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Redwoods escape with 13-12 win over Atlas in 2023 PLL Opener

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

ALBANY - Just a week after an electric Final Four weekend of college lacrosse, fans made the trip to Albany in droves for the opening weekend. The opening matchup of Redwoods and Atlas, broadcast on ABC, was projected as one of the best of the weekend-, with storylines abound. First overall pick Gavin Adler was set to be welcomed to the pro level by all time great Rob Pannell. Reigning MVP Trevor Baptiste would contend with TD Ierlan at the faceoff spot. A new look Redwoods offense, led by new Offensive Coordinator John Grant Jr, would be charged with putting the poor start of the 2022 season behind them. New Atlas Head Coach/GM Mike Pressler took over a championship ready roster with sky high expectations. While Atlas were able to get off a last second shot for a chance at OT, Redwoods escaped with a 13-12 win.

"We’ll learn from it, we’ll move on, but we’re 1-0. Winning is hard, especially in this league," said Redwoods Head Coach Nat St. Laurent.

The action started early, with Ierlan scoring the first goal of the season. Baptiste won the opening clamp, but the Woods came up with the ground ball, and Nakeie Montgomery flipped it to a sprinting Ierlan who went uncovered in transition and put it past Jack Concannon. The Atlas would answer on a wing dodge from Bryan Costabile who scored lefty down the alley.

Action was a little sloppy early on, with both teams committing turnovers that weren’t unforced. The Woods offense showed off the new look early, taking their short stick and pairing them with Pannell behind the net. Sometimes it was Jules Heningburg, other times Charlie Bertrand, but it was a clearly a place the Whips wanted to attack from. Ryder Garnsey would get his first getting to the middle of the field against Tucker Durkin and firing lefty while falling down to give the Redwoods a 2-1 lead. A save from Kelly started transition that ended with Garnsey, getting his second, and pushing the Woods lead to 3-1.

"Not all saves are created equal. He made some big saves early when we were kind of not as organized as we needed to be defensively, and he kind of saved us. Then some of those turned into transition the other way for us," said Nat St. Laurent.

A Pannell offsides call sent the Atlas to the power play, giving them another shot to beat Kelly, btu the Woods netminder was seeing it well. Atlas answered with a goal from Xander Dickson that was just his style of goal. With Jeff Teat sweeping across the top and drawing help, Dickson followed the slide and filled space on the doorstep, where Teat found him for an easy dunk.

Garnsey would complete his hat trick with 21 seconds left, picking up a ground ball, and springing through the checks of four Atlas defenders on his way to the net, beating Concannon low, giving the Woods a 4-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Redwoods keep pushing the pressure early in the second, as a set that looked straight from the indoor game ended with Pannell feeding a cutting Charlie Bertrand for a behind the back goal inside, pushing the lead to 5-2. Atlas was able to answer the run, as Jeff Teat once again drew the eyes of the defense. Eric Law, who has made a career out of punishing ball watchers, slipped to the backside, where Teat found him for a dunk.

Redwoods had another transition goal, again with Montgomery involved, assisting Garnsey on the doorstep. Atlas , yet again, kept Redwoods from really gaining momentum, as Brendan Curry got his first out of the invert against Isaiah Davis-Allen. Atlas got another a few seconds later, as Chris Gray iso’d with limited time on the shot clock and scored on a one handed goal inside through three defenders. Atlas continued the run with another goal from Dickson, who followed Law on a dodge up the right from X. Law threw it back to Dickson for a dunk, as the Redwoods were slow to help. With just under two minutes left in the half, the game was knotted at six. Out of the timeout, Woods turned an alley dodge from Perkovic into Pannell feeding from X. He found Garnsey in front for the attackman’s fifth goal of the day, giving the Redwoods a 7-6 lead at the half.

Atlas Head Coach Mike Pressler was asked if he considered changing matchups on the defensive end.

"There was a thought of that, but we were draped all over those guys. We’re hanging all over them, and you have to give them credit for incredible individual plays. Some of those we weren’t doing a great job covering, some we were hanging on them, but that’s the nature of the league. The league is made up of stars, especially on offense, and their stars maybe played little bit better than ours," Pressler said.

Montgomery had another assist to start the third, finding Wes Berg inside for a goal. A few minutes later, Berg found Garnsey off a ground ball for Garnsey’s sixth of the day, and his 100th career point, giving the Redwoods a 9-6 lead.

“Glad it happened in a win. I didn't know that, but it means that I've got great teammates putting me in great spots. I don't think I've had too many unassisted goals," said Garnsey.

Goals from Teat and Law would bring the Atlas back within 9-8. Myles Jones had the answer with 4:30 left in Q3 to push the Redwoods lead back to two goals. Law could complete his hat trick to bring the Atlas back within one at the end of the third quarter. Atlas were able to hang touch dude to Baptiste having an excellent day at the faceoff spot, going 19-28. Usually, that translates into a win. But the new shot clock rules lessened the impact.

"It’s a mixture of things. Generally speaking, if you win 100% of the faceoffs and say you don’t score every possession, you play offense less than the other team. You win the faceoff, play offense, don’t score, you play 32 seconds of offense, the other team has 52 seconds. That is what it is. I don’t think that it’s one for one there. I think we could have played better, had some better chances, and been o the same page more. We were kind of playing like this was week 8 in week 1," said Baptiste.

With a minute left, Davis-Allen and Dickson were called for unsportsmanlike conduct and given full time minute penalties to end the quarter. The Redwoods took a 10-9 lead into the fourth.

Redwoods opened the 4th with a goal from Heningburg to get back to a two goal lead. Berg got his second on a lookaway feed from Heningburg out of an invert set to make it 12-9 Redwoods with 8:35 left. Berg scored another moments later to further extend the lead.

With 6:38 left, Costabile scored his second in an effort to start a late run from Atlas, pulling them to within three goals. Law kept the run going on an outstanding feed from Jeff Teat, who pushed towards a doorstep two on one for an easy dunk.

Late penalties gave both teams opportunities to take control. The Redwoods couldn’t convert on a 6v4, while the Atlas got a power play opportunity that went empty with 3:30 left in the game.

With less than a minute left, out of a timeout, Teat threw a backhanded feed from the ground through a check from Epple to Dickson, who scored with his back to the net while being pushed to the ground by Arden Cohen.

The late Atlas effort fell short, with Redwoods winning 13-12.

Garnsey led all scorers with six goals. Law led the way for Atlas with four goals and an assist. Montgomery would end with three assists and six groundballs in a high impact day from wings and on both ends. Baptiste finished 19 of 27 facing off, but the Atlas couldn’t turn the possessions into good looks at goal.


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