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PLL Recap: Whipsnakes take championship rematch 13-9 over Redwoods

Photo courtesy of the Premier Lacrosse League

After a long off season on waiting, the PLL returned to action on Saturday, getting things started with a rematch of last year’s inaugural championship game as the Redwoods took on the Whipsnakes.

The Whipsnakes championship defense got off to a fast start, thanks to Joe Nardella who scored two of the first three goals early in the contest. Nardella’s pair combined with a goal from Brad Smith put the Whipsnakes up 3-0 early in the first quarter. 

PLL All-Star Myles Jones was traded to the Redwoods headline offseason deal and made an immediate impact for his New squad. With his team trailing 3-0, Jones showed why Redwoods’ Coach Nat St. Laurent made that deal, scoring his first goal of the season on a bouncer. Matt Kavanagh added his first as well to pull the ‘Woods within one. 

Despite struggling at the faceoff in the second quarter, the Redwoods’ offense came alive thanks in part to Kyle Harrison’s first 2-point goal since 2018. Clarke Petterson also had a strong day for with two goals, giving the Redwoods a 6-4 lead minutes before halftime.

Matt Rambo and the Whipsnakes would not let the Redwoods get comfortable as the first half drew to a close, scoring the last four goals of the half, including one from new Whip , Zed Williams, with 0.7 seconds left to take a 8-6 lead into the intermission. 

Faceoffs hurt the Redwoods during the first half as Nardella and the Whipsnakes went 12-14 (86%). Additionally the Whipsnakes ruled in ground balls scooping up 25 compared to the Redwoods’ 14. 

The success at the X continud in the second half, as Nardella went a perfect  4-0 at the stripe. A goal from Jay Carlson paired with two from John Haus pushed the Whipsnake lead to 11-6 heading into the fourth quarter. 

After a significant drought, and a 7-0 Whipsnakes run, the Redwoods finally cut into the lead early in the fourth quarter. Pettersen perched on the edge of the crease before sending a diving shot past Whips goalie Kyle Bernhlor. Following another Pettersen goal, the Redwoods got a two-pointer from Sergio Perkovic, pulling them back within two, 11-9. 

Despite the late push, the Redwoods were unable to the gap an further any against the the reigning champs as the Whipsnakes scored two more to take a 13-9 victory. 

Bernlohr finished the afternoon with 15 saves for the victors, while Redwoods’ goalie Tim Troutner stopped 10 shots. 

Domination from Nardella

Whipsnakes faceoff man Joe Nardella was dominant at the stripe winning 15-for-22 (68%) of faceoffs. Out of the seven faceoffs he lost on the day, five came in the second half to rookie Peyton Smith who was 5-for-8 in his PLL debut. Last season Nardella won 55% of draws for the Whipsnakes, tied for the second best mark in the PLL.

New faces, same result

Despite losing lots of firepower in the expansion draft to the Waterdogs, the Whipsnakes’ offense didn’t seem to miss a beat. Zed Williams (3g) and Brad Smith (1g) filled the holes at attack left by Ryan Drenner and Ben Reeves. John Haus added a pair of goals for the Whips as well after only scoring seven all of last season. 

Over the arc and into the ‘Woods

The Redwoods got a pair of two-point goals on Saturday, one from Kyle Harrison and one from Sergio Perkovic. That matches the amount of two-point goals the team had during the entirety of the 2019 regular season. Last year Matt Kavanagh and Sergio Salcido were the only players to score from beyond the arc.

Next up:

Redwoods will face the Chaos on Monday at 7:00 p.m., while the Whipsnakes are off till Thursday when they will take on the Atlas, also at 7:00 p.m. 

Isaac Berky is a graduate of Adrian College and Syracuse University with degrees in Digital Media and Broadcast Journalism. Even though his playing career never took off, he's been able to cover the game on the collegiate level as a broadcaster, while also working around the sports industry before joining Pro Lacrosse Talk as a contributor.

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