Lacrosse at John Hopkins University is one of the world’s wonders. I had the blessing of traveling down to Baltimore this past weekend to watch some incredibly intense matchups, and I was treated to some of the best games I’ve ever watched.
Three of the four games played this weekend were decided by one score, with one game going into overtime. League standings were rattled, and teams flew up and down the power rankings. In a sold-out stadium at Homewood Field, the environment was electric, making this weekend of Lacrosse arguably the best in recent memory.
Redwoods vs Whipsnakes: The Rivalry Meet Again
To start off the weekend, we had a former title matchup between the underdog Redwoods and undefeated Whipsnakes. At this point in the season, the Redwoods were 1-2, looking at the bottom portion of the PLL standings.
Despite this, the game was jaw-dropping, with the Whipsnakes edging out the Redwoods by a score of 12-11. Although this may have been the expected result, the match leading up to this point was the opposite.
The Redwoods came out swinging, with an uncovered goal by Matt Kavanaugh and a highlight-reel one-handed laser by Rob Pannell, putting the Woods up 2-0 almost halfway through the first quarter.
After these first two goals, the defenses on both ends started to amp it up. The intensity was unmatched, and it was getting incredibly scrappy and physical, causing tension on the field. This doesn’t stop the Snakes from going on a 3 goal streak in three minutes, sparked by a power-play goal from Bryan Cole and followed by a behind-the-back assist by Zed Williams with less than 2:30 to go in the quarter.
The second quarter is where the defensive intensity really leveled up, with an even spread of goals on both ends, most notably a FOGO goal from TD Ierlan. With a Whipsnakes goal tying up the game at 5-5 with 1:20 left in the half, fans started lining up at concessions thinking the action was over. Little did they know, it had just begun.
With 0:47 left on the clock, Sergio Perkovic glides down the right lane, scoring on the run past two defenders. With the game clearly getting more physical, two players from opposing teams started to get physical with one another. After some headbutts and shoving, the Redwoods player was charged with a 1-minute penalty, while the Whipsnakes player was charged with 2.
Coming out of the half, the Redwoods are leading 6-5. This does not last long. The Whipsnakes absolutely dominate the third quarter, scoring 6 points to the Redwoods 3. Matt Rambo had an incredible diving goal, harnessing the team’s energy going into the fourth.
The final period was decided by the defense. The Redwoods, down 2 at this point, start the quarter off by tying the game up 11-11. However, with 6:21 on the clock, Matt Rambo scores again, giving them a single-goal lead halfway through the quarter.
Although the game was a firework show by both offenses, the MVP of the game was easily goalie Kyle Bernlohr. With 12 saves at a rate of 55%, he dominated the crease throughout the whole game. With a minute to go, up by 1, the Redwoods got a fairly open shot on goal, but Bernlohr made the save to seal the game.
During the post-game press conference, I asked Whipsnakes head coach Jim Stagnitta about the second-half mentality shift and what was focused on in the locker room. He emphasized discipline and execution, referencing the lack of it in the first half. Once the team sat down in the locker room and got coached up, their third quarter was an accumulation of this. His full answer to the question can be seen below.
"When we execute the things we're supposed to, we're talented enough to cash in." 💰
Head Coach @JimStagnittaPLL stresses the emphasis on discipline needed to find a win this weekend in Baltimore. pic.twitter.com/rlPWhJYgDH
— Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club (@PLLWhipsnakes) June 27, 2022
However, Redwoods’ head coach Nat St. Laurent was proud of his team’s effort. When I asked him about the positives he took out of the game, he believed that the effort and physicality of his unit were on par with their opponents. He is focused on getting healthy and taking care of his club, so they can be well prepared for their matchup next week against the Archers.
Waterdogs vs Chaos: The Chaos are Hounded
This game was a dominating offensive performance for the Waterdogs, getting their first win by sweeping away the still winless Chaos 18-9. The Chaos started off with a 1-0 lead, but never saw the light of day again, with the Waterdogs rattling off 6 consecutive points to finish off the first quarter.
