Redwoods Hold Off Waterdogs Long Ball Comeback to Advance

Redwoods 11, Waterdogs 8

Waterdogs made everyone believe it was far from being just a 1-3, only-win-your-last-game type of team. It seemed that way as Waterdogs claimed the No. 5 seed after a three-way race at the end of round robin play to claim who wasn’t the worst. Before tonight, every game Waterdogs has been a part of have finished within a single possession and the close scores were good enough to jump Atlas in the standings. Despite the three goal differential in tonight’s final score, once Myles Jones hit a confidence jolting two-pointer in the third quarter, the game was fully in the hands of Redwoods.

After a thrilling opening quarterfinal between Chaos and Chrome, the Redwoods and Waterdogs showdown seemed a bit lackluster to start. Everyone would do a little bit, but no one would do a lot. It took nearly 10 minutes of game time to fall off the clock for a shot to break the goal plane the first time. Digging his way to open space, Christian Cuccinello struck first for Waterdogs only to be cancelled out by a Joe Walters open step-down moments later. Neither Walters nor Cuccinello would strike again, despite getting started early and this game spent a long time without an identity of a leader.

Both defensive groups seemed to have the upper-hand on the night’s assignments, holding the game to a slow, 1-1, first frame. Brent Adams would start his joyride at attack right away in the second quarter with a comfortable rip from vacant territory. He would notch another within a few moments, slipping free to find space in transition. The move from midfield to attack cause turmoil for the Waterdogs defense and the amount of cutting and unplanned movement had them at their best guesses. He would find himself in the right place during a fast break pushed by Nick Ossello, pinging a shot off the goaltender only to meet Adams right on the doorstep to direct the shot back in.

Poise and confidence was never the strength of Waterdogs all evening. They were caught undisciplined by the officials twice in the game and it cost them both times. Most painfully was a lightning strike skip pass from Ryder Garnsey to Clark Petterson on the crease to slam it backdoor on Matt DeLuca, breaking apart the defense at the seams.

The rookie DeLuca, getting his first start, was phenomenal when getting a piece of a the starting attack, only allowing four goals from the trip on 24 attempts. He also seemed to have Sergio Perkovic’s number on the long ball, until the final minutes when Perk would slam a fast break home to prove he wouldn’t be blanked. DeLuca would give Waterdogs every opportunity to compete, only allowing three goals in the first half and leading giant lulls without action on the scoreboard.

Not quite in his place all Championship Series, Myles Jones settled in outside of the arc and started to benefit from a slow, deliberate movement of the ball. His first connection was a long rip beyond the arc, smacking the only Redwoods 2-pointer. Not long after, Jones took a run from the outside position, made hard contact and opened up a close lane to scratch another onto the sheet.

Jones was getting hot and the score was separated, 9-4, deep into the third quarter, giving the illusion that it was time for Waterdogs to start the buses. Coach St. Laurent was very clear in one of his huddles that their opponent can come storming back and it’s been a common thread of the PLL all season. Just like clockwork, quick transition welcomed Ryland Rees with ample time on the perimeter to smack down a 2-pointer. Right on Rees’ heels, Wes Berg found Connor Kelly setting up behind the line, catching the pass with hands high and free to hammer a powerful bouncer past Tim Troutner, doubling the Waterdogs score in a matter of moments to pull within two.

Late insurance would come through the sticks of Garnsey and Perkovic, eventually able to seal the deal, but they weren’t safe until Waterdogs squandered their final opportunity. Getting the ball into the offensive end with plenty of time, Waterdogs took a timeout and drew up a play that was instantly busted as soon as they set up. An errant pass came up Redwoods and made it all the way down to Perkovic blazing toward the net one-on-one to allow Redwoods to see another game.

It was quite surprising to see a face-off group that struggled through the Championship Series after the retirement of Greg Gurenlian to find big success against a surging duo in Jake Withers and Drew Simoneau. Greg Puskuldjian rose to the occasion and captured 7-of-10 wins, aided by a 5-of-10 effort by Peyton Smith. Puskuldjian has gone clutch playing for Coach St. Laurent in the past, so this definitely wasn’t a surprise to the Redwoods leader.

Aside from giving up two 2-pointers, goaltender Tim Troutner only allowed four other shots to get past him the entire game. His defense gave him the looks he needed to see to be successful in cage and that meant helping to silence some of the best shooters in the world. Although he scored on his attempt, Zach Currier was only able to take one shot all game. Kieran McArdle didn’t even make the stat sheet tonight after carrying his squad to a near-comeback in game three. Drew Snider was good for only one notch and Wes Berg stuck to eating apples. All five of those guys were ticking time bombs that have won games at the biggest moments and barely did a thing.

Big Stats Guys

  • Ryder Garnsey (Redwoods) 2G, 2A
  • Myles Jones (Redwoods) 1G, 1 2G, 1A
  • Brent Adams (Redwoods) 3G
  • Pat Harbeson (Redwoods) 1A, 2CT, 4GB
  • Greg Puskuldjian (Redwoods) 7/10, 3GB
  • Ryland Rees (Waterdogs) 1 2G, 2CT, 2GB
  • Connor Kelly (Waterdogs) 1G, 1 2G

Man of the Match – Brent Adams, Redwoods

Brent Adams moved from midfield to attack for what seemed to be the first time in his televised lacrosse career and it only took him a quarter or so to adjust. Then he was all settled into his new office and put together a hat trick off just seven shots. Adams never stopped cutting and creating distractions for the Waterdogs defense.

Once they realized that Adams was a major threat from down low, the opportunity for the midfield came calling and Myles Jones had answers. Maybe the Man of the Match should be Coach St. Laurent for making the swap, but regardless it was Adams making the best of it.

Achilles’ Heel

Pacing is a weird issue for Redwoods. They struggle to do the little things right in different waves and their opposition finds ways to capitalize on it. Redwoods have a plethora of talent that can put the ball in the net, but they aren’t built to ride on anyone’s coattails. This team lives very in the moment, play by play, quarter by quarter.

While that can help them shake off mistakes and claw their way back into blowouts, they can also forget how to manage a lead. If they’re going to play selfless offense, they need to follow through on through truly selfless details like ground balls, strong subs, disciplined checks and the rest.

Thursday’s Game

10:30 p.m. vs. No. 1 Whipsnakes on NBC Sports Network

Well, we absolutely won’t be getting a PLL Championship rematch in 2020. Whipsnakes got the best of Redwoods in round one, 13-9, kicking off their steady cruise of dominance. Redwoods are still figuring out how to play a complete game, while Whipsnakes have barely shown a weakness in over a week’s time. Whipsnakes had the advantage to watch their opponents go to work while they lounge with feet up, maximizing a three day rest thanks to the top seed bye.

While recent praise can be given to the Redwoods defensive group, they’ve got their biggest challenge of the year ahead with a red hot Matt Rambo feeding the plate of Zed Williams with dangerous consistency.

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