Welcome to the first-ever installment of what I hope will become an annual tradition: The All-Film Team. This is the most watchable team in lacrosse. These players have games that lacrosse junkies appreciate in ways that casual viewers or box score browsers might not. They move off-ball. They fight relentlessly for groundballs. They make the pass before the pass. You might not notice them when you watch the game live, but on a second viewing, they jump off the screen.
Some ground rules: I tried to avoid All-Stars and end-of-season award recipients and nominees. That doesn’t imply that the players left off the list are not worth watching more in-depth. Everyone knows that Will Manny and Marcus Holman move well without the ball. We’re digging deeper here. Onto the picks.
Connor Kelly, A, Whipsnakes LC
There’s a certain nonchalance to Connor Kelly’s game that contradicts his split-dodging, corner-picking playing style. Most side-to-side dodgers hunt for ankles; Kelly is only focused on creating enough separation to get his shot off. His game does all his talking. The closest we were to hearing from him on a broadcast was when Matt Rambo thanks him for finishing.
He’s a team-first guy. Around midseason when the Whipsnakes were in a funk, head coach Jim Stagnitta moved Kelly down to attack. The move wasn’t strictly to open up Kelly -- everyone on the offense was a beneficiary. Mike Chanenchuk, Drew Snider, John Haus, Joe LoCascio and Kelly had shot 19.7% in a crowded midfield unit prior to the move. Nobody was in a rhythm. With Kelly down low, that quintet saw more opportunities and boosted their shooting percentage to 28.4%.
Eric Law, A, Atlas LC
Eric Law is an X attackman in the same sense that a slot receiver is a wide receiver. He’s not looking to take the top off the defense by winning his one-on-one matchup (although he can). He doesn’t overcarry for question mark dodges or post up at the island for 10-15 seconds at a time.
Law moves the chains. He finds soft spots in the defense, goes to dirty areas, and finishes a league-high 56.1% of the time. When his man looks to slide, he cuts backdoor for alley-oops.
Law was one of eight players with 10 or more assists to boast a positive (or neutral) assist-to-turnover ratio. (Sidenote: Connor Kelly also cracked that list.) There aren’t many players as efficient as passers or as shooters as Law is -- never mind as efficient at both. Law’s shots all come from the doorstep, but not because teammates set him up. He works to get to the rim when the timing is right. If the shot clock is low -- or if the defense is substituting without a slide ready -- then Law will dodge with a purpose. Taking Garrett Epple (who should have won DPOY) to the cup is no joke.
Ryder Garnsey, A, Redwoods LC
You might think Ryder Garnsey doesn’t belong here. He’s flashy, for sure. He’s gone viral on Instagram for slick one-handed feeds, backhanded shots, and witty chirps. But Garnsey’s game goes beyond that.
Everyone saw his groundball in the fourth quarter of the PLL Championship. It was the best groundball of the year. Garnsey put it on the turf with a check, hunted it down through a sea of bodies, and then assisted Matt Kavanagh for a game-changing goal.
The highlights and the hustle would be enough to make this list on their own. But my favorite part of Garnsey’s game happens after the whistle. When a teammate scores, Garnsey goes nuts. His passion is contagious. This right here is why Garnsey’s teammates love to play with him, and it’s why fans love to watch him play.
John Crawley, M, Atlas LC
Lehigh offensive coordinator John Crawley is an X’s and O’s master. When normal broadcasts would cut to commercials, NBC Sports Gold creeps into the huddle. Crawley is often at the center of the Atlas’ offensive discussions -- and he’s a big part of what they do on the field.
The Atlas offense was at its best running big-little picks at X. Crawley would invert to play those two-man games with an Atlas attackman. Moving the ball behind the cage created stepdown shots for Ryan Brown and slowed down opponents’ fast breaks -- something the Atlas struggled to do prior to making Crawley a gameday active roster staple.
