Once the PLL was created, we knew there would be constant comparisons to its predecessor, MLL. From production to delivery, everything was put under a microscope and dissected. These PLL vs MLL comparisons got me thinking: what if we compare a past championship squad from the PLL against a past MLL title team?
PLL vs MLL: Champions Comparison
Granted, there isn’t much to work with, because the PLL sample size is small. But everyone has clearly jumped on the Whipsnakes bandwagon, and it has been the class of the PLL thus far. For this debate, we’re using the 2019 Whipsnakes, because that team was the champion in a more traditional season.
What about MLL? There are so many great teams to choose from. How about the early 2000s Lizards or the Spallina Lizards? Or maybe the barnstorming Philly Barrage? The Hamilton Nationals and Denver Outlaws come to mind as well. These were all great teams, but one really stood out for many reasons: the 2005 Bayhawks. That attack has been called the greatest attack line ever, and the rest of the roster was littered with former All-Americans and Hall of Famers.
Let’s break the teams down by position and go from there. Who would win? Only you can decide!
2019 Whipsnakes vs 2005 Bayhawks
Not really much you can say here when you’re going up against an attack line of Tom Marechek, Gary Gait, and prime Mikey Powell. This was early in Powell’s professional career, and if you watch those games, you can see Powell being his typical creative self, along with the still-present skills of Gait and Marechek.
What’s even more impressive that this all happened while Gait was also head coach! This attack line finished first, second, and third in scoring on the Bayhawks, with Gait leading the way. It had two of the most creative players in lacrosse history in Gait and Powell, plus one of the game’s greatest finishers in Marechek. This line was almost unguardable.
On the other side, the 2019 Whipsnakes were no slouches either. The attack line of Matt Rambo, Ryan Drenner, and Ben Reeves caused many matchup problems throughout the inaugural PLL season. Rambo has been one of the best big-game players of his generation, and Drenner and Reeves complemented his skillset, along with the dodging ability of the Whipsnakes midfielders.
Advantage – Bayhawks
This is where it gets interesting.
The 2005 Bayhawks were an attack-dominated team but showcased many MLL stars, such as Josh Sims, Mark Frye, Gavin Prout, and Jeff Sonke. Never heard of these guys? Get your life together and watch some film, because these guys were absolute studs. Sims was as good as it gets coming out of Princeton, and Frye was arguably one of the best athletes the game has ever seen. Sonke had the ability to stretch teams with his outside shooting, and Prout was such a tough offensive player.
The 2019 Whipsnakes featured some really special midfielders who complemented what the other offensive players on the team did really well. Mike Chanenchuk, Connor Kelly, and John Haus were matchup nightmares for teams all season, and you could see down the stretch that the balance the Whipsnakes had really gave them the upper hand in most games.
Advantage – Whipsnakes, but slightly
I would pay to watch these guys go at it in their primes. You can make the argument that Joe Nardella was playing in a league where there was tougher competition at the stripe, but you cannot look at it that way. Understand that this period of MLL has some extremely accomplished faceoff men, and at the top of that list was Paul Cantabene. One of the toughest guys to ever line up, he could beat you in so many ways, and then stay on to play offense if he had to.
This one is too close to call, because to pick one over the other is an injustice to them both.
Advantage – Push
Both teams had excellent defenses that were littered with All-Stars and All-World players. Both sides made stops when their teams needed it the most. More importantly, both sides played solid team defense, and that is ultimately what wins you the last game of the season.
Imagine a defense with prime Brodie Merrill playing LSM. That was the 2005 Bayhawks. Michael Ehrhardt matches up well against him, and I think their games can be very similar. Matt Dunn has been tremendous for the Whips, if you look at the Bayhawks, you have Defenseman of the Year Lee Zink, All-Star Shawn Nadelen, Casey Connor, and Christian Cook. This was a defense that led the Bayhawks to a 10-2 record and was the backbone for their title run.
Advantage – Bayhawks
It’s Kyle Bernlohr vs Trevor Tierney in this PLL vs MLL debate. Their stats are very similar, and both had tremendous defenses in front of them. Both are arguably one of the best goalies of their generations.
Much like the faceoff, it’s hard to pick one over the other. It’s a toss up between the two.
Advantage – Push
Who wins in this theoretical PLL vs MLL battle? You decide for yourself. The 2005 Bayhawks are arguably the best professional outdoor lacrosse team ever put together. It would be hard for any team to compete with them, but the PLL and new-school athletes could give them a run.