PLL Week 1 is upon us. The opener takes place in Albany, at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, a fan favorite. Matchups include a championship rematch, two new look teams facing off, and more. Each week, Sticks In will have a weekend primer, looking at each of the four games and making picks. As always, to view the spreads, totals, and props for the week, check our the PLL Results Page.
Redwoods (0-0) vs Atlas (0-0)
When: Saturday, June 3rd, 1pm
TV: ABC and ESPN+
The Spread: Atlas favored by 2.5, O/U set at 24.5
First game of the first weekend of the PLL summer. It’s a good time to consider what Socrates meant when he said “I know that I know nothing.” Before anyone plays a game, it’s impossible to even pretend to know how this game will go.
Atlas have mostly the same group as last year with a few exceptions. They used two draft picks to add Gavin Adler and Brett Makar, significantly shaking up their defense. Waves have already been made, as Cade Van Raaphorst and Koby Smith aren't on the gameday roster for Week 1. The offense is going to be the same group of weapons eating family style as last year. In the offseason, new Head Coach and GM Mike Pressler pushed to add offensive pieces that were complimentary, that could be dangerous without the ball, and wouldn’t disrupt what was already going on with the team. Enter Xander Dickson, who’s college career has been exactly that, at an All American level. Expect to see Dickson run out of the box, and play off primary dodgers Jeff Teat, Bryan Costabile, and Chris Gray on offense. Romar Dennis will be a player to watch following the Championship Series in DC. Field isn’t Sixes, those looks from range won’t be as clean, but he’s another player who consistently wins off the dodge. Dickson, Eric Law, and Clarke Petterson can all do serious damage without the ball. Of course, the Atlas also has the reigning MVP facing off. There are adjustments to the rules this year for faceoffs, including a new cadence, and a 32 second shot clock after a faceoff win. Trevor Baptiste could benefit from the shot clock change, as he is skilled enough to be part of the offense and a shooting threat.
The Woods are a team in flux a bit on offense, as new OC John Grant Jr has definitely brought some box flair to the group. Last year, Charlie Bertrand became the primary midfield weapon. He likely still plays on a line with Sergio Perkovic and Myles Jones, forming a trio that’s very difficult to matchup with physically. The Woods balance that brute force with the speed and skill of Nakeie Montgomery and Jules Heningburg. Really, the identity of this team remains the defense. Garrett Epple will be in the DPOY mix every year, Eddy Glazener keeps them organized, and Arden Cohen is good enough to be a number one defender on some teams. John Sexton is fully healthy, which both bolsters the defense and faceoff unit, as he is one of the best wing players in the PLL. BJ Farrare likely steps in as the fifth pole until Owen Grant has his visa issues sorted. The Redwoods were better than their record a year ago, are healthy, and have managed to bring a new look to their team despite not making many massive changes. On the same page and sharing the ball, they can be deadly. They may need a bit of time to get on the same page though, particularly once Ryan Lee and Eli McLaughlin return from the NLL Finals.
The spread is also interesting, in that by PLL standards, it’s pretty wide. Since 2021, there have been 14 games in total with a spread of 2.5, as 1.5 is by far the most common. In those 14 games, underdogs are 10-4 against the spread (shout out to Dan Alexander, follow him on twitter @NeubyTalks, for this data).
I’ll be on the Redwoods to cover the 2.5. Trevor Baptiste gets the better of TD Ierlan with the new rules. The Woods offense shows some growing pains with new personnel and a new OC, but the Atlas defense does too as the rookies get comfortable with PLL level speed of play. The Woods defense is where it needs to be thanks to Glazener, Epple gets the better of Jeff Teat, but the Atlas find enough scoring from secondary weapons to secure a win late.
Last year, Atlas averaged just under 13 goals per game. Redwoods averaged just over 11 goals per game. The shot clock rule changes will impact scoring in some way, it’s just a question of how. Are teams are able to go early offense off of faceoffs and grab a goal or two? I’m leaning towards the new post faceoff and post shot resets resulting in more transition, but more instances of poor or scrambled settled offense, at least to start the year. I’ll take the under on 24.5.
Cannons (0-0) vs Archers (0-0)
When: Saturday, June 3rd, 3:30pm
The Spread: Archers favored by 2.5. Total set at 23.5
Two teams with serious changes to the roster from 2022.
