Four weeks in, nearly to the midway point, and the PLL is as competitive as ever. Everyone is good, nobody is bad. There is no team to beat, there is no obvious cellar dweller. Number eight could easily beat number one. The race for the playoffs, the race for the Championship Series, the first round bye that comes with the top seed, the first overall pick for the team that finishes 8th. Right now, it's difficult to pick the team that ends up in any of those spots. And that's what made it a fun season so far. The rankings for this week, which reflect just this week.
1. Redwoods (3-1). Last Week: 5
Not an easy call for the top spot this week. In my eyes Archers and Redwoods both have a serious claim to it. If you put these two teams on the field right now, I’d pick the Woods in a close one, so they get the top spot this week. As you can see from the movement, the top spot doesn’t mean much. The Woods look like a truly complete team. The offense has star power in Pannell and Garnsey, and the action away from the ball when they draw the eyes of the defense is creating plenty of solid looks at net. The defense remains a strong point, with Epple erasing matchups and Glazener keeping things organized. Nakeie Montgomery is headed towards an all timer of a “you have to watch it to believe it” season, because his stat lines may look light, but he jumps off the screen with big plays every week. The Redwoods take on the Archers in CT this week, with the top of the standings likely on the line.
2. Archers (3-1) Last Week: 2
Even missing one of the sport’s top attackmen, the Archers are deadly on offense. Their personnel shares the ball and plays with a speed that is very difficult to match. Grant Ament is on the brink of returning, but the Archers are playing inspired offense without him. They could probably get away with fully resting his hamstring until after the all star weekend. In the meantime, Tom Schreiber, Matt Moore, Connor Fields, Ryan Ambler, Mac O’Keefe, the weapons run deep. On the other end, no goalie in the league has made more stops that Brett Dobson, who trails only Dillon Ward and Blaze Riorden in save percentage. The SSDM crew is the best young unit in the league. Sisselberger showed that the “just force him backwards” faceoff strategy is a whole lot easier said than done.
3. Waterdogs (3-1) Last Week: 3
The Dogs have been the catalyst driving the faceoff tactic changes over the past couple weeks. With Jake Withers playing in Peterborough and both Tucci and Reilly struggling to be effective consistently, they are in an interesting position. They have the talent on both ends to make another run to the title. They just might have to manufactured possession and shot advantages to get there. Going without a FOGO is not an every week option, there are too many specialists capable of winning through it, and teams have already begun adjusting personnel placements. If the Waterdogs can’t find an answer at the spot, the pressure on Dillon Ward and their defense gets turned up to defend short possessions and cause turnovers. Currently, nobody in the league causes more. It may have to stay that way.
4. Chaos (2-2) Last Week: 1
Chaos looked outstanding in their win over Archers a week ago, but things can change that quickly in the PLL. Jack Rowlett was out of the lineup, and that’s a big deal against a team like Archers. Austin Kaut also got a start in place of Blaze Riorden, and Kaut played pretty well. Ultimately Chaos lost a ground ball battle and just didn’t get the possessions they needed. At full strength, the Chaos look like a top 2-3 team. The offense shares the ball well (7 of 8 goals assisted last week), but if they really need one, they can always get the ball to Byrne and let him isolate. Dhane Smith’s move to attack means he’s more often involved in transition opportunities, and his vision makes him deadly in those situations. Chaos will play Atlas in Connecticut.
5. Cannons (2-2) Last Week: 7
Cannons are flat out good. Don’t try to come up with ways to rationalize it when they win or be surprised by it. They’re good. Good enough to be a top four team, to make the playoffs, to beat any of the other seven clubs. Asher Nolting has been outstanding as the primary ball carrier, but the story for me remains the strength of the midfield. Ryan Drenner has been very good, and Matt Campbell is an absolute home run of a pick for this team. A year ago, it was a roster of converted attackman and struggles to find balance in the offense. Now the ball is shared, Campbell is creating as a true downhill midfielder, and Donville continues to impact the game. The defense is still solid and still coming together, but there’s a good young core in place in front of Colin Kirst, who actually plays a lot like a Adam Ghitelman. They are an athletic group that plays smart, clean lacrosse.
6. Whipsnakes (1-3) Last Week: 4
Injuries have ravaged the Whips. They really haven’t had Brad Smith all year. This week Rambo hit the PUP List after Worlds, and Michael Ehrhardt’s ailments on the injury reported needed a smaller font size to fit them all. Petey LaSalla has been good at the faceoff spot but they are still without Joe Nardella who’s rehabbing a knee injury. Despite being far from the peak of their powers, the Whips are in games. They are just inconsistent, a byproduct not doubt of the lineup shuffling due to injuries. Teams don’t get a wealth of practice time during the week. The Whips at full strength are a contender, but otherwise, they face the challenge of having to go into games with a different offensive make up each week. Dordevic and Zed can carry an offense, but every team still needs all six guys on offense and defense to deliver wins. The Whips, when they get healthy, will make a second half charge.
7. Chrome (1-3) Last Week: 8
Chrome goes up a spot despite losing, but only because of who is below them. Brendan Nichtern returned but wasn’t terribly effective, scoring a single goal with no assists and six turnovers. Waterdogs force turnovers better than anyone. The defense was a bit patchwork as both JT Giles-Harris and Jesse Bernhardt were out, although Greg Weyl and Troy Hettinger played very well. Weyl in particular had a very tough assignment of guarding Michael Sowers, and Weyl hasn’t appeared in a PLL game since 2021. He handled himself well, but the turnovers and the extra possession for a very potent Waterdogs offense, even without Connor Kelly, overwhelmed the Chrome. Getting things right against a red hot Cannons team this week is massive heading into All Star Weekend.
8. Atlas (1-3) Last Week: 6
The offense is otherworldly. 54 scores is second in the league, as a team they are shooting just barely under 30%, third most assists in the league. Jeff Teat wins his matchup regularly. Their attack currently has a combined 45 points, so they combine for 4.5 points per game, an excellent mark. The issue the Atlas face is on the other end. As good as Gavin Adler has been individually, the Atlas just can’t seem to string together full possessions of quality team defense. Rotations often featured two men going to the ball instead of talking through who was the hot man. As soon as it’s time to play some scramble lacrosse, things fall apart. At present, it’s just far too easy for teams to take the Atlas defense out of their shape and find skips or just wide open men inside. The Cannons did it with regularity, the Chaos have personnel that can the same. It’s a big week for Atlas, losing three straight into the All Star break would be rough, particularly if they give up a big goal total.