Rafferty Stadium was filled to the brim. Fans were camped on the hills surrounding the field, the grassy knoll that wraps around the field, both sides of bleachers were full, and the Bar Down area was hopping with activity. Former NFL quarterback, lacrosse dad, and ESPN announcer Dan Orlovsky brought his kids. He posted on social media, speaking in glowing terms of the PLL as a live event experience. He joined the booth on Saturday for the linear game on ESPN2. If lacrosse were a spring and summer sport, New England college teams would benefit with stronger attendance.
PLL Week Five
Whipsnakes vs Waterdogs
Whips are dealing with injuries to defensive pillars Michael Ehrhardt and Matt Dunn. The duo didn’t dress. So when Matt Rambo and goalie Kyle Bernlohr can’t finish the game due to additional injuries suffered during the contest, it’s time to paint a summer of partial lineups and a lack of continuity. Rambo shot 0 for 7. I’ve seen Team USA players come home from the World Championships and take a big turd on the field for the remainder of the summer. It’s happened. Just a warning.
The Whips seem snake bit. Bernlohr was taken off the field to the hospital for a left arm evaluation. Coach Jim Stagnitta is trying to hold it together, like catching tadpoles by hand, in muddy waters.
Righty attackman Zed Williams (5,2) did more than his share in defeat, a loss that has the Whipsnakes (1-4) peering up the standings at most of the PLL, a place they’ve never been.
Waterdogs (4-1), with their outstanding turnover margin, keep trucking towards the top of the standings without dressing a FOGO. Isn’t that beautiful?
The third straight win for Andy Copelan’s team that received 2022 championship rings pregame. I prefer Axia Time celebratory watches as a championship gift. This team is in sync with one brain.
The Waterdogs used a 6-0 late run to seal the deal with Jack Hannah being a signature piece. No Connor Kelly again for the purple and white, no problem. Rookie midfielder from Vermont via Virginia, Thomas McConvey nailed two goals late in the onslaught. Kieran McArdle chipped in a ho-hum seven points. Goalie Dillon Ward made double digit saves early as his team found their sea legs, before pulling away 16-13.
The Redwoods (3-2) offense suffered a power outage of epic proportions failing to score a goal during the last 34:08 of action. It was the lowest total goals scored in PLL history. 10-3. Hope you took the under.
Redwoods star Rob Pannell, for the first time in 2023, had an off night. He shot 1 of 7 with a team high 7 turnovers. Only 13 of the teams 26 shots were on frame. The Woods got limited production from the midfield with Jules Heningburg the only viable dodging threat. Sergio Perkovic and Myles Jones haven’t found rhythm. Perkovic is 0/14 shooting this season. Jones is hitting 3 of 20, including zero of six from 2pt range. His shot chart is a kaleidoscope of action. But I’m not seeing a bread and butter, go-to dodge. I don’t quite understand the Redwood midfield roles or their half-court sets.
Archers hammer Graeme Hossack blanketed Ryder Garnsey, who had just 24 touches. The Woods defense played a game worthy of a win, but were not supported. Goalie Jack Kelly was stellar. He came into week five action leading the PLL in clean saves. Expect Redwoods coach Nat St. Laurent to tinker with the midfield lines after the All-Star break. He’s got to try something different.
Archers FOGO from Lehigh, Mike Sisselberger, who made a guest appearance to stop and talk this week at the FCA Lacrosse Camp in Lancaster Pa, spent time after the final whistle greeting and meeting young fans clamoring for his autograph. These interactions carry a ton of weight for the next generation of players. And while Sisselberger is the embodiment of Pennsylvania coal country tough, he has a heart of gold. He won the faceoff battle taking 10/15 from TD Ierlan of Team USA, who was unexpectedly human.
Mac O’Keefe grabbed the headlines with four goals and Grant Ament was back on the field after nursing a sore left hamstring. Some athletic trainers and strength coaches attack this soreness with light sets of back squats. (For example what worked for me: 3 sets of 5 reps with 155 pounds). For some well-documented physiological reason, the squats foster hamstring healing. Hamstring issues are not uncommon for lacrosse athletes because they tend to run too straight up, with their head up, which puts undo strain on the hamstring. Run with more body lean, and do your squats.
Second-year net-minder Brent Dobson from Team Canada and St. Bonaventure has a certain between-the-pipes presence and aura that rubs confidence onto his teammates. The Archers defensive coordinator Tony Resch eschews social media, he’s an old-school quiet type, and delivers an air tight game-plan each week. Archers, for sure looking like a title contender.
Chrome vs Cannons
Holy humidity Batman. Chrome and Cannons met in soupy humidity on Friday night in front of the linear audience on ESPN2. The Cannons generated 14 shots before the Chrome had 1. Chrome turned it over 7 times, before their first shot. 7-2 at half. 12-6 final more of an indictment on the Chrome and less an endorsement of the Cannons.
The Chrome are a rainy day in summer. I finished Daniel Coyle’s “Culture Code” where he says, “Culture comes down to basic questions: Are we connected? Do we share a future? Are we safe?”
When the answer is yes, interaction sparks greatness. “Create safe, collision rich places, that are focused on problem solving.”
The author also talks about servant leadership, “In building relationships, a coach should fill the cups of his players.” Coaches need to embrace the ‘how can I help’ my players mentality.
Coyle also adds, “Grasp the essence of the problem. Don’t waste time managing status. Everyone in the group should talk and listen in equal measure.”
Author and motivational speaker Jon Gordon offers advice for those in a slump. “As athletes we must understand that the most dangerous critic is the one inside our own head. Don’t listen to the critic. Listen to your heart that knows you were born for greatness.”
Perhaps some painful decisions sit on the horizon for the Atlas and Chrome. Coyle has done the math, “Bad apples reduce performance 30% to 40%.”
Meanwhile Cannon attack-man Asher Nolting has cut his turnovers in half while doubling his assists. He scored four unassisted goals in the win. Dreams without goals are just dreams.
Coach Brian Holman has injected confidence into the Cannons, once the unranked sparring partner of the PLL.
Chaos vs Atlas
Eric Law had a strong second quarter and goalie Drake Porter got his first career start in cage. Atlas were up 7-6 at the break. Chaos shot 7 of 9 in the third quarter while the Atlas hit just one of 12. That was the winning spurt. Lacrosse players are like violins, they play to the stress level of their coaches.
Rookie Brian Minicus is a water bug, he darted for five points (3G, 2A). Righty Dhane Smith looked more like his normal self and handed out three assists. Blocker Blaze Riorden made 15 saves as the Chaos improved to (3-2).
2023 All-Star Weekend will be held at Lynn Stadium at the University of Louisville on July 22, 2023, marking the league’s first appearance in Kentucky. The game can be seen on Saturday at 7:30pm on ESPN. Announcers Drew Carter, Ryan Boyle and Chantel McCabe will also work the skills contest which can be seen at 12:05pm on ESPN+. The PLL will be in Dallas at the Star the following weekend.