The Premier Lacrosse League’s postseason format aims to prevent tanking. The top pick isn’t awarded; it’s won. And this year, it wasn’t won by the last-place Chrome or the fifth-place Atlas. The Archers (the third seed!) are on the clock for the 2020 PLL Draft.
The Archers are already a Championship-caliber club. There are no glaring holes to fill on this roster. There’s no positional need; instead, the “need” is whatever positions them to beat the league’s best teams.
No team shot worse against the postseason teams than the Archers (23.9% against the Whipsnakes, Redwoods, and Chaos). Team defenses – and Blaze Riorden, who saved 62.1% of the Archers’ shots in 2019 – gave this offense problems. When I spoke with the Redwoods defense in the week leading up to their first-round matchup in Columbus, they weren’t worried about the matchup. Multiple players told me that they fear an offense with an attackman who can break you down, like Matt Rambo, over a team offense.
A perfect offense would have a little bit of both. When the Archers are humming, the ball movement is beautiful. It’s the best in the league. But when teams switched their picks and dared them to dodge short-sticks for unassisted goals, that ball movement disappeared and shooting percentages dropped.
In those tough matchups, the Archers’ offense needed a little more oomph. Someone who can break you down with low time on the shot clock. Another attackman who can beat a long-stick – and if matched up on a short-stick, sends the defense into panic mode.
Michael Sowers (Princeton) and Grant Ament (Penn State) can be that attackman at X. Head Coach Chris Bates really liked how this offense looked with Christian Cuccinello giving them a consistent presence behind the cage. Sowers or Ament would be the lightning to Cuccinello’s thunder.
Not many people can (or dare to) lower their shoulder into Tucker Durkin and plow their way to the island like that. Big-little picks behind the cage often produce switches for Cuccinello – and defenses are quick to slide to Cuccinello against short-sticks. When the defense is scrambling, Marcus Holman and Will Manny are at their best. They cut behind the fill or pop into space as the defense recovers
Drawing more slides from X will lead to better shots for Holman and Manny. Sowers and Ament are the top two offensive prospects in the draft; both operate primarily at X. However, this pick hinges on Pat Spencer – the top pick in the 2019 PLL Draft – and his basketball future. If Spencer plays for the Archers in 2020, then there might be better fits available.
Jeff Teat (Cornell), Charlie Bertrand (Merrimack), and Michael Kraus (Virginia) live on the lefty wing. Late in the season, Ryan Ambler and Joey Sankey showed how dangerous this offense can be initiating from that area with Manny as a mirror. Running Teat, Bertrand, or Kraus out of the box against a short-stick would put the defense in a similar bind. Help from Manny?
…or allow a sweep to the middle of the field?
Mac O’Keefe (Penn State) could fit in this offense, too. Can you imagine O’Keefe and Manny running a mumbo on the lefty side while Tom Schreiber initiates? Skip lanes galore.
Bet on the Archers adding a slick, versatile offensive weapon. Someone who can feed, finish, and break down their defender. The distinction between attackman and midfielder is not important to them. They’ll run six attackmen at once if the spacing works. At times, the Archers ran Ambler, Sankey and Davey Emala out of the box. More important than traditional positional labels is striking a balance between lefties and righties, between dodgers and finishers. Adding another hybrid dodger-feeder-finisher could help this offense crack the league’s best defenses when it matters most.