4 Battles to Watch During Waterdogs Training Camp
PLL players will arrive in Albany, New York, for training camp on May 27, and practices will take place over the next three days. During that time, Waterdogs LC will be upping the intensity.
“We want to make training camp a little bit more competitive than it’s been in years past,” said Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan.
With 32 players on the current squad – including four on the PUP list – the Waterdogs have cuts to make and roles to determine before 25-man rosters are announced on May 31.
Copelan said the Waterdogs have an “awfully good” camp roster, and the coaching staff will make whatever decisions put them in the best position to repeat as champions. The coaches want to evaluate each new face within the confines of the offense and “let the process be the process.”
“This is never about trying to create a situation with as much talent as possible,” Copelan said. “It’s creating a situation where everyone is connected within the offense. Whoever does that best will get the nod.”
Copelan cares more about fit than ability. So with that in mind, here are some training camp battles to monitor:
Jake Carraway vs Ethan Walker: Attack or Midfield?
Jake Carraway, the Waterdogs’ big free agent signing, was a controversial addition and will be the storyline during training camp. After falling out of favor with the Atlas coaching staff following some excessive behavior as a rookie, Carraway only appeared in two games last season.
But the third-year attack is looking to “reinvent himself” with the Waterdogs, Copelan said. Carraway doesn’t have a role carved out for him, though. He’ll have to earn his spot in the rotation as the coaches evaluate where he fits best within the offense.
“The possibility for Jake (Carraway) and Ethan Walker to play a little bit of attack and a little bit of midfield exists,” Copelan said. “We have got to see both those guys up at camp.”
Walker scored 13 points in nine games for the PLL champions last season, and earned 14 in just five appearances as a rookie the year prior. Both 25-year-olds lead their respective alma maters in career points, and both have the opportunity to be integral complements for the offense.
Carraway and Walker are similar players, as both have significant range and are willing to put their bodies on the line to score inside. Each can make an impact this season, but both could spend time in the midfield, and that determination will start to be formed during camp.
Midfield: An embarrassment of riches
The Waterdogs’ midfield is about as crowded as Coachella during weekend one, and the lineup is just as stacked. With four returning players who scored double-digit points and goals last season, the team added first-round pick Thomas McConvey to the fold.
Connor Kelly (26 points), Zach Currier (19), Ryan Conrad (18) and Jack Hannah (14) are all returning for the Waterdogs. Mikie Schlosser also remains with the team, but will begin the season on the PUP list. Even with his role open for the time being, this midfield has too much talent to play them all consistently, especially with Carraway and/or Walker mixed in.
McConvey was selected with the eighth overall pick in this year’s College Draft after blossoming in a more complementary offensive role as a graduate with Virginia. Prior to that, he accumulated 174 points over four years at Vermont to become the program’s all-time leading scorer.
McConvey’s high-IQ playmaking ability will fit right in with the Waterdogs’ aggressive attack. The only question is, which midfielder will be sacrificed due to his addition?
As a new rotation is created in the coming weeks – and then adjusted as the season progresses – the midfield will look slightly different in terms of playing time this year.
A faceoff at the X: James Reilly vs Zac Tucci
The Waterdogs were all bark and no bite at the faceoff X last season, winning at a 41% clip to finish seventh in the league. But rookie James Reilly, Georgetown’s all-time faceoff wins and ground balls leader, will provide some much-needed competition.
Jake Withers ranked sixth in the league with a 46.9% faceoff win rate last season for the Waterdogs. But after Withers’ departure, the team was down to one specialist entering the draft, and picked Reilly with the final selection (32nd overall).
Zac Tucci was claimed as an undrafted rookie after the 2022 draft and won 43.1% of his faceoff attempts in four games last season. Both Tucci and Reilly will have the opportunity to take control of the X in 2023, but this battle will extend much further into the season than others.
The most likely scenario will involve both players taking regular-season faceoffs until/unless someone separates themself. It’ll take more than a week of practice to determine who will give the Waterdogs a better chance to win on a regular basis.
Fighting for a spot: Conner, Borda and Traynor
As far as making the roster is concerned, this is the trio to watch. After the draft, Waterdogs LC picked up two midfielders, Jeff Conner and Kyle Borda, as well as attacker Jack Traynor off of waivers.
Coplean likes the potential with all three, but with limited roster spots and a stacked offensive midfield, it’s more than likely only one will make the 25-man roster. Conner might be the best suited to get the nod considering his two-way playmaking ability, but Traynor and Borda can add more value to the offense.
“There’s something there with all three of those guys, and I’m excited to see who can rise to the top,” Coplean said.
It’s not a matter of who’s the most talented, but who can fill the team’s needs the best.