Blaze Riorden Lights Fire Under Chaos
By Marisa Ingemi | Aug 8, 2020
It took some chaos for the, well, Chaos to be in a position to play for the PLL championship on Sunday.
Blaze Riorden had a feeling his squad was going to make a run.
After going 0-4 in group play, Chaos won their first two elimination games to earn a berth in the title game against the defending champion Whipsnakes.
To beat the undefeated club, Riorden is going to have the challenge of facing the highest scoring, seemingly unbeatable foe.
“It’s been a long three weeks, and it didn’t start the way we wanted,” said Riorden. “But we talked about this at the start of the tournament, we want to play our best lacrosse we can at the end. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We’ve had bumps along the way but made some changes, and that’s a championship culture.”
When Chaos lost the opening four games, Riorden could hardly be faulted; he’s already had to make 105 saves, far and away the most in the league. His 63 percent save percentage ranks just ahead of the 61 percent from his goalie opponent on Sunday, Kyle Bernlohr of the Whipsnakes.
Chaos found momentum when they started to find the opposing net, but that didn’t mean other teams were finding theirs. Riorden was holding down the fort while Chaos got their act together, and, even in defeat during the group stage, he was a stabilizing force, preventing a full spiral.
“The overall understanding of what needed to be accomplished, well, we had new faces who came in with big roles for our team and the chemistry wasn’t there to start,” said Riorden. “When you have so much talent to choose from, sometimes you don’t find that perfect match, it takes time to click. At the end of the day, we found that at the right time.”
Riorden’s play gave Chaos a chance to win two games they dropped by a single goal while their offense was still finding consistency, so he’s been locked in despite the results and record.
For Riorden, who saw his indoor season come to a close early, like many of the box players on the Chaos roster, a return to lacrosse was a calming presence in his life, and he was focused on playing at his best from moment one.
“I made an executive decision to not bring any laptop or anything,” he said. “I brought myself, my clothes, and a clean mindset. Between COVID-19 and society working out a lot of issues, it’s been a great chance to let my mind be free and enjoy the game I love.”
Riorden and Chaos haven’t seen anything like this dominant Whipsnakes club quite yet. They played early on in group play -- a 12-7 loss for Chaos -- but the Whipsnakes star power has only grown from there as they’ve swept the competition aside to the tune of 13.8 goals per game.
It’s Riorden’s job to stop them, and that’s not a task anyone takes lightly.
“It’s going to take Chaos lacrosse,” said Riorden. “It’s not checkers or chess, it’s lacrosse. Mistakes happen, but we have to limit times we beat ourselves.”
Chaos - Whipsnakes is as close to a David and Goliath matchup for a title as is going to happen in lacrosse. Chaos might attest to their role as David given their momentum, but there’s no denying the Whips’ dominance to date.
The not-so-secret weapon manning the cage for Chaos, though, has something to say about that.
“We have to focus on ourselves and be the best version of ourselves,” said Riorden. “We have to get better every game, and we’ve done that. Now we have a task at hand against the defending champs and they’ve yet to lose a game. We’re excited, and confident.”