10 Man Ride: Championship Series Awards Predictions
CLEAR! The ride is on. Award nominees are out. I’ll make my case for each – ahead of the winners being announced later today. Let’s ride!
1. ‘Whipsnakes ball’
Josh Schafer wrote about the Whipsnakes’ culture, built by head coach Jim Stagnitta on four principles: curiosity, humility, loyalty, and empathy.
Coach Stagnitta caught up with Axios’ Kendall Baker (a fellow newsletter-er!) this week, too, to talk about recruiting Joe Nardella to Rutgers, Zed Williams’ attempt to give him the MVP trophy, how this year’s win compares to last, and whether the Whipsnakes are a dynasty now.
2. Dave Pietramala Defenseman of the Championship Series
Nominees: Matt Dunn (Whipsnakes LC), Jack Rowlett (Chaos LC), Garrett Epple (Redwoods LC)
Matt Dunn (2CT, 7GB) was snubbed of a nomination last year. Maybe it’s because nobody dodges him, so he doesn’t compile stats. Or maybe it’s because the Whipsnakes’ defense is so good that it borders on boring. Regardless, he’s here now – and he deserves the award.
His matchups – Matt Kavanagh, Rob Pannell, Connor Fields, Grant Ament, Brent Adams, and Curtis Dickson – shot 4-for-30 (13.3%) against the Whipsnakes. (And most of those goals were against other Whips or in unsettled situations!) Those same players shot 26.4% against all other teams.
Dunn played six games and committed zero fouls. He just quietly held the best attackmen in the world to 13.3% shooting with little-to-no help. Speedy dodgers cannot zoom past him. Physical dodgers cannot move him. Shifty dodgers cannot trip him on the back of the net. And dodgers who can do it all still cannot get a shot off inside the hash marks.
3. George Boiardi Hard Hat SSDM of the Championship Series
Nominees: Tyler Warner (Whipsnakes LC), Jack Near (Redwoods LC), Will Haus (Chrome LC)
Jack Near (1G, 2A, 6CT, 11GB) leads the league in plays made when his team absolutely needs a jolt of life. It’s uncanny. The Redwoods plummet into ruts on occasion – and every time they do, Near makes a play that gets his team rolling.
Near can invert any offensive midfielder in the league when he gets them trapped. He has torched the Whipsnakes’ deep two-way midfield unit to the tune of two diving goals and a 2-point assist in their past three matchups, all from invert looks.
Defensively, Near does it all. He plays on the penalty kill. His wrap check is dangerous – hold onto your sticks as you run by! This strip has shades of Kawhi Leonard. Dribbling in his proximity sometimes seems more likely to result in a goal for Near than for you.
4. Brodie Merrill Long Stick Midfielder of the Championship Series
Nominees: Michael Ehrhardt (Whipsnakes LC), Scott Ratliff (Archers LC), Reece Eddy (Chrome LC)
Reece Eddy (1G, 5CT, 13GB) impressed as a rookie. The Boston University product was one of many new faces on a much-improved Chrome defense (plus he did Timmy Troutner A.D.A.P. with a backhand rebound finish).
Scott Ratliff (3G, 3A, 5CT, 17GB) has proven he can dominate either end of the field – offensively earlier in his career, now defensively on a lockdown rope unit. Faceoff athletes fear facing Ratliff on the wings; he turns one-on-one battles into three-on-threes, and then he wins those three-on-threes. He is a long-stick midfielder with an emphasis on the “midfielder.”
But 2018 FIL World Games MVP Michael Ehrhardt (2T, 3A, 7CT, 26GB) is one of the two or three best players on the planet. He eats up passing lanes while still supporting the paint. Teams will try to avoid Ehrhardt – but he always manages to barge into the play. Whether he’s anticipating adjacent pops or closing out to would-be stepdown shooters, Ehrhardt appears everywhere, always.
Ehrhardt lingers on the offensive end more than any pole, either picking for Matt Rambo or reverse V-cutting to the box for 2-point looks. He has 20-yard range – at least. And he uses the Earth for most of his shots.
