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Quint Kessenich’s 2023 PLL Columbus Takeaways

The PLL was in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend, more than twenty years after the MLL’s Baltimore Bayhawks demolished the Lizards 21-13 at Columbus Crew Stadium in front of 5,500 people, claiming the 2002 league title. Mark Millon, face-off ace Paul Cantabene, and Gary Gait led the destruction.

For Long Island it was a bad dream after sweeping the regular season series. Hall of Fame defenders Pat McCabe and John Gagliardi were put to the test in front of Lizard goalie Brian Carcaterra. Headliners Casey Powell, Kevin Finneran, AJ Haugen, Terry Riordan, Greg McCavera, Greg Traynor, Tim Goettelmann, and Matt O’Kelly dressed for the Lizards with Rob Shek, Josh Sims, Tom Marechek, Mark Frye, Jamie Hanford, Greg Cattrano, Shawn Nadelen, Gavin Prout, Brian Reese and Jeff Sonke in Bay Hawks blue and silver. Quite a cast. Memory can be a tangled yarn, I called that game.

The MLL’s Ohio Machine existed between 2012 and 2018, winning the MLL title in 2017, when lacrosse was considered seasonal work. Tom Schreiber (Archers) and Kyle Bernlohr (Whipsnakes) were team members for coach Bear Davis. Marcus Holman (Cannons), Ryan Ambler (Archers), Kyle Harrison, Bryce Young (Whipsnakes), and Ben Randall (Waterdogs) suited up for ‘La Machine’.

The PLL may be intrigued by Field, home of the Columbus Crew soccer franchise. The lacrosse-only facility at Ohio State has been a major upgrade in 2023 and it sold out.

Ohio lacrosse is on the upswing as Cincinnati, Toledo and Cleveland are now experiencing more explosive growth than Columbus. Terry Foy of Insidelacrosse has roots in Ohio. “The real catalyst for growth is all the OAC DIII programs that have been added since 2010 like Mount Union and John Carroll. They’re churning out an additional 50+ college grads every year who are likely to stay local, coach and officiate,” explains Foy.

A continued PLL presence in Ohio, whether it be a full-time franchise or regular tour stop, is sun to green fields.

Boys HS Growth in Ohio

2023: 155 teams

2013: 127 teams

2003: 56 teams

The current PLL features four Players from the state of Ohio.

Kyle Bernlohr – G – Whipsnakes

Ben Randall – D – Waterdogs

Jack Hannah – M – Waterdogs

Danny Logan – SSDM – Atlas

Friday Night PLL in Columbus

Waterdogs (19) vs Atlas (18)

The 2022 champion Waterdogs were in quicksand. The Atlas jumped up 6-0 before Zach Currier broke the seal for the Waterdogs, their first goal in over 27 minutes going back to Charlotte. Jeff Teat, FOGO Trevor Baptiste and Chris Gray were cooking with fish grease for the Atlas.

Maybe it was Pac Man Jones who put the whammy on the Atlas. The NFL star was rocking a Baptiste jersey on Rabil’s row, dropping an F bomb on E+. 9-5 at half offered promise for the white clad Waterdogs before the Atlas made it 12-5 in the early third only to have the Waterdogs close the gap to 13-10. Defense suddenly sold separately on High Street. A Connor Kelly deuce made it 15-13 with more than ten minutes to play. 15-14 as Jeff Conner nails his first career goal. Baptiste does it himself for a 17-14 Atlas cushion and a media stoppage. Connor Kelly, at his coolest under pressure, buries another deep bomb off a timeout – play design by coach Andy Copelan. 18-18 with :58.1 to play. Dogs stop the Atlas after a FO win and the abbreviated :32 second shot clock. Kelly bags his ninth point and the game winner with :09 to play, flying out of the sub box and cutting hard right handed down the middle seam. The righty hit three two-point shots, all in the second half. Week #1 eight PLL teams were 2 of 42 from two-point range. Kelly hit on three 2-point shots, a feat that former pro Kyle Dixon did three times when cutting his trail through the MLL.

Dogs shot 46% to offset Baptiste winning 31/36 FOs with 27 GB’s in a losing effort. Ground balls were 51-20 Atlas. 19-18 final score just another PLL one-goal affair. They’ll be more.

Chrome (13) vs Cannons (14)

The Chrome are busy going nowhere, falling to the Cannons on Friday night. The Chrome are generally underachieving and missing Brendan Nichtern after the first semester.

Congrats to Cannon coach Brian Holman on his first pro victory. He will insist that the Cannons be a big, happy family. Colin Kirst had 12 saves, six in each half and was catching fireflies in a Mason jar. Chrome tied the score six times- and took the lead once at 13-12. Cannons didn’t flinch and scored the last two goals of the game. Chrome went scoreless the last 8:17.

Saturday PLL in Columbus

Archers (10) vs Chaos (15)

Josh Byrne and Blaze Riorden were the main catalysts in a Saturday Chaos win over the Archers which was televised live on ESPN at noon. Riorden tracks the ball in the pocket, not the shooters head or eyes. This was the best I’ve seen the Chaos look since 2021. Rookie firecracker Brian Minicus was the glue with two goals and two assists from 40 touches and 30 passes.

The Archers scored five goals in the first three quarters. Their starting attack had 35 touches and no goals in the first half. They exploded, scoring five in the 4th quarter. Shooting 22% in the game doesn’t cut it. Jon Robbins, an LSM from Plano, TX and Bellarmine, delivered the viral highlight of the weekend. A falling down, leaning twister with a long pole. Never have I seen a goal like that.

Redwoods (11) vs Whipsnakes (18)

The 7pm face-off gave Carc a chance to take an afternoon nap before the final game of the weekend on E+. It was the Redwoods who were caught sleeping, falling behind 6-1 while sluggish. Whips (0-2) rolled the Woods. Last place didn’t sit well. They built an 11 goal lead and then checked out early, in time to get home for Father’s Day brunch.

Redwood attacker Ryder Garnsey had eight points with another display of audacity. Woods have some big name midfielders with minuscule stats. Always Mic’d up Whipsnake Matt Rambo bagged four goals and Will Manny dished out three assists. Goalie Kyle Bernlohr (50%) an Akron native, captured the W on home soil.

Redwoods finished the game chasing in desperation while leaving an empty net – down by five on the scoreboard. This gaffe has goal differential implications and wasn’t the long-term strategy.

World Lacrosse Break

Week three of the PLL in Columbus offered the final whiff of June. The three-week stint (Albany, Charlotte and Columbus) is in the books. Attendance, TV ratings, and social media consumption are all up. The PLL is challenging and shaking up the establishment, changing lacrosse, making it smarter and more sophisticated. It’s still a game with sticks played by mortals on a patch of grass and dirt.

We shift gears for two weeks. The World Championships start Wednesday June 21 at 10pm eST (7pm on the west coast) on ESPN2 with USA vs. Canada. Anish Shroff and I will be live from Snapdragon Stadium for this opening pool play game. 30 nations are in San Diego for the 2023 World Championships.

I spoke to USA coach John Danowski last week.

All games can be seen on E+.

The PLL will return on July 8 & 9 from TCO Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.