Whipsnakes Outlast Redwoods in OT, Flawless Run to Finals
Whipsnakes 13, Redwoods 12 – OT
The Redwoods defense had a clear game plan: take Matt Rambo and Zed Williams out of the equation, and force the rest of the team to beat you. They ran this plan to perfection, as neither Rambo nor Williams recorded a single point in this game. The risk with that plan, though, came true, as the rest of the Whipsnakes’ offense, and even its defense, found a way to still rack up 13 goals and yet another overtime win against Redwoods. This time, the hero was Jeremy Sieverts, in what was quite literally his first point of the series.
JEREMY SIEVERTS WINS IT! pic.twitter.com/V4eoLWcnfh
— Premier Lacrosse League (@PremierLacrosse) August 7, 2020
Redwoods put up a hell of a fight. The club dropped down 8-2 in the first half, as Whipsnakes rolled out to a quick 4-0 lead, and then extended it further from there. But, just like they did when down 9-2 in last year’s title game, the Redwoods fought back valiantly to tie the game up at 10-10, then the second knot at 12 off a late backhander from Ryder Garnsey. They could have won it more than once late in the game, and in the start of overtime, but goaltender Kyle Bernlohr came up huge late in the game with a low stop on Myles Jones and a kick save in overtime to protect the Whips.
With Rambo and Zedzilla silent on the night, their fellow attackmen stepped up big time. Jay Carlson led the team with four goals, and Brad Smith had a single to go with five assists, which would have tied the single-game assists record had Rambo not shattered it in Whipsnakes’ prior game. Coming up equally huge was Michael Ehrhardt, who banged in two two-pointers along with an assist of his own. Redwoods, meanwhile, got a vintage playoff performance from Matt Kavanagh, who emerged from a bit of a hibernation to the tune of four goals and an assist. Fellow Irish alum Garnsey had two each of goals and assists, and six other ‘Woods found the back of the net, including a wondrous diving backhander from midfielder Jack Near.
Every time the Woods are flat, Jack Near inverts and goes airborne. Every time. pic.twitter.com/3sPyfzCrUF
— Joe Keegan (@joekeegs) August 7, 2020
With the loss tonight, Redwoods will miss getting a second chance at a title redemption. The club played its game to near-perfection tonight on defense for three quarters, but giving up eight early was a rough start that they had to work hard to correct. Sergio Perkovic, who had lit the cage on fire from deep throughout the series, was held to a single one-point goal, and Myles Jones was kept goalless. In fact, Jones had a bit of a rough finish to the game, forcing multiple ill-advised shots through the final five minutes of play as he tried to single-handedly deliver the win to his team. While he had some big saves late, Tim Troutner also failed to rise above 50 percent in cage today, and seemed to take a slight, but noticeable, step back from his 2019 form.
Still, things could be worse for Redwoods. They were without two of their best players this season, as Matt Landis (military service) and Jules Heningburg (COVID) were sorely missed. Returning at least one of those guys next season will be a big gain. Also, with today’s results, Redwoods now find themselves with the fourth overall selection in the 2021 College Draft. Looking above them, Atlas (Trevor Baptiste), Waterdogs (Withers/Simoneau), and Chrome (Farrell) seem unlikely to be searching for a face-off man that early in the draft, which could create an ideal situation for Redwoods to fill their greatest need with possibly the greatest college face-off specialist ever in Yale’s TD Ierlan. This Redwoods team showed a ton of guts and grit this tournament, and has a fantastic defense. Returning Heningburg and adding Ierlan could take them fully over the top for 2021.
Big Stats Guys
- Brad Smith (Whipsnakes) 1G, 5A
- Michael Ehrhardt (Whipsnakes) 2 2G, 1A, 1CT, 4GB
- Jay Carlson (Whipsnakes) 4G
- Joe Nardella (Whipsnakes) 18/26, 69%
- Matt Kavanagh (Redwoods) 4G, 1A
- Ryder Garnsey (Redwoods) 2G, 2A
- Pat Harbeson (Redwoods) 3G, 3A
Man of the Match – Michael Ehrhardt, Whipsnakes
This seems like a good time to remind everyone that the 2018 World Championship MVP wasn’t an offensive player. I mention this because that man, Michael Ehrhardt, had five freaking points tonight, in addition to his world-class defense. He finished with a triple-double-esque stat line of two two-pointers, an assist, four ground balls, and a caused turnover.
— Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club (@PLLWhipsnakes) August 7, 2020
Like I said earlier, this was a huge game for both Smith and Carlson, and Bernlohr deserves a lot of love. Hell, even Jeremy Sieverts should be considered here, as he saved that first goal for the optimal opportunity. But when an All-World defender and reigning Long Stick Midfielder of the Year also decides to just bang home a pair of bombs and score nearly a quarter of his team’s points? Yeah, he’s getting the top billing.
It’s hard to find the real weakness in a team that’s a perfect 5-0 through the PLL Championship Series, hasn’t lost a game in nearly a year and just proved they can win without engaging their two biggest scoring threats. Whipsnakes are going to have to stay at their best in the transition game to limit the variety of attacks that Chaos can provide in the finale. The close defense is bar none, but the midfield group will be challenged by the rotation of the Chaos midfield lines from a horizontal box style offense with the first line to the vertical “American” style ran by the second line. Chaos finally got it in full click tonight against the Archers, which had limited answers even with likely the best SSDM package in the PLL. The Whips midfielders are going to need to lock down their matchups so help isn’t needed. Too much movement could work into the Chaos’ quick-sticked favor.
PLL Championship Quick Preview
Sunday, August 9th | 12:30 p.m. vs. No. 7 Chaos on NBC
Whipsnakes might’ve gone to overtime, but they remain undefeated. This defense remains terrifying, and should match up nicely with Chaos, despite Chowse’s litany of offensive weapons. Kyle Bernlohr is a great goalie against the two, as we saw tonight, and that should also hopefully help when dealing with Jake Frocarro. The main two things we learned tonight, though, are these:
- Whipsnakes still know how to gut out a close win.
- Whipsnakes can score even when Rambo and Zed can’t.
For Chaos, both of those should be frightening. The strength of Chaos in its recent run comes from its offensive depth, but Whipsnakes proved tonight it’s just as deep, if not deeper. Brad Smith is playing like he’s back at Duke, Michael Ehrhardt is a two-point sniper now, and Jay Carslon remains a fantastic inside finisher. Blaze Riorden provides a stiffer test in goal, but Redwoods has a far stronger defense than Chaos.
Also, we might add, Whipsnakes took the first one in a not-particularly-close fashion, 12-7.