Archers Champ

Archers LC wins 2023 PLL Cash App Championship

By Zach Carey

Sep 24, 2023

When Tom Schreiber let his game-winning low-to-high shot go, the momentum was entirely in the Waterdogs’ favor. The Philadelphia crowd had rallied behind Michael Sowers, the Waterdogs, and the vaunted ‘Dogs defense, and the Archers offense was struggling to find its footing. They hadn’t scored a goal in settled offense in 19:46 of game play as the Waterdogs were dominating the individual matchups. 

Schreiber changed that, though. 

After the Archers had failed to generate any sort of space on their 32-second possession in the final two minutes of the game, Schreiber saw the shot clock running low, wound up and started to step into a shot before pump-faking to make Ben Randall bite, and then he carried upfield and fired a howitzer of a shot off his back foot that snuck past Matt DeLuca in cage.

“He’s a great lacrosse player,” said Waterdogs Head Coach and General Manager Andy Copelan after the game. “He hadn’t yet won a PLL Championship, I know I read an article on whether this was a legacy game for Tom Schreiber. I think Tom Schreiber’s legacy was cemented long before this game, but he certainly cemented it with that goal.” 

Schreiber’s goal put the Archers up 15-14 with 1:37 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the rest is history. After Kieran McArdle’s shot went wide on the following Waterdogs possession, the Archers wasted the clock down the full 52 seconds to give the ball back to their opponent with only 11.7 seconds on the clock. Jake Carraway got his hands free for what would’ve been a game-winning 2-pointer, but Brett Dobson got a piece of the shot and sent it wide. 

Following four years of disappointment, this is the Archers Lacrosse Club’s first championship. The postseason demons that haunted them for the past three seasons have officially been vanquished. 

Perhaps even more notably, the duo of Chris Bates and Tom Schreiber now have won their first championship together. 4,833 days ago, Bates showed up on Schreiber’s doorstep and convinced the youngster from Long Island to play for him at Princeton. More than 13 years later, Schreiber doused his head coach and mentor in Gatorade as the Archers stormed the field at Subaru Park.

With Bates tearing up next to him at the championship press conference, Schreiber said that, as he dunked the Gatorade on Bates, “it all hit me at once. Getting to do that… this team plays for him. He’s our leader in everything we do, and to share that moment was pretty special and something I’ll never forget.” 

“The fact that he finds me with the Gatorade, it’s been a long journey and to share this together feels fitting in so many ways,” said Bates. “I love him, he’s family. To share this is something special. It’s something we get to share forever and that’s priceless to me.” 

Beyond the player-coach relationship that led the Archers to their first ring, it was second year goalie Brett Dobson between the pipes who sparked the victory. Registering 18 saves on 31 shots faced (58.1%) in the biggest game of his career, Dobson was named the Championship MVP after he out-dueled longtime mentor and friend Dillon Ward in the opposite net.

“Without him, I’m not here,” said Dobson of the impact Ward has had on his career. “His success is something I’ve always wanted to chase. I’ve won some bragging rights for now, but I’m sure he’ll get the chance to bring it back to me.” 

Dobson’s save with 8:06 left in the fourth quarter was arguably the turning point for the Archers in the final stanza of play. The Waterdogs had scored four straight points, and Ryan Conrad came uncovered, stormed down the seam at Dobson, and let a shot rip from roughly ten yards away. But Dobson flipped his hands across his face to stop the shot and deflect the ball high into the air. 

Graeme Hossack corralled the rebound and sent the ball down the field where Grant Ament found Mac O’Keefe for a goal that became their most memorable connection yet. That score put the Archers up 13-12, and while Schreiber’s game-winner proved to be the difference in the end, that goal and the Tre Leclaire one thirty seconds later gave the club a crucial buffer to withstand the Waterdogs’ late push.

The Archers also overcame numerous injuries on their way to hoisting the Cash App Championship Trophy. LSM Jon Robbins hurt his knee in the middle of the season and missed the rest of the year, Latrell Harris tore his ACL in the final week of the regular season, Connor Fields separated his right shoulder in the semifinals and missed the championship, and Cam Wyers went down in the second quarter against the Waterdogs in Philadelphia. 

Somehow, some way, the Archers persevered. To account for all the injuries, Reid Bowering made his PLL debut and scored a goal against the Waterdogs, Challen Rogers played short stick to account for Harris’ absence and then switched back and forth between playing LSM and SSDM following Wyers’ injury, and rookie short stick Connor Maher used a pole on the team’s power play kill. 

“We just kept talking about finding a way to earn a win,” said Bates. “I couldn’t be more proud or pleased for our guys. It’s something we get to cherish together, and I think we’re going to do that for the rest of our lives.” 

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