Photo courtesy of the Premier Lacrosse League
The Bulls 2019 season was in a word, disappointing. The team, loaded with star players from some of college’s greatest programs (Duke, Hopkins, Cornell, UNC), and featuring a ridiculous amount of team USA players, was only able to go 5-5 in year one. League co-founder and face of the Atlas, Paul Rabil, would be the first to admit that the 2019 season didn’t live up to his expectations and that 2020 has an entirely new feel.
A Cast of Star Players
Without stating the obvious, Rob Pannell was the second best off season pick up (Zach Currier is my #1), meaning that the Atlas not only replaced Kieran McArdle, they improved an already stacked attack line.
The midfield is considerably better with the additions of Romar Dennis, Bryan Costabile and Jeremy Thompson. Romar adds depth and a guy who, at times, can be unguardable. Costabile will do a little bit of everything, while Thompson adds a veteran leader who can also give Trevor Baptiste a blow on faceoffs when needed.
New Coaching Staff
A completely new coaching staff means that everything will look slightly different this year, and one thing that every pro lacrosse sideline has been missing is Uncle Ricky Beast. While the defense didn’t really change in the offseason, outside of the addition of Craig Chick, they did add one of the greatest defenseman of all time to run the unit. Not only will Coach Beardsley improve them as players, his special type of energy is sure to push the entire team to the next level.
New head coach Ben Rubeor built this team to run, choosing to bring 9 true midfielders to Utah, with all having the ability to play offense. The use of these midfielders on defense along with Chick and Kyle Hartzell at LSM, is sure to create a ton of transition. Jack Concannon provides stability and an extremely capable netminder who will once again be near the top of the league in save percentage. At the face-off stripe, Trevor Baptiste will continue to be dominant and provide valuable possessions all series long.
Once on offense that’s where the 2020 squad become a nightmare to defend, they have limitless options. The only thing that will stop this year’s offense is too many guys trying to do many things, something that Coach Ben Rubeor and Stephen Brooks are sure to keep an eye on. If everyone plays a selfless brand of lacrosse, look for the Atlas to lead the league in scoring, and live up to the high standards they have for themselves.
Defenseman Tucker Durkin may or may not be with the team this year due to a poistive COVID-19 test. This means he definitely won’t be playing during week 1, which is a big loss for a defense that allowed the second most goals against (13.2), despite having the second best goalie (Jack Concannon 53%). Kieran McArdle and his 25 points at attack, along with Noah Richard and his 23 GB’s are now with the Waterdogs thanks to the expansion draft.
Most Intriguing Matchup
Atlas vs Whipsnakes, July 30
The Johns Hopkins-Maryland rivalry will be renewed on Thursday night when the Atlas take on the Whipsnakes. The Whips and their band of former Terps got the better of the Bulls and their cast of former Blue Jays last season, winning both matchups by the scores of 15-10 and 11-9. Can the Atlas take game three in the rivalry?
Players to Watch
It’s hard to choose anyone other than Rob Pannell. His addition to the Atlas makes them instant contenders. It will be exciting to see how he meshes with the attack line of Eric Law and Ryan Brown and fans can expect to see him rack up a lot of assists feeding players like Paul Rabil and Romar Dennis at the midfield.
The second overall pick in the PLL College Draft is expected to have a large role on the Atlas team, both on the offensive side and defensive side of the ball. The versatile midfielder out of Notre Dame can shoot from range, while also getting back in the hole on defense and provide some short-stick defensive middie support. Look for him to have an impact right away.