An Oral History of Connor Maher’s Dive Out
Sunday. September 23, 2023. Subaru Park. With 1:10 remaining in the Cash App Championship, sandwiched between Tom Schreiber’s game-winner and one of the most clutch saves in pro lacrosse history, lies possibly the most iconic hustle plays in Premier Lacrosse League lore.
Latrell Harris: Oh Jesus [laughs], roller coaster of emotions. In those games, every little thing matters: the want to win, the will to win, making a play for your teammate beside you, or cheering on your team from the sideline. It all matters and adds up.
Connor Maher: You look at that clock and say, ‘Alright, the offense has done their job. Now it's time for the defense to lock in and do ours.’ They win that faceoff, they call a timeout. At that point, it's our best six against your best six, and let's see if you guys can get one.
Matt McMahon: One of the responsibilities of being one of the older guys on the team and on the defense is hiding your emotions and putting on the best game face for your teammates to make sure everybody feels confident and ready to go win the game. But it’s challenging in those moments to do that, just because they're a good team and their guys play the best down the stretch and toward the end of the game. I'm confident in our unit and our ability to stop them. But at the same time, at this level, when you're playing another great team at some point, it's a coin flip between a good defense and a good offense. You don't really have full control over the outcome. So it can be a little nerve-wracking, but you also know how your teammates perceive your body language, and your communication will impact how well they play on the possession, how clearly they're thinking, and how focused they are on the right thing.
LH: I wasn’t near [the huddle] to hear, but the eye contact and confidence definitely looked right.
MM: The adrenaline was high. I don't even know how much I was hearing. I think that's probably the case for everybody. I was just trying to process the moment and everything, and I'm sure Coach [Tony] Resch said something very insightful and very useful. I think I was in a daze thinking about the millions of things on my mind at that moment [laughs]. I don't know how happy he'll be to hear that.
Graeme Hossack: We talked about how we wanted to play them, where we wanted to make sure we had support from — just the basics. We just quickly reviewed it.
MM: Coach Resch brings his teacher persona to our film studies each week. This past week, for example, Coach Resch went back through the past five games of the Waterdogs, and he picked out 15 goals that they scored and then assigned one to every member of the defense. Then, in our film study, each guy takes a turn explaining the play: how it happened, why it happened, and what we should be focused on to prevent it from happening.
Brett Dobson: Out of that timeout, I'm thinking: We probably got to get one, maybe two more stops here to get through it. We need a big play – a save, kill the clock.
Warren Jeffrey: I was thinking back to the last game we played them, the last game of the season. They had that sneak play for a two-pointer off the bench, and they had actually done it earlier in that game, too. So, I was thinking of something a little crafty like that, maybe a pole coming over. Maybe something with [Zach] Currier mixing it up and making a crazy pass.
MM: In the last game of the regular season, [Waterdogs] were just relentless and had this belief in the last minute of that comeback. So you're fighting the thoughts in your head, the visions of being up one and them scoring a two-pointer to go up by one. It wasn't the most pleasant defensive possession that I've ever played.
CM: We did a great job defensively to start. Warren guarding [Kieran] McArdle, just constantly staying on his hands, making it tough for him to even get a shot away. Then, when he finally goes to release it, Matt McMahon, with a great slide, gets a stick in the way, and the ball goes nowhere near the cage.
WJ: They got it down to McArdle on the wing and went right away. I wasn't expecting that, honestly. I was expecting them to take a little bit more time. He attacked me pretty hard. Up and over the top, I had to buckle in and try to slow him down. So I was focused on that, tying him up, and I just remember Matt McMahon coming over, getting a piece on the shot, and sailing it.
MM: They threw a very different look at us with [Kieran] McArdle dodging hard to the goal on Warren pretty much for the first time all game. I'm covering Jake Carraway on the backside of the play. I see McArdle bearing down and turning the corner, and just reading his body language, I know who he is as a player and a person. I was like, ‘this guy's going to try to score and tie the game himself. There is no pass coming out of this dodge.’ And sure enough, he completely sold out to the middle of the field.
WJ: You're not thinking about too much else except that it's me against him. [McArdle]'s trying to do his job; I'm trying to do mine. I just got to keep it simple and make things uncomfortable for him. That's how I like to play my game. I don't try to change anything when the game gets down the stretch there. You want to keep doing what's working. Just bear down, don't think too much, just worry about winning your matchup, trusting that the other guys behind you will do the same thing.
MM: I wouldn't classify [the slide] as a part of film study or anything. It's just more having played in this league for a long time, you've seen a lot of games. You've seen a lot of how they go. You watch enough games on film or see them in real life, and certain trends and stuff just get burned into your memory. And I don't know if it's foresight or anything, but I think your ability to read scenarios is better.
