After a grueling week of up and down lacrosse, the PLL Championship Series came to a conclusion on Sunday, as Chrome defeated Atlas in a back and forth affair by a score of 24-23.
Having met already, and seeing each other play all week, there was no secret when it came to the scouting report. Atlas have been launching twos at a rate that boggles the mind, led by Romar Dennis who entered the day as the tournament’s leading scorer. But it hasn’t just been Dennis, as Bryan Costabile, Chris Gray, and Jake Carraway have hit a plethora of their own. Teams have been looking for ways to stifle the long-range assault of the Atlas, but haven’t been successful.
For Chrome, it’s been about physicality. With one of the bigger rosters at the event just in terms of size, Chrome have consistently won individual matchups. Dylan Molloy, Colin Heacock, Logan Wisnauskas, and Cole Williams got more comfortable creating as the week went on, and looked dangerous in the semifinals. Chrome had given up larges to their opponents in each game, and would need to stop the Atlas from really finding a rhythm.
The Atlas got out to a typical fast start, with Costabile converting a two pointer just 36 seconds into the game. Costabile would hit another two just a few minutes later, part of a 6-1 run to start the game. Chrome hit two pipes early, and Jack Concannon made two spectacular doorstep saves. Chrome was able to overcome the slow start however, as a 4-2 run to end the quarter brough them back with three goals, trailing 9-6.
Chrome were able to limit the Atlas in the 2nd quarter with physical defense. At halftime, Dennis had been held to a single goal, and the Atlas had only hit a pair of two pointers. Chrome won the second quarter 7-5, with a different player scoring each of their goals including a two pointer from Molloy.
“We said let’s just stick with this and see it through. We didn’t put some balls in the net which we could have, and I thought the pace was going to slow down as the game went on. We communicated that to the guys that you just stay the course and do what we do,” said Chrome coach Jacques Monte.
Sean Sconone made nine first half saves, stopping 42.9% of shots he faced. Sconone entered the game as the only goalie in the tournament over 50%. Sconone would make 15 saves on the day, and had the best Scores Against Average and Save Percentage among goalies who played at least one full game.
Another quarter didn’t separate the two teams any further, as Atlas entered the final period leading 16-15 following on of the lower scoring quarters of the week. The final eight minutes would prove to be the most exciting of the tournament.
Dennis would finally find his rhythm, scoring a pair of two pointers just 18 seconds apart. The first of which Sconone actually got a stick to, but the shot was moving so fast that Sconone couldn't stop it, and it went off his stick and into the net with a clap that echoed throughout the venue. Molloy would answer however, with his own pair of two pointers. The second Molloy two was part of a 6-0 Chrome run, as they had the championship favorites on their heels. Carraway stopped the bleeding with a goal and hit a two to tie the game at 23 with just 1:43 to go. Justin Anderson’s goal ten seconds later gave the Chrome a one goal lead and proved to be the game winner.
Dennis would take home the Golden Stick Award, given to the highest scoring player in the tournament. He finished with 38 points, including a staggering 15 two-point goals. But for him, it wasn’t about winning a scoring title, but about proving he belongs among the elite in the sport.
“I wanted to prove that I should be in the lineup every game of the summer. I’m still pissed that I’ve been sat four times over the last few years,” Dennis said. And Atlas Interim Head Coach Steven Brooks praised his work ethic.
“You call Romar, and it’s like hey can you talk? I’m at the gym. Can you talk? I’m shooting. His dedication to the game is above and beyond anyone else’s,” said Brooks, adding, “And there’s a ripple effect. Other guys see that passion, they want to be like him.”
Given the success of the Atlas at the tournament, despite not winning the title, some have speculated that Brooks has earned the head coach job and his interim tag should be removed. Brooks didn’t want to speculate, but said he was grateful.
“It’s just a tremendous opportunity to coach a group group of guys who I truly about and love, and I’ve been a part of since the inception of the Atlas,” he said, continuing, “Spencer Ford is a dear friend of mine, when I was a player he took me under his wing and he taught me so much about the game. He made me the person I am today as a player and having a him on the sideline really truly helped because he’s a phenomenal coach.”
After the game, Chrome players reflected on event.
“It feels like a decade ago honestly, but from the first game we came a long way as a group. We had three new guys that we had never met before. The really abought into what we were doing, and being champions is awesome,” said Sconone.
“Coach Monte did a hell of a job, building some of us that maybe have never played D in their lives and coming up with game plans for every game,” said Molloy, jokingly adding, “I think maybe I’m a D guy now.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed being here,” said Anderson, “From the beginning we knew this was going to be a bit of a grind, this many games in the amount of days we had. But like Sean said, we stuck to the game plan.”
Coach Monte gave plenty of credit to a man who wasn’t able to be at the Series, the Chrome Head Coach Tim Soudan.
“Tim Soudan is my best friend, and the head coach of this team. We miss him, he’s dying that he’s not here, but he’s put a lot of things in place to have all this work,” said Monte.
The culture built within the Chrome was also talked about by Sconone as a reason the team was successful this week.
“The Chrome wouldn’t be the Chrome without John Ranagan, Jordan Wolf, John Galloway, all those guys. We wouldn’t be who we are if it wasn’t for them,” said Sconone.
In a chaotic, frantic, up and down lacrosse game, Chrome were able to execute a plan, and ultimately that proved to be the difference. But that plan wasn’t routed in scheme, as in this format, adjusting scheme can be difficult. It was a plan rooted in digging deep on the last day of a grueling tournament and leaning on will to take them over the finish line and deliver a title.