Summer weather threw a sky whammy at pro lacrosse this past weekend. The PLL was in Denver with a Friday night matchup between the Cannons and Redwoods that was televised on ESPN with Chris Cotter and Paul Carcaterra on the mic. The PLL playoffs are right around the corner with only two more weeks of regular season action left.
August travel is never predictable. “My flight from LGA to Denver was supposed to leave at 4:30pm,” said Carc. “I originally left my house at 2:00pm. Flight was delayed. Eventually to 1:10am (8.5 hour delay).”
As an experienced traveler, at 7:30pm Carc decided to call an audible and got into an Uber to JFK airport and switched to a 9:00pm flight to Denver. How do you occupy your time during a 5 hour airport delay? “I watched the series on ESPN called “The Captain”, an exploration of the life and Hall of Fame career of New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.”
Let’s Go Mets.
His flight takes off late from JFK at 10:45pm. “I land just before 1:00am local time and get around four hours of sleep with the time change and body clock defaulting to early east coast time zone.” The entire television crew has an 8:00am zoom production call, so there is no sleeping in. Sneaking in a workout and nap prior to reporting to site at 5:00pm is essential for mental and physical sharpness.
The weekend of PLL lacrosse at Denver University was on fire. All four quarter close games that featured clutch playmaking and drama. The on-the-field product has been off the charts. Saturday’s triple-header was shifted to the morning and early afternoon to avoid impending thunderstorms. The finale did experience a lightning delay however.
How did the players react to the games being moved to the morning, being a cast member in “The Breakfast Club” movie?
“They didn’t seem impacted by the early start,” said Carc. “The 9:30am local start allowed players to compete before prime sun hours. Additionally, many are from the east coast and their body clocks had them at 11:30am.”
Denver’s stadium is a cozy arena. “It was an outstanding scene in Denver,” he said. “Friday nights scene was incredible with a packed house and a loud energized environment. The smaller venue gave it an intimate feel. It was like watching a great band at a rock concert in a venue that felt special. The Denver fans showed on Saturday as well.”
Play-by-play man Chris Cotter was ready to go, energized by java and being back in his home state. “I liked the morning time slot,” he stated. “The fans really came out for it. Packed. I’m sure it’s different for the players but for me personally, let’s just get after it. Why wait around? Most of us were on eastern time anyway.”
Carc, Cotter and I break down each team with two weeks remaining in the regular season:
Whipsnakes (7-1) (+10 SD)
Paul Carcaterra: “Whips defense is a step above the rest and Matt Rambo dominated every matchup that was in front of him.”
Chris Cotter: “Rambo has decided he is going to be more aggressive going to the tin. It showed. He and Zed are so much more physical than other elite attack combos in the league.”
Quint Kessenich: “The consistency of effort is notable. Whips are masters of the one goal win and rarely beat themselves.”
Atlas (5-3) (+16 SD)
Paul Carcaterra: “The Waterdogs found seams inside against the Atlas defense”.
Chris Cotter: “Still as complete a team as there is the league despite loss. Rookie Chris Gray is a deft two-handed scorer. Can they match Whips on the backend?”
Quint Kessenich: “Trevor Baptiste remains a top five performer for overall league MVP. I think midfield production will be the barometer in September.”
Chrome (5-3) (+15 SD)
Paul Carcaterra: “Logan Wisnauskus continued to show he is not just a lefty scorer and when Brendan Nichtern’s was challenged by the Chaos, he showed outstanding vision with four assists.”
Chris Cotter: “FOGO Connor Farrell bounced back strong at the stripe. Goalie Sean Scannone was great between the pipes. He’ll face Lyle and Cannons in SLC. Midfielder Justin Anderson is emerging as more than just a solid two-way contributor. He’s the most dangerous threat to score from the midfield with a north-south speed dodge.”
Quint Kessenich: “Critical win by the Chrome after a three-game losing streak. They’ll be favored in remaining games with the Cannons and Redwoods.”
Waterdogs (5-3) (+3 SD)
Paul Carcaterra: “Kieran McCardle is an elite player and the most underrated in the league.”
Chris Cotter: “Mike Sowers and McCardle work so well together. Plus, they have a ton of guys who can flat out snipe from distance. Rookie FOGO Zac Tucci surprised. He’ll have an opportunity to build on the performance against TD Ierlan and the Redwoods next week.”