The Chaos had almost no possession of the ball in the first quarter, turning it over and handing it off in transition. The Waterdogs managed to be a constant threat on offense, wearing down the defense as time went on. The Waterdogs actually managed to take 10 first quarter shots, with Blaze Riordan holding it down and saving 4 of them.
The second quarter was more even, with each team scoring three, but the onslaught of Waterdog dominance wasn’t finished. To start the second half, Ryan Brown scored two goals in less than a minute, helping the Waterdogs with his endgame mark of 4 points.
The fourth quarter was almost unfair. The Waterdogs started terrorizing the Chaos with highlight plays that got the crowd on their feet. Keiran McArdle tossed Michael Sowers a spinning bounce pass right across the crease that ended in a goal, leaving fans wondering if that was his intention.
Although the game ended in a not-so desirable score, the Chaos have a lot to look forward too. The Chaos had a large number of impactful players come back from the NLL this week, not giving them much rest time between the two seasons. I talked to defenseman Jarrod Neumann after the game about his teammates getting the rust off, and he was confident in their play. Believing there are “no major fixes”, he is ready to move forward from this game and heal up with his teammates for next week against the Cannons.
The Waterdogs have a bit of a challenge next week against the undefeated Whipsnakes, but head coach Any Copelan is not concerned. Playing this team two weeks ago and losing in overtime, they have confidence in their play, and Coach Copelan said “Sometimes, a win can create a little bit of positive mojo and a little momentum, and that certainly is the hope that we can carry that forward here.”
Read about the PLL’s sports betting endorsement and how it will impact the league’s growth.
Cannons vs Chrome: The Colossal Comeback
Leading off day two of lacrosse action in Baltimore, the Cannons and Chrome game may have been the best of the weekend. The Chrome, down by 5 going into the fourth quarter, fired off 7 final period goals to take the game into overtime, where they won 12-11.
The first quarter ended even with a score of 3-3, with Cannons’ Ryan Tierney starting off with two goals. The Cannon’s started to pull ahead, and ended the first half leading by 3. At this point in the game, Cannons’ goalie Nick Marrocco was playing out of his mind, saving over 60% of shots on goal.
However, the energy was about to shift. After the Cannons outscored the Chrome 2-0 in the third quarter, things were looking down. The score was 9-4, and the Chrome couldn’t find the back of the net. That is, until the last period.
The Chrome could not stop scoring. The defense felt like a completely new unit, polishing their transition game and winning ground balls. No matter how many shots Marrocco saved, another one would find its way in.
Down 11-7 with 2 minutes left, the game looked over. Even with a newfound spark from the Chrome, it wasn’t strong enough to take down this powerhouse Cannons’ squadron. Then, with 1:55 on the clock, Justin Anderson scored.
11-8 is better, but there’s still only a minute and a half left in the game, so winning seemed unreasonable. Enter Ryan Terefenko, dishing the ball to Brendan Nichtern for the score. 11-9, 1:21 left.
Now it’s getting close. But even I had heavy doubts once the clock dipped under 1:00, as I started to collect my belongings to prepare for the press conference. Then, somehow, Dylan Molloy makes another shot with :53 on the clock, making it a one score game at 11-10.
I immediately unpacked my things and began to type furiously, unraveling everything that happened in the last 5 minutes. It all happened so quickly, and I was typing while keeping my eyes on the game.
Then, like a reporter’s dream, it happened. With 0:32 left, Ryan Terefenko does it again, scoring a goal and tying it up at 11-11. A pump fake from the top of the two point line, drawing a slide from his right, ducking inside and readjusting for the shot to bring it to overtime.
If the Cannons won this game, Nick Marrocco would have been the game’s MVP. He is the reason overtime took as long as it did, even sacrificing a possible penalty to hold off a goal in the crease. But Mike Messenger, a player who transitioned from a SSDM to a regular Midfielder this week, manages to not only cause the game sealing turnover, but go on to score the game winning goal for the Chrome ending the game with a score of 12-11.
Unbelievable game with a heartbreaking loss for a struggling Cannon’s team. Although this game may have been a disappointment, but going toe to toe against the highest ranked team in the PLL is something to be proud of. There were a lot of positives to come out of this game, specifically with their offensive attack and help in the net.
