Week 1 is in the books. All four of the PLL games were closely contested. Plenty of week one type play out there, and most players and coaches said as much, but all eight teams battled. There were flashes of each team’s identity and the type of team they want to be. But every week, there will be winners, and there will be losers. Teams will be better than others. That brings us to the first edition of what will be a weekly update, the Sticks In PLL Power Rankings.
1. Waterdogs (1-0)
The king stays the king until someone takes the crown. Really, a number of teams looked worth of the top spot. Waterdogs defended their title in an ugly outing. They were without Dillon Ward, Kieran McArdle was held goalless, Zac Tucci struggled facing off, Michael Sowers held to 1 for 8 shooting. It’s not often all those things can happen at the same time and Waterdogs can pull out a win. Connor Kelly won the game in OT and looked like their most dynamic option on the day. Jake Carraway showed off the shooting stroke that made him such a high free agent target, but also had nice moments as a dodger and playing through picks. He’ll bring more to that offense than just waiting for a feed all game. But their defense and the full field impact of Zach Currier were enough to overcome a slow day from the offense. They also were up against the Chaos, one of the top defenses in the league. Dillon Ward returns this week. The faceoff spot will be a place to watch. James Reilly, a draft pick of the Waterdogs, may make his debut following the down week from Tucci.
2. Chrome (1-0)
The top challenger for the throne. Chrome play a physical, deliberate, and precise brand of lacrosse. Sam Handley looked like a force of nature in week one, though he did run out of gas down the stretch a bit. The non-DIII watching lacrosse world got introduced to the speed and skill combination that is Cross Ferrera. Jackson Morrill with four assists to answer the question “but who plays X without Nichtern”. Dylan Molloy should return to the lineup in short order. Mike Manley is still a top tier defender. But what really set this team apart was their play between the lines. Messenger, Terefenko, and Salama were tremendous in transition. Priority one for anyone playing the Chrome is top stop them going defense to offense. Because they can track meet you, or they can grind you down with physical brute force. The Charlotte matchup with Archers could establish the team most ready to knock off the Waterdogs.
3. Archers (1-0)
Archers are a new look team, most notably because Marcus Holman and Will Manny no longer wear the orange and blue. In their place at attack is Mac O’Keefe, a new signing from Chaos, and Connor Fields, who returns to his natural position at attack. Again, everyone had week one vibes, but the Archers did some serious shuffling, and from a chemistry point of view, you can see it all coming together. Fields returning to his natural position was putting a fish back in water. Four goals, he took 12 shots, committed just a single turnover. He picked his spots to iso well, he picked his spots to move the ball along to a better matchup well. The ball spun with a speed that was very on brand. O’Keefe took 11 shots as well, and had three goals, and that’s going to be the stat line the Archers look for from him weekly. Really, the SSDM group stole the show. Bond and Maher look like veterans already, Bond in particular. The poles were slow to slide to both of them, showing just how much the veteran defense trusts them. But Lattrell Harris is a star. He’ll been on the medal stand for the Boiardi Award. He led the team in GBs among non faceoff specialists, caused two turnovers, and was all over the 6v6. With Sisselberger and Dobson looking good as their specialists, it’s hard to find a weak spot. We’ll learn more about Sisselberger when he battles Connor Farrell in Charlotte.
4. Redwoods (1-0)
Ryder Garnsey stole the show, tearing Atlas up off ball to the tune of six goals (his 7th got waved off). By the time Atlas switched the matchup, the damage was done. The Woods offense had plenty of Junior feel to it. A lot of pairs looks, a lot of big little with Rob Pannell behind the goal. The action above goal in those big littles is brutal to fight through (as if guarding Pannell plus Heningburg/Bertrand behind the goal wasn’t hard enough). There were a handful of times they looked like last year’s Woods, playing some hero ball or settling for the first look, but that’s just the last of some demons for Junior to exorcize. The defense looks like we expected. Epple remains a top cover defender in the sport, Cohen’s motor is unparalleled, and Glazener runs the show. Together, it’s tough to create quality chances consistently in the 6v6. Nakeie Montgomery stood out as special in week one. Led the game in GBs, even more than Baptiste and Ierlan, and had three helpers. He runs D to O with speed and vision that can make this group lethal in transition. When a scorer like Ryan Lee joins the team, that only gets amplified.