This team went 6-3 with him in the lineup (and 0-3 without him) for a reason. The ball zipped around the field when Crawley played. Connor Buczek and Paul Rabil sliced up scrambling defenses when big-little picks at X drew double teams.
John Ranagan, M, Chrome LC
When John Ranagan dodges, defenders better be wearing their mouthguards -- because he’s wearing his, and he’s ready for contact. Too many alley dodging midfielders shy away from contact and shoot from outside the hash marks. Ranagan barrels his way from north to south in a straight line. He always sees 36 square feet of net. And if somehow his dodge does take him too wide, then he’ll fight like hell to improve his angle.
John Haus, M, Whipsnakes LC
Sliding to John Haus has to give defenses headaches. His hesitation dodges and heads-up dodging style makes it nearly impossible. If you send help before your second slide is ready, then he’ll feed where the slide came from for a quick shot.
His off-ball game is among the best in the league. (And his enthusiasm for teammates’ goals rivals Ryder Garnsey’s.) You can see elements of his Penn State offense come to life when Haus puts on the pads. This off-ball screen looks like a rub route down on the goal line in football. Haus runs Joe LoCascio’s defender out of the play to open up this shot.
Connor Farrell, FO, Chrome LC
Farrell is always smiling. The rookie out of LIU Post won the Dave Huntley Sportsmanship Award for his time spent signing autographs for fans, his powerful fist bumps, and his good-natured chirps.
Joel White, LSM, Chrome LC
Prior to the roster formations, Inside Lacrosse mock drafted six lineups. I took Joel White in the third round. He’s that much of a game-wrecking defensive force. He plays passing lanes as well as anyone -- constantly picking off passes or deflecting them out of midair. This full extension knockdown is absurd. (Also, the one-handed vertical cradles are what this list is all about.)
Mark McNeill, SSDM, Archers LC
Teammates love playing with Moose. Matt McMahon posted about his appreciation for McNeill on Instagram after Week 10 in Albany. The clips in the post are insane. McNeill was diving just to land a check to keep the groundball alive. He dove twice on the same faceoff. This cross-crease effort was my favorite. What a monster.
Pat Harbeson, SSDM, Redwoods LC
Harbeson’s motor never turns off. His on-ball defense was a big reason why the Redwoods could run a “switch everything” strategy on defense. They trusted their short-sticks. Harbeson held his own against the league’s best attackmen when picks produced switches. He also leveraged that scheme to his advantage, using picks as opportunities to set traps on ball-carriers.
Jack Rowlett, D, Chaos LC
Rowlett is relentlessly physical. The rookie out of UNC sent a message to veteran attackmen early on when he scrapped with Kevin Rice at Training Camp. He was seen jawing back and forth with Eric Law after matching penalties later in the season. Rowlett isn’t afraid to take a penalty if he sends a message in the process. Watching him push the limits of physicality in a ridiculously physical league was a blast. His sophomore season should be filled with even more over-the-head checks and bone-crushing hits.
Eddy Glazener, D, Redwoods LC
Mic up Eddy Glazener for every game for the rest of his career. That’s all.
Tim Muller, D, Whipsnakes LC
The Whipsnakes defense switches top matchups between Bryce Young, Matt Dunn, and Tim Muller. Muller’s most notable one-on-one win was against Connor Fields. The Whipsnakes held their slides and let Muller’s body position and discipline slow down the league’s fastest offense.
Wiping out opposing attackmen like that helps win games, but it isn’t fun to watch. The most watchable part of Muller’s game is his off-ball play. He times slides as well as anyone. That starts with knowing the scouting report. If he has an opportunity to double team a strictly right-handed player and force him to roll back to his left, then he’ll pounce.
Adam Ghitelman, G, Archers LC
Ghitelman unofficially leads the league in dive outs and dive out attempts. This end line dive out steals a possession on the penalty kill in the postseason. The jump as the shot goes wide, the footrace, and the perfectly timed launch are equally amazing.