GH: From my angle, I saw Warren was on McArdle, I saw Matt was starting to support, and I was looking to see if [McArdle] was going to try and make a pass out, and I would have needed to help Matt in that case, but I was watching for the next couple of steps in that sequence. He ended up turning his shoulders and trying to go to the net, where Matt was able to pinch him off and not allow him to get a great shot.
MM: You just look at somebody like Kieran with the ball in his stick, bearing down on the goal, and you're just like, “This is either going to be a legendary clip for the Waterdogs and their organization for years to come. Or it's going to be a key piece of our championship memory.”
CM: Matt's slide made it easier for me because he popped the ball up in the air, and now that ball is trickling to the end line. I was a couple of yards behind Michael Sowers, and he was in a tough spot because he's so close to the end line he doesn't want to go out of bounds. But I'm in a position where I got nothing to lose. I just sprint and dive, and if I get the call, I get the call. If I stay in bounds, I stay in bounds.
WJ: I was on the ground on top of McArdle by that point. So I'm just peeking around the net, getting ready for another possession. And I just see ‘Mahersy’ sprinting right past Sowers and diving out of bounds.
CM: I was just surprised. You don't get that much time normally with a shot going out of bounds. But the way Matt slid and Warren was on McCardle’s hands, it just popped up and was a way slower shot going out of bounds than you typically see. I was just staring at the ball and the end line, seeing if I could time it right.
BD: I had a little bit of a beat on it as I was running out towards the end line. If I could have dove, I would have, but I thought, ‘I'm not going to win that dive, and there's X amount of time left on the clock. So if I'm out of the net, and they get the ball back, they could easily dump it in if I'm out there.’ I kind of slipped a bit, but as I'm looking, I see Maher out of the corner of my eye, take two or three hard steps to get to where Sowers was, and dove. I felt that Sowers didn't see him because he's looking at the ref and the ball and didn't see ‘Mahersy,’ and he dove and got to it. It was one hell of a play.
CM: I got ‘Dobber’ and guys behind me yelling at me to “go, go, go dive, dive, dive!’” I mean, I just ended up being fortunate in the right spot. The thing is, if any one of those guys on that defense were in that spot, they would have done the exact same thing. I just happened to be on that low pipe when that shot went off.
GH: I knew it would be tight as soon as he made that dive because Sowers went to go box him out. He kind of dove underneath his shoulder a little bit to get that little bit closer, which was pretty cool to see. Just a really heads-up play.
CM: My biggest thing was avoiding Sowers back. The last thing I want is to try to win that possession and end up just running into the back of him, getting a loose ball push on a play, and them getting a fresh 32-second shot clock. Then, the ball slowed up. I don't know if it was because the ground was slick, but the ball just seemed to slow up. And I just kept going, and it just stayed in bounds long enough for me to get around him and make a play on the ball.
LH: You know ‘Mahersy’ has been doing that all year. Huge hustle guy, such a gamer, a very high IQ as well. Game of inches, man, and he played line-to-line at that moment and got what he earned.
CM: That ball is trickling toward the end line with a minute left in a championship game. I mean, you're going to sell out for it, right?
WJ: You see the ref point our way, and it's like, “Okay, great, let's go!” Hop back up, get the ball out of our zone, and go from there. I was pretty tired after that dodge, so it was nice to get that ball back and get it out of our zone.
CM: It's just one of those things where as soon as I hit the ground, I was just staring at the ref pointing my arm in our direction, hoping, hoping I could do something to get this guy to agree with me, and it ended up working out.
GH: When he won that chase out, I knew how big of a play that was because it's right off their timeout. That was a huge play in terms of maintaining that score. Essentially, it’s a caused turnover because he had to win that race out and got us the ball back, allowing us to eat up another shot clock that late in the game, which is very difficult to do, especially against a talented team like the Waterdogs. Giving them less time with the ball offensively is massive.
BD: After everything settled and after he made those plays, I was excited. I knew that we had to get the win, but as soon as the final second kind of went off, I hugged him and told him, “I love him, and that is one hell of a play,” and being able to make that at that point in time was a huge momentum swing for us. So selfless. Such a good guy. Always smiling. When you see a guy like that make plays, you get fired up too.
MM: The whole last eight minutes of the game, the Graeme hit, the Tom goal, the run out, the Dobson save, those all get jumbled together a little bit, and I think I've already watched that part of the game like ten times since Sunday. It'd be hard to make an argument that there's another point in my lacrosse career that I'm going to enjoy more than that stretch of the game. It meant everything, and I think it's cool to have all that video of the moment after the final whistle, just the amount of relief and release of emotions you can see on everybody on the team. But, most evidently, Coach [Chris] Bates, Coach Resch, Tom, and Ryan [Ambler], I don't know that I've had a sports moment in my life that has felt that cathartic and that meaningful.