5. Whipsnakes (0-1)
It’s been a long time since the Whips have been in the bottom half. They’ll be there in the playoffs. They matched their loss total from a year ago with those one, and the team is basically intact. They had no Zed Williams, and they will be without Joe Nardella for a while. Will Manny is a new face, but as he talked about post game, he’s known a number of the Whipsnakes players for years. Mike Chanenchuk was a high school teammate. Manny is a smart enough player to not really need a ton of time to get comfortable. Petey LaSalla battled Connor Farrell to 50/50, and that’s about as good as you can expect from a rookie. Whipsnakes have come back to earth a bit from the 2019 and 2020 seasons where they were simply a step better than the rest of the league. They’re starting to show a little age and vulnerability. But don’t be surprised if the is their lowest power ranking spot all season. Zed Williams should return from his NLL season soon, and at that point, their attack will be a combination of skill and physicality the rest of the league just can’t match.
6. Atlas (0-1)
The questions started flying fast and furious even once the lineup came out. No Koby Smith, No Cade Van Raaphorst, and then the defense got shredded off the ball. CVR’s release to the player pool further had people scratching their heads. Jeff Teat looks poised for an MVP season, Eric Law is as good as it gets around the goal, and rookie Xander Dickson showed the off ball intelligence and skill that made him so attractive in the draft. The midfield will need to do some more lifting. As stacked as the offense is on paper, it’s tough to overcome a 2-16 shooting day combined from Costabile and Dennis, with the latter being 0-8. The Bulls grabbed Stephen Rehfuss from the pool following his surprising release from the Cannons, and Rehfuss can immediately help with that problem. The rookies on the defensive end played well. Makar in particular stands out, because he bumped up to LSM. He’s been a close defender his whole career, and a cornerstone guy at that. He’s always been excellent off the ground, so no surprise he was effective on wings. Ultimately, the Atlas will have to be much better off-ball on the defensive end, and much of that responsibility will fall to Tucker Durkin as their leader and primarily an off ball defender now. If you can’t guard all six guys at once, you can’t win too many games, and that goes for just about any level of lacrosse.
7. Chaos (0-1)
The Chaos at seven is hard to write. With their primary offensive weapons returning in Charlotte, they won’t stay here for long. Kyle Jackson and Ryan Smith, every week players but not necessarily the primary initiators, found themselves in expanded roles as they needed to lead rookies and some inexperienced players. The offense was a bit disjointed at times. Rookie Brian Minicus was electric, separating from excellent defenders like Ben Randall from the opening possession. But, in what was indicative of the offense for the day, after separating, Minicus just didn’t have many options with all the space he just created. Once the stars are back, Minicus will get a short stick at times, and that’ll be deadly. The defense is Top 2 in the league, and maybe not two. Jack Rowlett erased Michael Sowers, Jarrod Neumann held Kieran McArdle goalless. Will Bowen caused three turnovers. And behind it all remains Blaze Riorden. Goals will be very hard to come by. With their Bandits stars back for Charlotte, Chaos look dangerous.
8. Cannons (0-1)
These are not last year’s Cannons. Just clear that up right off the top. This team will win games this year. After the loss to Archers, Cannons Coach Brian Holman was asked about making in game adjustments to what the Archers were doing, and he just plainly said the team isn’t ready for that yet. This team is still establishing itself, its identity, and learning to play together the way they want to play. The team they have put together can win PLL games. Faceoff was an issue, as Bones had a hard time with Sisselberger. Jake Phaup may get a shot next week. The release of Stephen Rehfuss is surprising, but whenever there is regime change, surprising moves can be quick to follow. Matt Campbell looked excellent as in their first midfield, showing comfort doing what they drafted him today and creating from the midfield. Ryan Drenner was another standout. While the Cannons continue building their identity and their style, it’s likely they have some inconsistent moments and performances. They have quality veteran leadership and solid young contributors in place. The arrow is going where it needs to go.