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10 Man Ride: Whips Win Bye

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Aug 3, 2020

CLEAR! The ride is on. Today’s newsletter is solely dedicated to the Whipsnakes-Archers thriller (and potential Championship preview). We’ll preview Tuesday’s elimination round games tomorrow. In the meantime here are the matchups:

  • Chrome (2) vs. Chaos (7), 5:30PM ET, NBC Sports Gold
  • Redwoods (4) vs. Waterdogs (5), 8:00PM ET, NBC Sports Gold
  • Archers (3) vs. Atlas (6), 10:30PM ET, NBC Sports

1. Rambo is revving his engine

The reigning MVP spent his first few games on cruise control. Matt Rambo (2G, 8A) has been relaxing, chatting it up with Ryan Boyle, and hitting singles. Pool play is complete; Rambo is revving up.

Rambo’s first goal came on a question mark at the island. His island is closer to the coast than most players', because of his physicality. When he puts his shoulder down, he can drive his man inside the hashes.

His postup move is impossible to stop. Don’t slide, and he’ll generate a quality shot. Send a slide, and he’ll pick you apart. He’s baiting Michael Simon here by turning his head. The back of the helmet is usual a green light to send a double – exactly what Rambo wants. He bounces to avoid the slide and throws a dime while backpedaling.

2. Whips slugging extra base hits

The Whips preach hitting singles and making the easy pass. Every once in a while, they swing for the fences. Usually, it’s after they’ve drawn one slide to get the defense moving.

Brad Smith (3G, 2 second assists) pushes GLE and draws a slide. He hits Rambo, who splits the defense with this pass to Zed Williams (4G, 1A, 2 second assists).

The gravity of the Whips’ interior shooters drew the defense inside. With two players on the interior, the Archers struggled to extend to the perimeter. Jay Carlson (1G) and Zed demand so much respect on the inside. Splitting Zed and Smith would be a tough ask for a pole; Christian Mazzone was asked to do it with a short-stick here, and John Haus (4G, 2A) exposed him. That’s a 500 ft. moonshot by Haus.

3. Adam Ghitelman acting as a seventh defender

Adam Ghitelman has never been afraid to make plays outside of the crease. He’ll carry across midfield to start fast breaks. He dives out several shots per game. Even if there’s a man at X, he dives – you never know when you can steal a possession. And when the ball carrier has a step on his man as he approaches GLE, Ghitelman will become a seventh defender.

On the opening possession, Eli Gobrecht lost his footing while defending Rambo. Ghitelman stepped up and initiated contact. Not many people can hault Rambo’s momentum like this.

Zedzilla’s inside roll is so smooth. He caught Matt McMahon with it for a goal as he tiptoed the crease. As Mark McNeill overextends here, Zed beats him on a roll – so Ghitelman steps out of his cage to force a pass, then scurries back to save the shot.

These plays would be unorthodox in any other defense. Ghitelman’s aggressiveness fits the Archers’ scheme. They fly around the field, send early slides, and scramble behind them until they’re marked up again. This defense is at its best when it dictates the tempo.

4. Mike Chanenchuk tying up slides

The Whipsnakes’ ball movement begins with their off-ball movement. This seal from Chanenchuk seems harmless. It doesn’t open up Haus for a shot – but it ties up a would-be slide. Michael Simon sprints to catch up with Haus, turning his back to the ball in the process. Had he stayed where he was while keeping an eye on Haus, he could’ve crashed down on this dodge by Smith.

5. Find a teammate who celebrates your goals like John Haus does for his teammates

Scroll back through the highlights of this game, and try to locate Haus on every goal. If he’s not scoring, then he’s celebrating more than anyone on the field. He’s the league’s best hype man.

Teammates love playing with John Haus. His support even extends to opponents – especially Grant Ament, who Haus coached at Penn State. Inside Lacrosse’s Kevin Brown wrote a feature on Haus and Ament’s relationship. Read more.

6. Michael Ehrhardt’s extendo arms 

Michael Ehrhardt clogs adjacent passing lanes without compromising his approach better than anyone. This chain of events is insane. First, he forces this Ament-to-Schreiber feed wider than the Archers would like after a dummy razor pick. Then, off-ball again, he sinks inside in case the Whips want to support Jake Bernhardt – and extends again as Schreiber sends a pass to Josh Currier. I can’t tell if he got a piece of this on its way to Currier or not. Either way, Ehrhardt’s ability to press out adjacent and sink back in repeatedly is impressive.

7. Joe LoCascio: Two-way midfielder?

After being trapped on defense by certified two-way midfielder Christian Mazzone, Joe LoCascio (2G) and the Whips got a stop and turned it into offense. LoCascio did what the Whips defensive midfielders do: Shove the picker around to give poles space to fight through. He survived. And then he trapped Ian MacKay and Marcus Holman on the field as the Whips transitioned from defense to offense.

LoCascio inverted Holman, and the game’s prettiest string of passing ensued. LoCascio drew a slide and dumped it to John Haus, who had a better view of the field. Haus zipped it to Zed Williams behind, who sent a touch pass to Rambo on the wing. Rambo pump faked to the cutter as the skip lane opened up, and hit a standup triple.

8. Don’t invert Joe Nardella!

Ian MacKay took a faceoff – and won! – but when he tried to invert Joe Nardella, it didn’t end well. Nardella stripped MacKay at X. He’s a capable defender. That’s important at the faceoff position in this league; we’ve seen Jake Withers and the Waterdogs put opposing faceoff specialists in uncomfortable spots. Add another bullet point to Joe Nardella’s MVP resume: He scores in transition, holds his own on defense, and, oh yeah, faces off at 75.0%. 

9. Dominique, switching onto anyone

Dominique Alexander can and will switch onto anyone. He stood up Rambo on one occasion (although Rambo ran right through his stick on another). That’s nothing new (both the standing up elite dodgers part and the breaking his shaft part – seriously, dude snaps one per game minimum). It sounded like you could hear Dominique yelling, “Easy switch, bro!” after that possession – stay tuned for the mic’d up moments to confirm.

10. 2020: Year of the Rat

Scott Ratliff (1G) is a long-stick midfielder – emphasis on the midfielder. I’ve never seen anyone dodge with a six-foot pole like Ratliff does. He can split left-to-right or right-to-left; this time, he took it to his off-hand.

Ratliff is making all the right decisions in transition this series. His clear through on Tom Schreiber’s third quarter goal made the play possible – similar to his cut against the Atlas to free up Mazzone.

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 tomorrow!

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