10 Man Ride: Semifinals Preview

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Sep 3, 2021

CLEAR! The ride is on. The semifinals are on Sunday. Chaos and Atlas face off at 11:00AM ET; Waterdogs and Whipsnakes at 1:30PM ET.

Let's preview both matchups with 10 bullets:

1. Chaos moves from trips to twins

Chaos’ trips set is tailored to its Canadian players’ strengths. Featuring two three-man games -- one lefty three-man game and one righty three-man game -- their trips look is truly box lacrosse on a field. All six players are above GLE picking and re-picking to produce close range shots.

The downside of trips? A league-low run out rate with nobody at X, a clogged crease, and available adjacent slides for defenses against Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne’s sweeps.

“Our spacing wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be,” said offensive coordinator Matt Panetta. “We’ve definitely opened it up. We wanted to run almost a circle and keep people out of the middle.”

By moving from trips to twins (three two-man games -- one lefty, one righty, and one at X), Chaos has opened the crease has made it tougher to trap pick-n-rolls. Since the All-Star break, Chaos’ assist opportunity-to-turnover ratio is 1.41 -- up from 1.02 prior. Their assist rate is still a league-high 55.9%.

The Byrne-O’Keefe pick-n-roll on the lefty wing is the most lethal in lacrosse. Byrne is a career 32.1% shooter off the dodge -- and 36.4% when those dodges begin on the lefty wing. He has range on the sweep but can beat you underneath as well. When Byrne has the pole, O’Keefe will pick to give him a step.

And when O’Keefe has the pole, he’ll mirror Byrne from a distance. If that pole hedges toward Byrne dodging a short-stick, O’Keefe slips free for a stepdown rocket.

Read more about Chaos’ move from trips to twins.

2. Blaze Riorden's outlets

Back-to-back Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year Award winner Blaze Riorden starts more fast breaks than any goalie in the league.

Since 2019, Chaos has shot 28-for-62 (45.2%) on fast breaks following saves by Blaze. Only Tim Troutner (20-for-50, 40.0%) comes close in terms of volume and efficiency.

What separates Blaze is his ability to outlet messy saves as well as he outlets clean saves. Chaos shoots 17-for-31 (54.8%) off his messy saves -- and 11-for-31 (35.5%) off his clean saves.

Blaze’s favorite target this year: Ian MacKay. Look for MacKay leaking upfield to spark transition. Those pass down pick downs with Josh Byrne have produced a lot of points.

Read more about Blaze’s outlets and butterfly technique in Jake Watts’ story.

3. Concannon or Colarusso?

Atlas LC goalie Jack Concannon has been cleared to return from a groin injury that has kept him out since Week 4.

JD Colarusso has been great in relief; he made 14 saves (64%) against the Cannons last week.

Here's the case for returning to Concannon: Chaos creates more shots from the doorstep than any team in the league. They shoot 64% from there.

Concannon's save percentage on the doorstep: 49.4%

Colarusso's save percentage on the doorstep: 15.4%

Head coach Ben Rubeor and his staff have a difficult decision between the pipes.

(Speaking of goalie decisions -- the Whipsnakes will be starting Brian Phipps according to IL's Terry Foy. More on that game in a minute.)

4. Rowlett vs. Teat

Dave Pietramala Defensive Player of the Year finalist Jack Rowlett will match up against Eamon McEneaney Attackman of the Year finalist Jeff Teat.

Rowlett told the OTB podcast that, when he was drafted, his UNC coach Joe Breschi told him he’s “an Andy Towers guy.” That couldn’t be more true. Rowlett plays a physical brand of defense. He, Johnny Surdick, and Jarrod Neumann are all encouraged to play with swagger and arrogance.

Chaos’ communication -- especially in pick-n-roll defense -- will be tested against Atlas’ family style offense. In their last meeting, Atlas shot 8-for-20 (40.0%) off pick-n-rolls; since that matchup, Chaos opponents have shot 7-for-40 (17.5%) off pick-n-rolls. Keep an eye on how Chaos’ cleaned up pick-n-roll defense approaches those Teat-Cockerton two-man games.

5. "There's nothing like getting punched in the face."

Atlas LC rookie attackman Jake Carraway started taekwondo when he was four years old. He credits mixed martial arts to his bodily awareness and balance.

Read Lauren Merola’s feature on Carraway to learn more about his shooting routines and the origin of the tuck.

6. Michael Ehrhardt faking substitutions

Michael Ehrhardt loves to stay and play longer than most LSMs. He’ll pick before subbing -- or fake subbing! -- to spring Mike Chanenchuk free down the alley.

When Ehrhardt has an offensive midfielder trapped, pick rules are put to the test.

Two-man games with :31-:40 remaining on the shot clock produce 38.1% shooting percentages. Way higher than those with :21-:30 remaining (28.5%), :11-:20 (31.9%) or under :10 (28.8%). At their best, two-man games are not tools to change matchups; they are actions to force the defense into second-guessing its scheme.

Beware of Ehrhardt creeping toward the box, then banging a U-turn for a 2-point attempt.

Joe Nardella will fake some subs, too. The battle between Nardella and Jake Withers at the stripe will extend deep into possessions -- whether it’s Withers picking for Zach Currier, or Nardella jumping into 6-on-5s with Ehrhardt & co.

Read more about Ehrhardt and the Whipsnakes early offense.

7. Connor Kelly's staircase dodging

Waterdogs LC has matchup nightmares running out of the midfield. Zach Currier’s do-it-all style often traps opponents on the wrong side of the midfield line. Mikie Schlosser’s downhill speed is too much for a short-stick to contain. And Connor Kelly’s staircase dodging uses subtle changes of speed to get his hands free in an entirely different way.

Most alley dodgers try to shake their defender with one decisive split dodge, then win a foot race. Kelly makes multiple moves. His rocker and rollback are perfect complements.

Defenses will try to trap rollbacks -- but Kelly can pass out of those before the double team arrives.

Who will draw the pole: Currier, Schlosser or Kelly? Will second overall pick Michael Sowers run out of the box in his return to the lineup? The Waterdogs could punish the Whipsnakes in the midfield, even if they play two poles out.

Read more about Connor Kelly’s rollback and rocker steps.

8. Half Sunshine, half '70s rocker

Josh Schafer profiled Jimmy Regan Teammate Award finalist Mikie Schlosser -- the Waterdogs’ Volkswagen-fixing, downhill-dodging, second assist-slinging midfielder.

Read more about Mikie -- who Josh compares to the deep threat in a wide receiver corps.

9. Waterdogs defensive turnaround

Since Week 4, the Waterdogs defense has allowed points on 17.1% of its possessions. It’s outrageous. Egregious. Preposterous. 17.1%!!!

What’s changed since the first half of the season, when opponents scored on 37.3% of their possessions?

Dillon Ward has flattened his arc; he has saved 67.1% of shots since. Liam Byrnes moved from LSM to close defense. And Ben Randall has been erasing opponents as the top cover man.

Read Katie McNulty’s story on the Waterdogs defense for more on their turnaround.

10. Jay Carlson crashing the offensive glass

The Waterdogs have rebounded a league-worst 60% of their saves. Jay Carlson and the Whipsnakes rank second in offensive rebounding rate (36%).

Carlson on the crease perfectly balances out the Whipsnakes attack -- with Zed Williams dodging righty and Matt Rambo dodging lefty. Every game, Carlson makes a play to extend a groundball or ride back a possession. Last week, it led to a 2-pointer from Zed. What will it be on Sunday?

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