High bouncers went at an astronomical rate this summer. Goalies saved 48.8% of bounced 2-point attempts, compared to 86.0% of all other 2-pointers. That’s a preposterous gap. Shoutout to our friends at The Crease Dive for suggesting that stat. Send any more stat requests our way this offseason – we’ll dig into some of the best if we haven’t already.
5. Gait Brothers Midfielder of the Championship Series
Nominees: Tom Schreiber (Archers LC), Sergio Perkovic (Redwoods LC), John Haus (Whipsnakes LC)
Sergio Perkovic (3G, 6T) was automatic from above the arc. All-Film Team midfielder John Haus (8G, 5A, 9GB) is still underrated by many. His hesitation dodges, timely inverts, and off-ball seals are “Whipsnakes offense” personified.
Let’s not overthink this. Tom Schreiber (12G, 4A) was the best midfielder in the tournament. He can play the left- or right-hand twin in head coach Chris Bates’ offense. Those Schreiber-Ryan Ambler two-man games were unstoppable on the lefty side. And Schreiber adjusted to two new pickers – Josh Currier and Christian Mazzone – on the righty side.
Schreiber puts passes in spots that allow shooters to rip instantly. We talk about Will Manny and Marcus Holman’s pop times – two of the best in the league. Schreiber deserves some credit for their quick release. This pull pass to Currier is delivered on the money, while sprinting full speed, carrying a double, and throwing across his body.
Because of his ability to hit every pass on the field, some defenses will refuse to slide to Schreiber. I don’t mean that they are slow to go. I mean that they refuse to slide to Schreiber. That’s respect. (And, by the way, he can create dunks with his legs as well as he does with his passing.)
6. Paul Cantabene Faceoff Athlete of the Championship Series
Nominees: Joe Nardella (Whipsnakes LC), Connor Farrell (Chrome LC)
Joe Nardella (3G, 3A, 65GB, 72% FO) dominated the stripe. There’s no debate here. Hear him discuss his training, the Whips’ 10-0 run to close the Championship, and more on The Inside Feed with Lisa Redmond and Emma Adams (plus special guests Michael Ehrhardt and defensive coordinator Mike Murphy).
7. Eamon McEneaney Attackman of the Championship Series
Nominees: Zed Williams (Whipsnakes LC), Josh Byrne (Chaos LC), Matt Rambo (Whipsnakes LC)
Matt Rambo (7G, 18A) posted another season with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio – a far less common feat in lacrosse than in hoops. Josh Byrne (13G, 7A) belongs in this conversation, and will be here for years to come.
Zed Williams (20G, 3A) is the clear-cut winner. He has already been named the Jim Brown MVP. He won the Golden Stick after his sock trick in the championship.
Zed is a complete lacrosse player. He scores inside (plus, I have a hunch that he’ll make the All-Film Team for his off-ball screens and slips). He rolls off defenders for doorstep finishes – and he complements that rollback perfectly with a heavy rocker step.
Inside Lacrosse’s Matt Kinnear wrote about Zed, his journey from Silver Creek to Charlottesville, his father, and his lacrosse stick.
8. Oren Lyons Goalie of the Championship Series
Nominees: Blaze Riorden (Chaos LC), Kyle Bernlohr (Whipsnakes LC)
Blaze sees the harshest assortment of shots in the league. Fast break shots, doorstep shots, shots from inside the hash marks. Everything a goalie does not want his defense to give up, Blaze sees in bulk. And he stops so damn many of them.
There are six 20+ save games in PLL history. Blaze did it three times in the Championship Series. His composure and leadership turned this team’s series around.
9. 13 Plays that led to Whipsnakes’ win
LaxAllStars’ Ryan Conwell dove into the 13 plays that led to the Whipsnakes’ championship win. Every save, fast break slide, invert, and hustle play makes a difference in a championship game. Conwell hit them all – and then some.
10. Matt Gaudet on Token CEO
Chrome LC rookie attackman Matt Gaudet joined Erika Nardini to discuss his journey from Hamilton (“the Pittsburgh of Canada”) to Salisbury to Yale. Gaudet talked about his mindset behind talking smack, and shared some of the best pranks from PLL Island. (Spoiler: One prank on a coach earned a player a spot on the bench for one game.)
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!