Just two weekends of PLL lacrosse remain, and the stakes have again been raised. The Quarterfinals saw the Redwoods blow the doors off the Chaos behind master classes in their respective positions by Jack Kelly and Wes Berg. The Whipsnakes inconsistent play caught up to them again as they battled but fell to the defending champion Waterdogs. And the Cannons played like the offensive juggernaut they’ve been all year, hanging the only 20 goal game of the year on the Atlas.
Four teams remain, and they will battle at Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University on Sunday. For the first time, the top four seeds all advanced from the quarterfinals. The four best regular season teams will play for the two spots in the title game in Philadelphia two weeks from now.
Last week, I was 1-2 on game picks and 2-1 on totals.
For the year, I am 17-14 on game picks and 12-19 on totals.
Archers (8-2, 0-0) vs Redwoods (6-4, 1-0)
When: Sunday, September 10th, 3pm ET
TV: ABC, ESPN+
The Spread: Archers favored by 1.5, game total set at 24.5
Archers are coming off the bye week as the one seed. They’ve been the best team for nearly the entire season, and will arrive with the league MVP and midfielder of the year Tom Schreiber, DPOY finalist Graeme Hossack, finalist for both faceoff specialist of the year and rookie of the year Mike Sisselberger, goalie of the year finalist Brett Dobson, and coach of the year finalist Chris Bates. One player who won’t be on the field is SSDM of the Year Lattrell Harris, who went on injured reserve this week. This is massive for a few reasons. First and most obviously, Harris is a special talent on his own. He can guard as well as anyone, and runs transition extremely well. Secondly, it means the SSDM unit will be led by two rookies, Piper Bond and Connor Maher. Rookies in playoff situations can be unpredictable. After the quarters, Whipsnakes head coach Jim Stagnitta said that rookies don’t win you championships; they help you, but your veterans are the key guys. Archers defensive midfield unit handling Charlie Bertrand, Jules Heningburg, Cole Kirst, and Romar Dennis will be a story from the opening whistle. The Archers have been switch happy on picks, that could create matchup edges for the Redwoods, particularly with Harris out.
For the Redwoods, the game starts and ends with handling Schreiber. Garrett Epple won DPOY this year, but moving him to the midfield to guard Schreiber takes him out of his comfort zone. Epple excels against lefties at and below GLE, a matchup with Connor Fields looks much more likely. It could be a rookie, Owen Grant, who draws a big defensive assignment for the Woods. The challenge with the Archers is that they’re malleable. Scheme to stop Schreiber, they’ll come back at you with Fields, Moore, and Ament. It’s a whack a mole game, and the moles have won all year. The Redwoods will need organized, quality defense that supports decisively. Arden Cohen on the Archers secondary attack option is another critical matchup.
The Redwoods are hot, having won four straight. They will walk onto the field with nothing to lose. The Archers will have everything to lose, as the top seed and a team that has always struggled come playoff time. Playing with nothing to lose can lead to teams playing free and loose. If the Redwoods can ride that to an early lead and start building belief, while building doubt for the Archers, they’ll have a chance.
This isn’t the same old Archers though. They’re outstanding facing off, they’re outstanding in net, and will have a matchup edge in most places on their defensive end. If they can withstand the early energy from the Redwoods, they can try and wear them down. Jack Kelly made 20 saves for the Woods in the quarters, Archers will need to make their shots count, and generate high percentage looks.
The Redwoods played their worst game of the year against the Archers in Fairfield. I’m not looking for a repeat. I’m looking for a close game here, and taking the Redwoods +1.5 in a game that goes under.
Cannons (7-3, 1-0) vs Waterdogs (7-3, 1-0)
When: Sunday, September 10th, 5:30pm ET
The Spread: Waterdogs favored by 1.5, Cannons favored on the moneyline, game total set at 26.5
The defending champs up against the best turnaround story in the league. This game, from a story point of a view, is the more compelling of the two semifinals.
The Cannons beat the Waterdogs 12-8 in a regular season matchup in Baltimore. Of note is that Thomas McConvey and Jake Carraway both got hurt in that game, leaving the Waterdogs with a short bench on a hot day and without two of their top midfield weapons. At least one of those two will return to the lineup this week. The Waterdogs come in with four straight wins. Their three losses this season are to the three teams that remain in the playoffs. Michael Sowers is the major player to watch. He and Cannons defense Jack Kielty have had great battles since college days, and this should be another good chapter. Sowers was the straw that stirred the drink for the Waterdogs in the quarters. Early in the year, the book on slowing down the Waterdogs was to handle Sowers, and then the rest of the offense would stall. Cannons defensive scheme may start with that. Afterwards, they midfield unit matchup in this game is outstanding.
Zach Goodrich, Bubba Fairman, and Ethan Rall against Zach Currier, Connor Kelly, and Ryan Conrad. That’s a heavyweight fight. The Cannons don’t necessarily need to keep their matchups, they can switch and support aggressively and feel good about their personnel, it’s been a strength all year.
Waterdogs were carried to victory by massive point totals from Kieran McArdle and Sowers in the quarters. It’ll likely take a more spread out scoring effort to beat the Cannons for a chance to defend their crown in Philadelphia.
The Cannons lowest goal total of the year came against the Waterdogs. A solid team defense backstopped by an excellent goalie, the boys in purple are built to withstand the rapid ball and player movement that’s deployed by the Cannons. Individual matchups aren’t a major factor beyond who guards Asher Nolting, it’s about one group of six stopping another group of six. Dillon Ward could be the player who turns the tide in this game, as if he gets the shots he wants, he’ll be a wall.
The Cannons have some young talent on defense and in net, they will be in a big spot against veteran offensive players like Kieran McArdle, Zach Currier, and Michael Sowers. If Kiely can limit Sowers, they can force the Waterdogs to find another dodger and play solid team defense against him. That’s the key matchup for Cannons.
I’ll be taking the point in this one. The Cannons feel like a team of destiny, so Cannons +1.5 is the pick.