With the PLL season less than a month away, Lacrosse Playground will be going through each team in the league to get ready for the upcoming season. With the merger with the MLL and an influx of talent from the college game, the PLL will be more competitive than ever. We’re here to help you sort through it all and get ready for what looks to be an exciting summer of lacrosse. After the preview, I’ll also be predicting each team’s initial 19-man active roster.
We begin with the Archers LC. I was going to start by saying that the Archers are one of the more fascinating teams going into the 2021 PLL season, but, frankly, every team in the league is fascinating after this wild offseason. That said, the Archers have an exciting mix of pre-existing talent and incoming studs that should give them a real shot at the title this summer. This team has been knocking at the door in the first two seasons of the PLL. In 2021, they may very well just kick it down.
On DraftKings Sportsbook, the Archers currently sit at +475 odds to win the 2021 PLL Championship. Let’s take a look at their offseason additions, get Coach Chris Bates’s thoughts heading into training camp and pin point why Archers LC is a championship contender.
2020 PLL Championship Series Results
Pool Play Record: 3-1
Playoff Results: Defeated Atlas 11-9, Lost to Chaos 13-9
After roaring out to a 3-0 start with their talented offense firing on all cylinders, the Archers lost a fateful battle for the top seed of the PLL Championship Series to the Whipsnakes. The Archers hung tough, but in the end were overwhelmed by Matt Rambo, Zed Williams and Brad Smith’s relentless attack. Joe Nardella was also dominant at the stripe in their 17-11 loss. That result, plus an 11-9 quarterfinal win over the Atlas, led them into a semi-final matchup with the Chaos, who turned into a buzzsaw for the playoff rounds of the PLL Championship Series. The Archers lost 13-9, and, once again, were left to watch the title game from home.
2021 Offseason Acquisitions
PLL Entry Draft: Graeme Hossack (D), Ryan McNamara (M), Warren Jeffrey (D)
PLL College Draft: Jared Conners (LSM), Tre Leclaire (A/M), Jeff Trainor (M), Conor Gaffney (FO)
Player Pool: Latrell Harris (D/LSM), Nate Solomon (A), Nick Washuta (G)
Trade: Connor Fields (A)
The Archers went into the drafts with a clear focus on defense, spending their first pick in both drafts on players who can flip a game on that end. They used the second overall pick in the PLL Entry Draft to nab Graeme Hossack, causing a collective shudder to go down the spines of those unlucky souls who have been guarded by him in the past. They also picked up another Canadian D-man Warren Jeffrey at great value in the third round of the PLL Entry Draft.
“We feel like those guys give us a different look, and some depth there,” Head Coach Chris Bates said in reference to Jeffrey and Hossack.
In the PLL College Draft, they got some of the best value in the first round, as Jared Conners, an LSM that many had tabbed as a top-three prospect, fell to the team at the fifth pick. Conners is a full-field game wrecker – an athletic, rangy defender who can take it the other way in transition. The one-two punch of Conners and Scott Ratliff at LSM will be formidable.
On the other end, they added some depth at midfield by taking Ryan McNamara in the second round of the PLL Entry Draft. McNamara just adds more finishing and firepower to the Archers offense, and if we’re talking firepower, they also picked up Tre Leclaire in the second round of the PLL College Draft. Leclaire is a good fit for a team with so many good passers because of his ability to punctuate Archers’ possessions with a goal.
Of course, there was also their big offseason trade to bring in Connor Fields, only a season removed from his dominant 2019 PLL season with the Chaos.
Bates is clearly excited about the addition of Fields’ “multidimensional” game, and noted they could use him “as a feeder, as a shooter, as an off-ball player.
“It’ll be exciting to see how he can gel with a pretty experienced team,” Coach Bates added.
Beyond that, they got a solid two-way middie in Jeff Trainor, took a swing at the faceoff position with Conor Gaffney, and made a few moves from the player pool. Of those, Latrell Harris is notable, as he can play any position with a long pole, or shift to SSDM as he did in the 2018 FIL World Championship.
2021 Offseason Departures
Trade: Eli Gobrecht (D), Ian MacKay (M)
Released: Davey Emala (A), Mike Simon (LSM)
Expansion: Brendan Fowler (FO), Josh Currier (M), Curtis Corley (D)
Retired: Tyler Pfister (M)
Though losing multiple key pieces would be more problematic in a typical year, all the talent coming in makes these departures more palatable.
The biggest loss here is that of Eli Gobrecht, a stout defender and important piece of last year’s team. The sting, however, is mitigated by the team’s work in the drafts. MacKay and Currier were both contributors on the offensive end, but the team brought in enough talent to keep Chris Bates from losing too much sleep over these ones as well.
Biggest Question Heading into the Season: Faceoffs
Unless Conor Gaffney, the draft pick out of Lehigh, really pops in the PLL, the Archers don’t yet have a clear fix at the stripe. Stephen Kelly, the draw man still on the roster, finished below 50% and struggled against the class of the position, and every other team with a question mark at the position worked hard to correct it. If they can’t get consistent possession, their flame can get snuffed out, as it was against the Whipsnakes last year when Joe Nardella took over.
“If Joe Nardella is winning it to himself in a split-second, there’s not a ton you can do,” Bates said, “but our emphasis wants to be on how we can bring our wing play into it and be more consistent to create more possessions for us.”
With Conners and Ratliff, the Archers certainly have the horses on the wing to make plays provided their men on the draw can muck it up enough, regardless of who starts at the stripe for them.
Biggest Strength Heading into the Season: Offensive Firepower
The Archers may very well have the most diverse, high-powered offensive attack in the PLL. With Grant Ament and Tom Schreiber, defenses are fighting a war on two fronts. Both players can score and make plays with the best of them, with Ament mainly coming from X and Schreiber from the top.
The attack rounds out with off-ball genius Will Manny and certified gunner Marcus Holman, perfect compliments to Ament and Schreiber. Christian Mazzone brings some guile and pop, and that is before you mention some of the high-powered additions.
Fields as a tertiary creator is an absurd luxury, especially considering the focus will be on Ament and Schreiber. McNamara and Leclaire know what to do with the space created by the gravitational pull of their teammates.
“We feel good about our depth on the offensive end,” Bates said. “It’s just a matter of seeing it gel.”
This talent on this offense is dumb. There is no good way to combat them defensively, as they have a counter for everything. It’s going to be a blast. Bates is also very confident in his vets at short-stick D-mid in Dominique Alexander and Mark McNeill, as well as newcomer Latrell Harris.
“We think Latrell Harris can step in and really be somebody there who gives us a bump.”
Those SSDMs, often an underrated yet essential part of a great team, complement the new-look Archers D beautifully.
Now, every team in the PLL loaded up in a big way, but the Archers’ top end talent is matched by very few in the league. They’ll be a tough out this season.
Projected 19-Man Opening Weekend Roster:
Attack: Grant Ament, Marcus Holman, Will Manny, Connor Fields, Tre Leclaire
Midfield: Tom Schreiber, Christian Mazzone, Ryan McNamara, Dominique Alexander, Jeff Trainor, Ryan Ambler
Defense/LSM: Matt McMahon, Graeme Hossack, Warren Jeffrey, Scott Ratliff, Jared Conners
Faceoff: Conor Gaffney
Goalie: Drew Adams, Adam Ghitelman
Reserves: Mark McNeill, Stephen Kelly, Latrell Harris, Nick Washuta, Joey Sankey, Jackson Place