I asked Cannons’ head coach Sean Quirk about Marrocco’s game in goal, and he had high praise for the vet. Quirk knows that having a player like him helping lead the defense is a benefit to the Cannons’ success, and that he didn’t let any goals go by that he should have stopped. His full answer is linked below.
“He’s gonna make some big saves that he has no business making.”
🎙@CoachQuirk on the reliability of @OnThaRoccs after his 16 saves on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/On0Rgjbmcb
— Cannons Lacrosse Club (@PLLCannons) June 26, 2022
On the other hand, the Chrome were ecstatic about their win. After a hard-fought, physical and gritty game of lacrosse, I asked Chrome head coach Tim Soudan about how that mentality benefits the team. He went on to say that it’s the “makeup of this team,” and they have guys that are ready to put in the work and genuinely care about each other. He thinks this mentality is contributing to their success, and should continue to help them in the future.
Atlas vs Archers: The Battle of Goliaths
Two of the best teams in the league in score differential, the Atlas and Archers win games, and they win by a lot. Having two high powered offenses against two physical defenses can be some of the best lacrosse to watch, and it certainly was, as they finished the weekend off with a close battle ending in Atlas victory 10-9.
The perfect way to close out the trip to Baltimore, this game was close all the way through. Starting in the first quarter, both teams came out hot on offense, with the Archers handing out 5 goals to the Atlas 4.
Jeff Teat and Eric Law showed up in the first quarter for the Atlas, with Eric Law’s hat trick and diving backhand goal and Jeff teat’s ridiculous one handed low-to-high bullet scraping the crossbar. However, rookie Matt Moore of the Archers had something to say about it, putting up two solo goals in the first quarter as well.
As the game transitioned into the second quarter, I started to notice a trend in the Archer’s offense; Their inability to pass the ball. Whether they were off target, dropped, or knocked down in the passing lane, the Archers couldn’t keep the ball on offense or transition. This made way for a scoreless Archers second quarter while the Atlas racked up two more points.
The Atlas were up 6-5 heading into the half, and the Archers needed to clean up the offense. Their shots were connecting, but there was only two assisted goals in the first half of the game. As much as I was hoping this trend would change, it would not.
With the distributor role falling onto Will Manny, he would assist two more goals throughout the game, but the Atlas defense was locked in. For a team who ranked as one of the top offenses coming into this game, they were actually playing better on the defensive side of the ball. The amount of incredible plays and quick transitions by the Atlas defenders was incredible, even if it didn’t show up in the stat books.
Trevor Baptiste won 86% of his faceoffs, one of the best marks in recent memory, and he scored a goal off of one in the third quarter. The goalie battle was almost identical, with each player having 11 saves with only a 3% difference in save percentage. What changed the game was the Atlas defense, Baptiste’s dominance, and having just 4 more shots on goal.
The reason the Archers lost was distributing the ball. They haven’t had a history of this, and when I asked Archers’ attackman Marcus Holman about this, he agreed with me. He said, “I feel like it’s the blueprint for how you defend the Archers,” and goes on to talk about the cohesion between him, Will Manny, and Tom Shreiber. Locking off the two scoring threats and manning up on their primary facilitator held them back this weekend, but after seeing Matt Moore’s performance today, they may have a new solution to the dilemma.
If I could, I would give it to the entire defensive unit, but Baptiste was easily the team’s MVP. He’s on an MVP pace for faceoff percentage, defining what pure dominance is at the position.
Next week, Baptiste and the Atlas take on the Chrome with their own dominant FOGO, Connor Farrell, alongside one of the best defenses in the league. I was able to ask Baptiste about the game plan for next week’s bout, and he answered with some of the most confidence and trust I saw out of any player this weekend. He stated, “When we’re playing and when we have fun through adversity which is gonna come through the Chrome team, that’s when we play our best.”
This weekend was packed with some of the best lacrosse to come out of the PLL, and shows why the league is finding success. Three out of the four games came down to the literal last minute, and the power rankings were scrambled due to the outcomes.
Every single one of these teams has the ability to win it all, and that was proven this week by stellar performances by the underdogs. And although they may not have won, they made an impact, and put the league on notice for what’s about to come.