For the Archers, gone are Will Manny, Marcus Holman, Jeff Trainor, and Adam Ghitelman in free agency, while Scott Ratliff and Dominique Alexander retired. Joining the club are Mac O’Keefe and Challen Rogers, while Lattrell Harris and Brett Dobson step into the lead roles at their respective positions. Last year’s personnel looked like a team that wanted to bury the opposition six on six. This year, with Rogers, Harris, Tre Leclaire, and Ryan Aughavin, they want to attack going from defense to offense. The attack of Grant Ament, O’Keefe, and likely third attackman Matt Moore is built to play scramble lacrosse that would make Lars Tiffany grin from ear to ear. A bugaboo for the Archers has long been faceoffs. Justin Inacio looks to be all the way back from injury, while Mike Sisselberger was just added in the draft. I’d consider having both on the week one roster, as Inacio is basically still a rookie given how much time he missed last year, and Sisselberger is an actual rookie. Faceoff will be a spot to watch, as the Cannons will bring out Stephen Kelly and Jake Phaup. Of the four specialists, Kelly is really the only one with significant pro experience at this point.
The Cannons have a new look as well. Lyle Thompson is taking the summer off from the PLL and playing box up north. New Head Coach and GM Brian Holman is at the reins now. Matt Kavanagh, Marcus Holman, Jeff Trainor, Finn Sullivan, Matt Rees, Jake Phaup, Kyle Hartzell, Adam Ghitelman, it was a full on shopping spree in free agency. This team will look different, play different and be different. Week 1 usually means looking at what a team did last year and trying to see if it’s still possible, they’ll still do it, and so forth. But with the Cannons, that’s barely applicable. The team is just remade top to bottom. They took a 9-1 lead over the Waterdogs in a training camp scrimmage. Yes, personnel was missing and scrimmages are scrimmages, but 9-1 is 9-1. If the Cannons can share the ball wall and get a little bit from everyone, meshing early in a solid cohesive offense, they’ll be in games. Jeff Trainor is a player to watch, he can do everything well.
Faceoff is a major story here. It’ll be Sisselberger and Kelly based on the game day rosters. Adjusting to PLL faceoff rules has been difficult for basically every rookie to date. Sisselberger is a Faceoff Academy guy, and assuredly has been training with PLL pros to get a head start on that adjustment. If he can be exceptional at the spot, Archers tilt the field and create extra possession.
2.5 goal lines are not very common. Even the Cannons last year didn’t have a ton of 2.5 goal spareads. Last year, opening games were either blowouts or one goal games. Two nailbiters, two no doubters. One of those no doubters was, ironically, the Cannons over eventual champion Waterdogs. Cannons camp report has been positive, and I think they’ll be ready to play this weekend. It’s a group that, for the guys from last year, is anxious to turn the page.
I’m going to take the Cannons +2.5 here, and I’ll take the over on 23.5.
Chaos (0-0) vs Waterdogs (0-0)
When: Sunday, June 4th, 1pm
TV: ABC and ESPN+
The Spread: Waterdogs favored by 2.5, O/U set at 23.5
The Championship rematch.
Sort of. Minus a few guys.
Chaos are without Josh Byrne, Dhane Smith, Ian Mackay, Chris Cloutier, Max Adler, and Chase Fraser who are finishing the season with the Bandits. Highly drafted rookie Tye Kurtz is also on the Unavailable to Travel list as he gets his visa sorted out. It is a group of rookies and player pool vets who will take the field on offense for the Chaos in the opener, but don’t think that means they won’t be competitive. Last year was the same story, as the the Chaos Replacements took the Whipsnakes to the last second of the game, losing by just one goal. Head Coach Andy Towers gets the most from his players, and these are still pros we are talking about. On top of that, his defense is intact. Jack Rowlett, Jarrod Neumann, Troy Reh, CJ Costabile, and 1st round pick Will Bowen will be out there with poles in front of Blaze Riorden. That defense can limit anyone. The offense will have to piece things together, expect to see rookie Brian Minicus get plenty of dodging opportunities. He’s been dodging on Jack Rowlett all spring in Georgetown, that’ll have you PLL ready in a hurry. The question is, just how much will it look like their “regular” offense. Minicus isn’t a box player, but many of the others still are. Who triggers the offense, and how it looks away from the ball, will be something to watch. If the Chaos can’t find someone to QB the whole thing, it could be a long day.
