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10 Man Ride: Building the Pack

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Aug 27, 2020

CLEAR! The ride is on. We’re discussing the Iroquois Nationals push for inclusion in the 2022 World Games, film on the Waterdogs’ off-ball play, a monstrous episode of The Stripe, and arguably the biggest “What if?” in PLL history (so far). Let’s go!

1. The Haudenosaunee Story

When the 2022 World Games announced it’d be including lacrosse, it excluded the Iroquois Nationals from the list of teams that would be attending. 

Since, the World Games and World Lacrosse have released a joint statement, opening the door for the Iroquois to compete. 

This is a big step. Let’s keep pushing. For 2022, and for the 2028 Olympics. The Haudenosaunee – who have shared the Creator’s Game with us – deserve to compete under their own flag.

For more on the fight for inclusion and what the game means to the Haudenosaunee, read David Wharton’s full story in the LA Times.

2. Building the Pack

Episode 3 of the documentary following the Waterdogs is out, and it’s the best one yet. This speech by Connor Kelly to his new teammates after another close loss stood out as a defining moment: 

“We are the unprotected team, and it pisses me off, but like Coach [Copelan] said, we don’t have Schreiber in here, we don’t have Jordan Wolf, we don’t have Matt Rambo,” said midfielder Connor Kelly. “But I don’t wanna play with them. I wanna play with you guys... You are here for a reason. I wanna play with you.” 

“That first quarter we were just banging the ball, open shots all day long. Then in the second half, we’re trying to dodge and be that main guy. Don’t try to make that play, just make the play.”

Watch the full episode on YouTube.

3. Waterdogs’ ball movement and off-ball screens

57.6% of the Waterdogs’ shots were assisted (highest assist rate in PLL, league average = 48.9%).

21.9% of their assisted shots found the back of the cage (lowest assisted sh. % in PLL, league average = 30.7%).

Those numbers don’t add up. The Waterdogs’ shooting slump overshadowed quality off-ball movement. I wrote about how they used screens, seals, slips, and cuts to generate assisted looks…

…plus, what needs to happen for these shots to start falling. Better luck? An alpha presence like Michael Sowers or Jeff Teat? Both?

Read the full breakdown with more film and more stats here.

4. Joe Nardella: The ‘Most Elite Guy in the League’

Faceoffs. Offense. Defense. Joe Nardella does it all. US Lacrosse Magazine’s Nelson Rice profiled the 2020 Paul Cantabene Faceoff Athlete of the Championship Series and his journey to the pros. 

Recruited as a regular midfielder, Nardella did not devote himself to the faceoff position until he arrived at Rutgers – and he has never lost his love for the rest of the game.

“He’s not one of those typical faceoff guys who just stands to the side the whole practice and faces off,” Michael Ehrhardt told Nelson Rice. “He gets in every drill with us, and he’s a very skilled athlete and player.” 

Read Nelson’s article here.

5. The Stripe

Greg Gurenlian’s recap episode covered everything that happened at the stripe, including:

  • Why Chaos should coordinate routes and send Mark Glicini or Sergio Salcido to specific spots in a full sprint on the whistle in order to save Tommy Kelly some wear and tear
  • The benefit of “blitzes” to neutralize clamp losses by creating three-on-threes
  • Love for Chrome LC’s wings, especially rookie Reece Eddy, who filled in for Joel White, an all-time great wing
  • Hunter Forbes’ neutral grip, and whether he’ll try to maximize it by standing up rather than taking a knee
  • Joe Nardella’s MVP-worthy performance and his bottomless bag of counters, including a perfectly legal butt end lift

Listen to Greg’s full thoughts on Spotify.

6. PLL Assists

Zoom hangouts with PLL Assist partner programs. Over $36,000 raised for charity. Over $46,000 of equipment donated. Kyle Harrison recapped the work done by players and partners over the last four months in this thread.

If you can, try to get involved with the team partners: City Lax NYC, Bronx Lacrosse, WINNERS Lacrosse, Bridge Lacrosse, OWLS Lacrosse, Brooklyn Lacrosse Club, and Charm City Youth Lacrosse.

There are so many ways to help – donating gear, coaching, or scheduling these clubs to play against (or with) your town’s programs. When I coached with Metro Lacrosse in Dorchester, scheduling was a struggle. Buses are expensive. Milton would regularly travel to the city. I always wished more teams would make the trip, so we could have played more games. We could afford one road trip per season, usually to Weston, where we’d combine our player pools, throw sticks, and create two teams between our program and theirs.

It was a great experience for our U13 and U15 programs. I encourage more coaches to follow Weston’s lead.

7. What if?

The NBA Draft lottery made me think of the ripple effect of the 2020 PLL Entry Draft order.

Flash back to March. The Whipsnakes had one ping pong ball out of one hundred. When Paul Burmeister pulled the ping pong ball for the fifth overall pick, there was a 60% chance it’d belong to Chaos, 30% chance to Redwoods, and only 10% to Whipsnakes.

The ball? Belonged to the Whipsnakes. 

The pick? MVP Zed Williams.

How would the Championship Series have played out if Chaos had selected Zed? Dude scored six goals in a six-goal Championship win. He was the difference. Put him on the other team, and maybe the Whipsnakes don’t repeat in 2020.

The NBA is full of “what if?”s from draft lottery luck (or lack thereof) to trades to draft day decisions. In the early history of PLL, this has to be a top-five “What if?” 

What are your other “What if?” moments? Let’s hear ‘em.

8. Crease Collapse of the Week

Eddy Glazener’s positioning on this play is perfect. He can damn near simultaneously see his man, the ball, and the crease. As Garrett Epple slides, Glazener moves on a string, burying Epple’s man into the turf as he receives the pass.

9. Phi-Lacrosse-ophy

I caught up with Jamie Munro on his podcast this week. Jamie coaches sandlot concepts – deception, hesitation, and manipulation of defenders – that are a common among All-Film Team (coming soon!) members. 

Jamie is also one of the first coaches to bring box concepts like on-ball picks into field lacrosse. We discussed the benefits of those two-man games: higher assist rates (jumps from 36.9% to 47.5%), higher stick-to-the-middle rates (from 75.5% to 86.6%), and higher shooting percentages (from 24.5% to 28.2%).

We also hit on Blaze Riorden’s unorthodox dominance, Glazener’s communication keeping a defense with some new faces together, and why alley dodges are more inefficient than ever. Full episode is on Spotify.

10. Great misses

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles says that Tom Brady throws “great incompletions” (i.e. if his guys can’t catch it, then nobody can). Bill Barnwell says the data backs it up: Brady somehow tightropes the line to post high off-target rates, low interception rates, and high completion rates.

That got me thinking: What is the best type of miss in lacrosse? A miss that the goalie cannot touch?A Kobe assist? Or a :52 reset?

Ryder Garnsey created more resets (7) than anyone during the Championship Series. My gut says that’s no coincidence; Garnsey had 7 last summer, and 2019’s league leaders Tom Schreiber (12) and Will Manny (11) posted five apiece this year.

We’ll dive into this in more detail later this offseason.

Thanks for reading! 

Spread the word, submit any questions you want to see answered in this space to me on Twitter (@joekeegs), and I’ll talk to you next week!

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