The Premier Lacrosse League enters the second half of its season this weekend as the teams head to The Star in Frisco, Texas. The games are slated to take place Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
The two top teams in the league, the Waterdogs, and Archers will clash in an epic faceoff at 3:00 pm EST on ABC, promising a showdown like no other. As we gear up for the exciting battles ahead, it’s time to delve into the five most pressing questions that will shape the course of the season.
No fogo, no problem?
Two weeks ago, the Waterdogs took a daring leap, ditching the traditional faceoff man for an extra short stick d-middie. While skeptics frowned upon their 20% faceoff win rate, the results speak for themselves. They are tied with the Archers at 4-1 atop the league standings and have the 3rd best scoring differential at +7. The Waterdogs benefit from a relentless and opportunistic defensive unit that has caused more turnovers than scoring opportunities against teams with superior faceoff talent.
What started as a fad may turn into a new strategy. The Chrome decided this week to sit their fogo Connor Farrell. Farrell is one of the top fogos in the league. The two-time all-star is winning just over 70% of the faceoffs he has taken this season. The problem is that Farrell is turning the ball over at an alarming rate, 24.5% on the season.
The faceoff position is in the midst of a dramatic evolution. It’s more than just winning the clamp. It’s about securing possession for your offense and setting up your team for success. My eyes will be on how the Atlast (Trevor Baptiste), Archers, Mike Sisselberger, and Redwoods (TD Irelan) gameplan and adapt after the All Star break.
Can the Cannons go worst to first?
The Cannons underwent a complete transformation heading into the 2023 season, determined to leave behind their playoff-less past. Hiring Brian Holman as head coach brought new hope, and he wasted no time revamping the roster with Marcus Holman, Matt Kavanagh, and Matt Campbell. But the biggest shockwave came when Lyle Thompson announced in May that he would forgo his 2023 season in the PLL. Thompson is a transcend player and scored more goals (26) and totaled more points (44) than anyone else in the league in 2022.
Asher Nolting has come into his own in his second year for the Cannons. He is tied with Ryder Garnsey for tops in the league with 22 points. Nolting’s 22 points are one shy of his point total for 2022, despite playing in half as many games as he did last year. The trend has continued with the rest of the team. The team has 71 scores on the season and is averaging a league-best 14.1 goals a game. It will be interesting to see if they can stay hot and make for a worst-to-first storyline.
Redwood Power Outage
The 2023 season brought new hope to the Redwoods as John Grant Jr. took the reins as their offensive coordinator. While Ryder Garnesy has flourished, having arguably his best season as a professional, two of the Redwoods’ biggest names, Myles Jones and Sergio Percovic, are hoping the All Star game break gave them both a much-needed reset.
The two bombers have been elite throughout their professional careers and can stretch the field with a range from distance. Petrovic, better known as the Motor City Hitman, has no goals or assists for the season. He looked tentative and pressing in the Woods Week 5 10-3 loss to the archers. Myles Jones has not faired much better. Jones has three goals on the season, all one-pointers, and no assists. Jones has proven to be just as dynamic dishing the rock as he has shooting it.
Recognizing the need for change, Redwoods coach Nat St. Laurent has promised adjustments after the All-Star break. Jones finds himself on the Reserve Roster this weekend in Dallas, signaling the team’s commitment to reshaping their offensive strategy.
Can the Atlas and Whipsnakes rebound?
At the bottom of the league standings, the Atlas and Whipsnakes find themselves tied with the Chrome at a disappointing 1-4 as they head into the critical second half of the season. One of these three teams will likely be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin in September. This is unfamiliar territory for the Atlas and Whipsnakes.
While maybe not built for the Sixes format, the Whipsnakes are one of the PLL’s strongest teams annually. The Whipsnakes won the first two PLL Championships and finished runner-up in 2021. Injuries have hurt the Whipsnakes in 2023. They are dealing with injuries to Matt Rambo (A), Kyle Bernlohr (G), Mike Erhardt (LSM), and Matt Dunn (D). While Bernlohr is the only one out this weekend, the other three were listed on the Injury Report.
The Atlas has the best Fogo and is tied for second with the most goals scored this season. The glaring problem has been on defense. The Atlas has surrendered a whopping 77 goals, 11 goals more than the next-highest team (Whipsnakes), and a staggering 27 goals behind the league’s best defensive team, the Archers. New Coach Mike Pressler has his hand fulls, especially after spending his two first-round picks on Gavin Adler and Brett Makar. The Atlas are too talented only to have one win on the season, but they will need to find consistency on defense to bounce back in the second half.
Can Chrome Find Their Shine?
The Chrome had a strong season in 2022. They had the two best rookies in the league, led by attackman Logan Wisnauskas and (Rookie of the Year) Brendan Nichtern. The team finished with the second-best record in the league in 2022 at 7-3.
Fast forward to this year, and the Chrome’s story has turned unexpectedly. Their once formidable offense has lost its rhythm, resulting in a meager league-low of 45 goals scored this season. A mere nine goals per game simply won’t cut it in the fiercely competitive world of the PLL.
Nine goals a game will not get it done in the PLL. Nichtern returned for the last two games before the All Star break, but the offense still does not seem to have the same flow or mesh.
Could a few more weeks together be the catalyst that Wisnauskas and Nichtern need to reignite their magic and turn the tide for the Chrome in 2023? The clock is ticking, as the season’s end looms closer in August.
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