For the Waterdogs, Dillon Ward is not available, as he wraps things up with the Mammoth. Matt DeLuca and Jason Rose get to fill in. Ward had a legit claim to MVP of the title game last year, and is at worst one of the top two goalies in the world. Also unavailable is first round pick Thomas McConvey, who needs his travel visa, and Mikie Schlosser, still working his way back from a knee injury and not quite ready for game action. Jake Withers will miss the first few weeks as well, but Zac Tucci played well his his absence last season. For the most part, the Waterdogs are running it back. They weren’t very active in free agency, making just one big signing of Jake Carraway to replace Ryan Brown. Otherwise, the Dogs should look similar. It’s difficult to look at the defending champs roster and find the place where they might be worse. They’re still incredible versatile, with multiple offensive players and defensive players who are effective anywhere on the field.
Faceoffs could be tilted towards the Waterdogs in a big way, as their rope unit is the best in the sport.
The Chaos are going to fight. They’ll battle. The defense will be aggressive, they’ll hunt CTs and lean on Riorden to make saves. It’s their modus operandi. But even with Withers out, Waterdogs should have a faceoff edge in this one against rookie Nick Rowlett. And for all that defensive aggression from the Chaos, Waterdogs can just reshape their offense. They can drop Connor Kelly to attack, they can run Michael Sowers out of the box, they’ll find a way to get a matchup they like and attack it. The line is big, as it is in three games this week, at 2.5.
I’ve got the Waterdogs controlling the game but Blaze bailing out the Chaos many, many times. Chaos cover, Waterdogs win, game goes under 23.5.
Whipsnakes (0-0) vs Chrome (0-0)
When: Sunday, June 4th. 3:30pm
The Spread: Whipsnakes favored by 1.5, O/U set at 22.5
Whipsnakes putting together yet another run at a huge season. Last year they went 9-1, and lost in the semifinals. It was the first year they didn’t reach the title game. The Whips have added a few key pieces to last years group. Tucker Dordevic joins via the draft as another, and at times even primary, dodging option for this team. He’ll be drawing poles early in the season if not on day one. After that, expect a lot of the same names. Zed Williams is out for the NLL finals, but Matt Rambo and Brad Smith will be the weapons to start with. The defense is as good as anyone’s. The key missing piece is Joe Nardella. As he works back from an ACL injury, the Whipsnakes will be going with rookie Petey LaSalla. Nardella is a top two specialist when healthy, and is the perfect player for the new rule changes. The closest thing to him in the draft was LaSalla, but it’s always a challenge to trust rookies facing off.
Chrome will be without Rookie of the Year Brendan Nichtern. For most teams, it’s a tall ask. For Chrome, it’s just next man up, fitting for a group that calls its active roster The Men. Logan Wisnauskas had a spectacular rookie campaign, and on DraftKings currently has the third best odds to be MVP OF THE LEAGUE. Needless to say, big things are expected from him in year two. In truth, it’ll take multiple players to fill in for Nichtern. Jackson Morrill saw time at X in training camp scrimmages and is the early pick to play behind the goal. It’s his natural position, and Head Coach Tim Soudan has said he’s liked having Morrill there from his time in the bubble season. Cross Ferrera, a late round draft pick fresh off winning a title with Salisbury, has been named to the Week 1 19 man roster, giving Chrome fans their first look at one of the all time scoring leaders in college lacrosse history. Lastly, not leastly at all, is Sam Handley. Nothing about this man is “least”. The mammoth midfielder has been hitting two’s in camp, winning matchups, playing up to the billing. Handley vs Ehrhardt could be one of the most fun individual matchups of the weekend.
A rookie dealing with one of the best faceoff specialists in the league in Connor Farrell will be a story here. Early success for LaSalla likely tilts things the Whips way; they’ll likely be content even with going 50/50. Dordevic will need to play up to his billing and take pressure of the known stars in Zed’s absence. Will Manny, the big free agent move for the Whips, helps alleviate this pressure too. He likely won’t be leaned on as a dodger, but he’s still one of the most lethal lefty finishers and shooters in the sport. His release is so fast that help defenders sloughing too far off of him risk not being able to step back into his hands, allowing a clean shot. The visual effect of this is something akin to Will Manny actually having gravity and pulling players towards him.
Mike Manley historically has handled the matchup with Matt Rambo very well one on one, even on an island. That’s good news for Chrome. Rambo needs to draw slides for the Whips offense to really be effective. If he can’t it’ll fall to Smith, Dordevic, and even newcomer Sean Lulley to draw slides. Plenty of Chrome defenders can cover just fine, I wouldn’t even be surprised to see JT Giles-Harris bump up and guard a player like Dordevic.
Chrome can play the physical game, they can play the skill game, and are solid everywhere. Farrell gives the rookie some trouble in Week 1, and Chrome make a statement in Albany. I’ve got Chrome to win outright, and under 22.5.