The 2023 PLL kicked off the past weekend in Albany, NY. The most interesting aspect of the eight Friday practices was watching Mike Pressler, the former Head Coach at Ohio Wesleyan, Duke, Bryant, and now the PLL Atlas. Pressler admitted he hadn’t been this nervous in 10 years but seemed at ease with his team, walking amongst the stretching lines, smiling, motivating, and developing relationships. He looks very much at home in an extremely well-run pregame practice in unseasonable intense heat.
PLL Albany: Saturday
I have the most fantastic seat when I’m down on the field covering these games for ABC and ESPN. These lacrosse athletes’ size, speed, and skill cannot be emphasized enough. The PLL is a significant step up from the college game. At this level, lacrosse is an unforgiving game about time. You get one second to get a groundball. If you leave your stick hanging off a dodge, you lose it. The windows of opportunity are slim, and the great players are able to slow the game down. Whether it’s a groundball or a swing pass out of a dodge, being a smooth operator is essential for survival. Their processing speed is milliseconds. It’s hard to believe things move so fast. When everyone is humming the same tune, magic is created. This weekend we saw dozens of wow plays and many unpredictable and unscripted gems.
There is more tension and uncertainty in the air during the opening week of the PLL. The teams caught a break this weekend as the 90-degree temperatures dipped on Friday night and Saturday morning into the 60s.
Saturday’s opener was live on ABC to a national audience. This is the greatest opportunity that lacrosse has ever earned.
The Redwoods defeated the Atlas in game one, and in game two, the Archers outscored the Cannons.
There was no shortage of heroes on Saturday, including Notre Dame Assistant Coach Ryder Garnsey, who scored six goals for the Redwoods. Rookie FOGO Mike Sisselberger was the possession king for the Archers. Second-year pro Nakeie Montgomery is now playing a different two-way role for the Redwoods; his skill set is finally being unlocked. Virginia rookie Xander Dickson fits in seamlessly with his lacrosse IQ which can adapt and capitalize. The Archers will be must-see TV with Mac O’Keefe finishing feeds from Grant Ament and Tom Schreiber. The pros continue to push the boundaries of what we thought possible, using the field as their creative canvas.
PLL Albany: Sunday
The 2022 PLL Champion Waterdogs and rival Chaos staged a defensive battle on Sunday on ABC. Goalie Blaze Riorden and his stubborn defense with Jack Rowlett, Jared Neumann, and playmaking poles CJ Costabile and Troy Reh nearly pulled off the upset. We were taken away by the camaraderie displayed by face-off man Max Adler, who won an NLL title with the Buffalo bandits the night before. Adler, on no sleep, wanted to be on the sideline supporting his team. He showed up, counseled rookie FOGO Nick Rowlett, and handed out water during huddles. Being a great teammate is always in fashion. Waterdog midfielder Connor Kelly found the net and the overtime victory. For Kelly, that’s becoming a habit.
Post-game, I stumbled into Scott Marr, Head Coach at Albany, and my college classmate posing for a picture with his former Great Danes. Scott’s done fantastic work, using the game to uplift the lives of others.
Game two was a more lively affair between the Chrome and Whipsnakes. Cross Ferrara, a rookie from Salisbury, delivered the dagger with seconds left on the clock in the game. How can you not be impressed with the snappy release of Mike Chanenchuk or the range and impact of LSM Michael Ehrhardt? Chrome has a balanced roster, and they’ll be relevant in September.
Rookies were a major storyline in this game, with strong initial showings from Tucker Dordevic, Garrett Leadmon, and Sam Handley. From the jump, it feels like this rookie class is special.
PLL Albany: Conclusion
After four games and two family dinners at City Line during the weekend, I said goodbye to Carc, Cotter, and Ryan Boyle at the truck. It’s on to Charlotte next week for me. Cotter will be in San Diego for the World Games next. Carc is working the Columbus weekend. Boyle will be in Charlotte next week.
I had dinner on Sunday at the Across the Street Pub with my old friends, Steve Oshea, and Mark Wimmer. Wings and pizza bring back memories of when I lived in the capital region in the late 80s and played summer lacrosse for the Mohawk Lacrosse Club on the fields at Albany. They snuck me into the league under my middle name Elroy Kessenich. The other teams in the league weren’t happy and barred me from playing goalie, which was a blessing. So I ran midfield with my brother Pace and had the time of my life.
After dinner, I drove down the Thruway to my family’s cabin in Woodstock, listening to satellite radio, mainly 70s, and 80s music, on a chilly Sunday night in the Hudson Valley. I was tired but grateful for the opportunity to be field side, watching, commentating, and learning and interacting with these incredible players and fascinating coaches, being part of this ESPN team, working alongside people I love, and bringing this sport to mainstream America. It’s hard to believe the progress that the game has made. Under the guidance of Paul and Mike Rabil, the PLL is surging, and that’s benefitting the sport big time. It’s happening each week this summer, and that’s a great thing.