Now that we’ve all had a chance to catch our breath after a whirlwind of a group play week, it’s time time to focus our attention on the Elimination Round. Here’s a look at the seedings and matchups to come:
Before we get into breaking down the matchups, I wanted to quickly touch on how the Whipsnakes earned the top overall seed. Instead of going with “The PLL Championship Series,” this past week could have been labeled “The Whipsnakes Lacrosse Clinic.”
The Whips cruised their way to a 4-0 record and racked up a +24 goal differential. Plus. Twenty. Four. That number was largely aided by a 15-6 drubbing of Atlas, yet the Whipsnakes didn’t have a result that was closer than four goals. So, credit to them as they get to rest their legs until Thursday. Well deserved.
(2) Chrome vs (7) Chaos – 5:30pm ET
Chrome may have grabbed all the headlines as a result of Matt Gaudet chirping Blaze Riorden in their early matchup, but it’s probably Chaos that people should be talking about. This is an incredibly talented 0-4 team. Riorden boasts the highest save percentage in the league so far at 65% to go along with his 75(!) saves. Aside from his un-Blaze-Riorden-like second half against the Chrome, he’s been lights out. Now, he gets a chance for some revenge against his new foe, Gaudet.
The Chrome kind of “lucked” into the two seed based on goal differential after Archers lost to Whipsnakes, despite Archers having beaten Chrome earlier in the week. However, they certainly played a strong week of lacrosse to warrant a high seed. After coming back to beat Chaos, Chrome fought off a late comeback by Redwoods, went blow-for-blow with one of the best offenses in the league in Archers, and subdued a strong Waterdogs team desperate for their first win.
Keep an eye on how Chaos handle Gaudet emotionally. Do they take the Garrett Epple approach and light him up with multiple cheap shots thus resulting in a two minute locked-in penalty and allowing multiple goals? Or, do they play him hard and let Blaze play like the keeper he has been and hopefully shut the door on both Gaudet and his teammates?
(4) Redwoods vs. (5) Waterdogs – 8:00pm ET
Prior to their game on Saturday, the Waterdogs were looking at a winless group play round, the seven seed, and a whole lot of frustration. Luckily for them, they strapped up and beat a motivated, not to mention good, Chaos squad. Not only did this W allow them to avoid the seven seed, but it also propelled them over Atlas. What does this mean for the ‘dogs? Well, it means they’re going to have to repeat Saturday’s effort against a surging Redwoods club. Andy Copelan’s defense will need to pay special attention to Ryder Garnsey who is as shifty as ever. It looks like Matt Kavanaugh is going to play, so the ‘Woods will have their full attack arsenal available to them (excluding Jules Heningburg, obviously).
The Redwoods’ defense has been solid ever since halftime of the game against Chrome. Glazener is a vocal leader who keeps everyone zeroed in, Sexton is second in the league with eight caused turnovers, and Near has been a monster at SSDM. He’s been able to turn good defense into good offense and the ‘Woods have benefited greatly. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Timmy Troutner’s save percentage sits at 56.
Keep an eye on how the Waterdogs’ defense closes out on Sergio Perkovic at the two-point line. He’s been lethal from downtown and his bounce-shots from that range have always seemed to find twine. Look for Copelan to put a pole on him and make it as hard as possible for Perk to get his hands free. Otherwise…
(3) Archers vs. (6) Atlas – 10:30pm ET
After taking down the Waterdogs in their first game of the tournament, Atlas is a team that is limping into the playoffs. They looked like they were in a good position to take down Redwoods in their final game of group play, but poor fourth quarter defense and an abysmal (that’s putting it nicely) final possession of the game squandered that chance. This is a team that did not make the playoffs last year, so a first round playoff exit would be another tremendous disappointment. Luckily for Atlas, the only have to go up against…
…the prodigy that is Grant Ament. In his interview on “The Crease Dive,” Rob Pannell said he didn’t get the feeling Archers was going to draft him because they wanted to invest in the future with Ament. That pick is looking pretty good right about now. Ament has 17 points to Pannell’s 11, and Ament had the BTB assist to Schreiber which should have counted for at least 3 points on its own. Also, the rookie is second in the league in points behind only Matt Rambo.
Keep an eye on the Archers’ defensive middies and LSM’s against Atlas’ midfield. I have a feeling both defenses are going to do well against the attack units, so this game will come down to the midfield. For whatever reason, I see someone like Romar Dennis having a big day if he’s left unchecked. However, if Ratliff locks him up and Atlas is left with a streaky Connor Buczek or a unthreatening Paul Rabil then this game will be over by halftime.