Quint Kessenich: “Coach Andy Copelan deserves a lot of credit for turning this group around. Mike Sowers is causing people nightmares with the picking game. I’ve been impressed with this teams mental and physical toughness, that win in Connecticut was unreal as the injuries had decimated their roster.”
Archers (4-4) (+13 SD)
Paul Carcaterra: “When you lose over 70% of the faceoffs, does it matter if you have an incredible offense?”
Chris Cotter: “Faceoff woes continue to haunt the Archers. They were not as crisp in the 6-on-6. Still, they were in the game at the end. Scorer Will Manny hasn’t been as hot as he was early in the year. Quarterback Grant Ament is finally healthy. Now, can they find that chemistry again with him now in the lineup?”
Quint Kessenich: “Something needs to change defensively. The Archers operate as if they think they can just outscore people. When they trade possessions – that works – but right now the possession disparity is crushing.”
Redwoods (3-5) (-11 SD)
Paul Carcaterra: “Charlie Bertrand has found his groove and proving to be the most consistent midfielder for the Redwoods. FOGO TD Ierlan looks healthy now and playing at a level we are accustomed to seeing from him. Transition offense is something the Woods need to find more of.”
Chris Cotter: “The Woods are so much fun to watch now that lefty midfielder Charlie Bertrand has emerged as a star. Attack man Matt Kavanagh is still in a slump, seems snake bit at times. He’ll look shoot his was way out of it. Jack Kelly played great in goal. Next week the Dogs will challenge him.”
Quint Kessenich: “Veteran Rob Pannell has stepped up recently. They miss dodging midfielder Jules Heningburg. I still think that the combo of Kavanagh and Garnsey is redundant. If the Woods can learn to pass in settled sets, and play without the ball, move their feet and stop standing around the arc, they have all the parts to make a run.”
Chaos (2-6) (-21 SD)
Paul Carcaterra: “Defense at times struggles off-ball and they’re asking goalie Blaze Riorden to do too much. Catalyst Dhane Smith is a special passer who throws dart-like feeds. With inconsistent play at the stripe, they need to be better on groundballs (last in the PLL).”
Chris Cotter: “Chaos FOGO Max Adler is back but got banged up early Saturday and was not as effective going forward, that’s still an Achilles heel. Dhane Smith is an elite passer and now he has snipers Josh Byrne and Chris Cloutier at full throttle. Blaze helps neutralize any deficiency in front of him.”
Quint Kessenich: “Don’t count the Chaos out. Remember 2021. They are most dangerous when people say they’re toast.”
Cannons (1-7) (-25 SD)
Paul Carcaterra: “Lyle Thompson plays a unique style that I would pay to watch seven days and nights a week. They are better than a one win team. Some new pieces are in the lineup now, and that could get them another win and potentially fight for the last playoff spot.”
Chris Cotter: “The Cannons played hard. They fight. Their 6 on 6 is dangerous. Lyle is unstoppable. Chris Aslanian and rookie Jonathan Donville give them added dimensions up top. They just have no transition scoring and limited two-point goals while they allow too many run out goals the other way. Goalie Nick Marrocco was ridiculous in Denver. He’ll need to be again this week if the Cannons want to keep alive their fleeting playoff hopes.”
Quint Kessenich: “Coach Sean Quirk hasn’t stood still, and the changing lineup appears to be an upgrade. The Cannons are the clay pigeons of the PLL, but they aren’t dead just yet.”
Road trips out west to Salt Lake City this weekend (Friday ESPN+ at 8:00pm and 10:30pm ET and Saturday 3:00pm and 5:30pm ET) with a final Lewis and Clark adventure to the Tacoma Dome (Seattle) on August 20-21 to wrap up the regular season.
Seven of the eight teams qualify for the post season. The top No.1 finisher gets a bye into the semifinals. Three quarterfinal games will be played on September 3 at Gillette Stadium, with No.2 facing No.7, No.3 squares off with No.6, and No.4 playing No.5. The semifinals are at Audi Stadium in Washington DC on Sunday September 11 (ESPN2). The PLL Championship will be in Philadelphia at Subaru Park on Sunday September 18. The title game will be broadcast live on ABC.
August is about attitude and belief.
Who wants to be there? Who thinks they can win it all? Who’s phoning it in after 10 summer weeks? Who’s sick of each other? Who’s enjoying every weekend? What teams are on the upward trajectory? Who’s improving? Who’s not?
We answer these and more questions this week. You should be watching the PLL. See you in Salt Lake City.