Joe Keegan's 10 Man Ride Week 8 San Jose

10 Man Ride: Championship Edition

1. Rambo’s vision in pick-and-rolls

Last week, Connor Fields was stranded on Landis Island. Matt Landis locked him down for 48 minutes. While we billed Landis against Matt Rambo (3G, 3A) as the marquee matchup, the Whipsnakes had different plans.

By bringing a pick behind the cage, the Whipsnakes chartered a private flight for Rambo from Landis Island to any short-stick destination.

Those pick-and-rolls themselves never created offense. The Redwoods executed all switches cleanly. The breakdown in the defense was off-ball, where the Whipsnakes won with picks and cuts.

You can see the Redwoods prepare to slide after a pick puts Sergio Perkovic on Rambo. Landis is hot. Glazener is talking through helping the helper as Jay Carlson (1G) screens for John Haus (3G, 1A) – bang!

Rambo didn’t run by short-sticks – but he didn’t need to. They weren’t in his gloves, so he did what he has been doing all season. He created stepdown shots for his teammates. No high-volume passer posted a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, except Rambo. He has quarterbacked this offense with insane efficiency. The windows weren’t open for long against this stingy Redwoods defense. Rambo has a split second to deliver this ball to Joe LoCascio (1G), who was sprung free by Haus’s rub cut (and subtle stick grab).

Late in the game, when the Whips needed to stop the bleeding, they turned to their MVP – the MVP – again. Rambo thought about throwing back to Jake Bernhardt here, but then found a better look. So much for hitting singles; this was a homerun pass. Drew Snider (1G) seals the recovering defense to create this skip lane from Rambo to Connor Kelly (1G, 1A).

2. Coach Stagnitta’s play design to force OT

With the success that the Whips had in the pick-and-roll game, you would expect them to go to that out of a timeout trailing by one with 30 seconds left, right? Wrong. Sort of.

The Whips drew up an after timeout play designed to turn Rambo into a scorer. They didn’t want a clean switch onto a short-stick. They wanted him moving to the middle of the field with a full head of steam. Drew Snider faked a sweep, rolled back, and flipped it to Rambo.

Like a dribble handoff in basketball, this unfolds faster than your traditional pick play. There’s less time for the defense to call it out and talk through it. By the time they recognize it, Rambo has run past them. Brian Karalunas would have switched onto Rambo in a regular pick-and-roll scenario – the “dribble handoff” prevents that.

3. Two Slide of the Week

Lots of defenders are labeled “rangy” because they’re tall. Others are labeled “rangy” because they cover a lot of ground in a small amount of time. Michael Ehrhardt is “rangy” for both reasons.

The Brodie Merrill Long-stick Midfielder of the Year anticipates as well as any defender. He sees this seesaw two-man game between Kyle Harrison and Joe Walters developing from a mile away. As Walters pops free to space, Ehrhardt rotates over adjacent. Bryce Young bumps out to Ehrhardt’s man, Matt Dunn covers up for Young, and James Barclay peels to replace Dunn. Textbook rotation.

4. Tim Muller hiding his slides

Redwoods attackmen will have nightmares of rolling back into Tim Muller.

Muller times his slides so well. He mucked up a couple wing pick-and-rolls by deflecting a pass from Matt Kavanagh back to the picker or by sliding back to Kavanagh during a rollback. When Muller sees the back of a ball-handler’s helmet, he turns into a shark that smells  blood. Young turns Heningburg into the inside roll, and Muller smacks him in the mouth with a slide that doubles as an endorsement for shoulder pads.

5. People forget Jack Near played attack in high school

The term “two-way midfielder” is overused; it’s applied to guys who can play both ways but rarely do. I’m as guilty as anyone. Only a few truly 50-50 guys exist. Most lean 75% offense, 25% defense, or vice versa. There are offensive midfielders who can survive when stuck on defense, but they don’t deliberately run defensive shifts. There are defensive midfielders who can push and convert 4-on-3s or 5-on-4s, but once the dust settles in transition, they substitute. And then there is Jack Near.

