to lose. He’s made 20+ saves in his last three games, including breaking his own single-game saves record with 23 against Redwoods in game two.

Chaos have had a hellacious series so far, massively disappointing its fans, and look primed to lock up the No. 1 pick. It’s damn hard to convince me that Riorden has anything to do with that.

Zed Williams

Attack | Whipsnakes

Fun fact: Whipsnakes lost three of its top six scorers from the 2019 title team, instead choosing to protect its defense. To make up for it, they drafted Zed Williams fifth overall in the 2020 Entry Draft.

After a so-so season in Boston last year, and having just been traded to the Mammoth during the NLL offseason, hopes probably weren’t super high for Zedzilla entering the Championship Series. But, like the mighty lizard he’s now named after, Zed Williams cares not for the petty squabbles of man. He says nothing. He’s not posting social media pics of all his cool backyard workouts to win over fans. No, all Zed Williams does is score goals. LOTS of goals. In fact, he currently has six more one-point goals than the next closest player, and is tied with Grant Ament for second in the PLL in points.

Just for fun, he’s also got two CTs and five GBs. Mostly, though, he’s just out there scoring more goals.

Zedzilla is always open, and has been a favorite target of Matt Rambo as a finisher. He’s also scoring plenty of unassisted goals, with the sorts of crease dives and rollbacks that only an extremely gifted, creative box player would even think to attempt. Until Rambo’s insane performance in game four, I think everybody would’ve had Zed as a top three finalist for MVP and for Attackman of the Year. If Rambo seeks the crown, it’s possible that his star power could overshadow Williams. It should be impossible to overlook the sheer level of awesomeness that Zedzilla has brought to the table every single game. Few players, if any, could seemingly replace Connor Kelly, Ryan Drenner, and Ben Reeves by themselves, but apparently Zed Williams is apparently that man.

Jordan Wolf

Attack | Chrome

People always talk about how overlooked Jordan Wolf is, and I’ve decided that’s just because Jordan Wolf runs so incredibly fast that he’s hard to spot at times. Last year, Wolf and friends were easy to glance over because, to put it bluntly, Chrome were bad. It’s always easiest to overlook the last place team.

This year, Chrome have shocked the world.

The #Chromeback is in full effect, and they secured the No. 2 seed in the knockout stages thanks, in large part, to the offensive resurgence that Wolf has led them to. He’s tied for the fourth-most points in the PLL right now, having racked up a perfectly balanced seven goals and seven assists through Chrome’s first four games. He’s also managed to protect the ball better than a lot of his closest competition, with fewer turnovers than Rambo/Williams/McArdle. Wolf has also managed eight GBs, which ranks him third amongst attackmen in that metric.

Partially, this is just about Chrome being good now. Wolf has always been an elite attackman, way back to his days at Duke, but people are noticing him a lot more now that Chrome have gone from cooked to contenders. Few things are scarier for a defense than Wolf out on an island, as he’s equally capable of burning his man with speed, beating him with IQ, or slotting in a perfect feed if the defense decides to slide to him early. From diving dunks to precision passing, Wolf has shown every facet of a good attackman’s game so far in this series. If Chrome can keep shocking the world and reach the final, Wolf should be right in the heart of contention not just for best attackman, but for MVP as well.

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