The Redwoods enter the 2020 PLL Championship Series looking to enact some revenge. Since losing a heart breaker to the Whipsnakes in overtime of the inaugural PLL championship, the Redwoods roster has undergone some changes, losing some key players, but also adding some pivotal pieces.
Can Coach Nat St. Laurent’s crew finish the job this season?
Balanced Across the Board
St. Laurent had a busy offseason not only filling major holes, but also making the biggest trade in league history, sending Sergio Salcido and a draft pick to the Chaos in exchange for Myles Jones.
Jones brings to the Redwoods the sort of downhill midfielder the team could have used at times last year. Jones joins a veteran midfield line with Brent Adams, Kyle Harrison and Joe Walters among others. The Woods hope Jones’ passing and dodging skills add an element to the offense that was at times overly reliant on their talented attack line.
The midfield line will also be looking for big strides from Sergio Perkovic, who underwent a dramatic evolution last season into a reliable defensive midfielder after having been primarily a scorer in his entire lacrosse career. St. Laurent feels Perkovic has the ability to become one of the best two-way midfielders in the game this season.
The defense, featuring Garrett Epple, Eddy Glazener and Tim Troutner, is also one of the best in the league and their hard-nosed, yet calculated style make them one of the most toughest matchups in the PLL. Couple that with defensive middies Jack Near and Pat Harbeson and it’s hard to find a weakness.
The attack also returns Matt Kavanagh, Ryder Garnsey and Clarke Petterson, who showed flashes of brilliance early in the season. If this offense can pick up where it left off, despite missing Jules Heningburg on attack, they should have a great shot at appearing in another title game.
Replacing Key Players
In addition to losing Heningburg at the last minute, the Redwoods also lost a lot of key players during the offseason.
Brian Karalunas, a pivotal piece of the Redwoods’ vaunted defensive unit, was scooped up by the Waterdogs in the expansion draft. Another key piece of the Redwoods’ unit from a year ago, Matt Landis, won’t be joining the team in Utah due to serving in the military.
The team also comes into this season without the presence of Greg Gurenlian. Beast took his last faceoff in the championship game, leaving the Redwoods and St. Laurent to try and replace one of the greatest faceoff presences in the game. Not an easy task.
St. Laurent hopes Hugh Crance can pick up where Karalunas left off. He also added Finn Sullivan, a savvy replacement for Matt Landis who is also coming of a heartbreaking loss in a title game, and Greg Puskuldjian from the entry draft. He also added rookie faceoff specialist Peyton Smith in the college draft. All four are talented players, but the real question will be whether they are able to fill the large shoes of the star players that departed this offseason.
Most Intriguing Matchup
Redwoods vs Whipsnakes, July 25
It’s hard to pick any other matchup than the rematch with the defending champion Whipsnakes. These teams both overwent some offseason overhauls since they last met, but their defensive core is still very much intact. Expect this game to be a physical, low scoring affair with a tight finish. The amount that Epple, Glazener and Co are able to contain MVP Matt Rambo will be a key to a Redwoods victory at the end of the day.
Player to Watch
With Wes Berg departed for the Waterdogs via the expansion draft and Jules Heningburg out due to complications with COVID-19, Clarke Petterson will be expected to step up in a big way. The second year attackman played well in his limited playing time last season and is coming off a stellar rookie year in the NLL as a member of the Halifax Thunderbirds. If he, Garnsey and Kavanagh can stay on the same page and put up points, this Redwoods team could be very scary.