Near’s game is unique. He played attack in high school before graduating with a degree in team defense at Notre Dame. So many times during his career at South Bend, Near came up clutch with a semi-transition goal. In those even but unsettled situations – 5-on-5 or 4-on-4 – Near takes his man back to his high school stomping grounds at X. When the Redwoods needed a jolt down 9-2, Near gave them just that.

Call him a defensive midfielder, a two-way midfielder, or whatever term you want to use. Jack Near is a damn good lacrosse player. Players like that make big plays in big moments. Near’s biggest: A caused turnover, another casual carry to X, and an assist to Sergio Perkovic from downtown.

6. Jake Bernhardt: “Best ****ing two-way midfielder in the world”

Speaking of two-way midfielders, Jake Bernhardt continues to make plays all over the field that don’t show up in the box score. He picked for most of Matt Rambo’s switches. He played man-ball situations to perfection, cleared the ball, and alongside Ty Warner and James Barclay, was a huge part of the Whipsnakes’ team defense.

Not many short-sticks can cover two players off-ball like this. Bernhardt pushes inside so that Young can help – once he sees Kavanagh’s eyes move to the weak side, he puts himself between Kavanagh and Walters to disrupt this skip pass.

 7. Brent Adams, doing his best K18 impression

After two years of injuries, Brent Adams (1G, 2A) is back – and not just at full strength, but he’s better than ever. His six-on-six game has hit a new level. When he draws slides – and he always draws slides – he throws tough passes that set his teammates up to make plays. Does this pull pass to Matt Kavanagh (2G, 2A) look familiar?

That’s the same throwback pass that Kyle Harrison and Joe Walters run. It moves the defense just enough to free up Ryder Garnsey (2G, 1A) for a cut.

Here’s the same concept with Adams dodging to his left. He draws the slide from Walters’ man, flips his hips, and puts a pass on Walters’ ear. If the Redwoods had won in overtime, then Adams would have been in the conversation for MVP of the game.

8. The Redwoods’ Run

This game will be remembered for Rambo’s heroics, but that’s only half of the story. That ending would have never happened if the Redwoods had packed it in down 9-2. Instead, this team fought the way it has all season.

After a low-scoring first half featuring a couple violations and a minimal amount of faceoffs, Greg Gurenlian found his rhythm and went 11-for-16 (68.8%) after halftime. Beast emptied the tank for this team; any chance they had was made possible at the faceoff X.

The Redwoods’ stacked possessions with faceoff wins and rides. Garnsey, Kavanagh, and Wes Berg combined for nine groundballs and two caused turnovers. Leading up to the game, Whipsnakes defensive coordinator Mike Murphy emphasized the importance of finishing possessions against this team. The Redwoods are great at earning fresh 52-second clocks; they have the best group of groundball-swarming attackmen in the league. Berg threw down a rebound after a save on Perkovic. They rode back a few key possessions, including this wild six-on-six scrum.

9. Kyle Bernlohr, stepping up in unsettled scenarios

Each one of Kyle Bernlohr’s 16 saves (61.5%) felt more meaningful than the last. He stopped Kavanagh point blank on a powerplay after tracking a cross-field skip pass. Bernlohr saved five shots from Wes Berg, who blends Canadian deception with American velocity. Goalies don’t save shots from Wes Berg. Entering the game, goalies across the league had stopped 36.4% of his shots; Bernlohr turned away 71.4% against him, including this fast break denial.

10. Rambo: Last Blood

Rambo’s passing in the pick-and-rolls sparked the Whips’ first half run. His hard drive off a flip forced overtime. But when it came time to draw last blood, Rambo wanted to go right at his matchup. He lathered up in sunscreen – as he kept mentioning postgame – for a trip to sunny Landis Island.

There was a pick there. Rambo didn’t want it. It was an unsettled situation – 5-on-6, actually – but no slide was ready. Rambo saw the opportunity to get to his dominant left hand, and there was no denying him. Question mark dodges are overrated. Cold-blooded MVPs keep moving to the middle of the field. They soak checks and shoot through them. Rambo improves his angle with every step. His momentum is so forceful that he stampedes his own teammate, Jay Carlson, on his follow through.

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