Utah Archers attackman Tom Schreiber

Film study: Breaking down Archers’ favorite powerplay action

By Zach Carey | Jun 26, 2024

The Utah Archers offense is averaging 12.7 scores per game, good for second in the league behind only the high-octane New York Atlas. 

Much of that is due to the personnel. The club boasts a laundry list of initiators who fit perfectly alongside All-Star caliber off-ball threats. 

Yet a lot of that success is also a result of the Archers’ offensive scheme, which beautifully complements its players’ strengths and sets them up to succeed with intricate concepts that make defenders’ heads spin. 

Utah is tied for fifth in the league with a 33.3% success rate on powerplays. The Archers have scored on 2 of 6 opportunities, so the club’s powerplay hasn’t been something to write home about so far in 2024. But the action that resulted in both of their powerplay goals is. 

The Archers love to run a double-wheel powerplay with three players, split on either side of the field, rotating in a triangle from the crease, out to the wing, up to the top of the key, back to the crease and so forth. It’s a common set in modern lacrosse that keeps the ball and the players moving and forces defenses to deal with constant motion. 

That action on its own isn’t revolutionary – professional defenders have seen it numerous times before. What the Archers do is capitalize on that familiarity with a savvy but simple wrinkle to generate an open step-down for their best shooters. 

Against the Carolina Chaos, the play started on the righty side of the field with Tre Leclaire catching the ball at the top of the triangle. He passed down to Grant Ament on the wing, who carried upfield – in the set’s usual motion – and transitioned the ball back to Mac O'Keefe at the top of the lefty side.

O’Keefe then turned to his right as if to restart the same action on the lefty side, but swiftly spun back to his left to feed a curling Tom Schreiber for an easy step-down on the right wing. For Schreiber, that shot will almost always be money.

It’s a fascinatingly simple play that works to perfection because of a few key factors. 

First off, because the three-man rotation on the ball-side occupies three of the defense’s five defenders, transitioning the ball from one side to the other drags the most interior defender away. Versus Carolina, Ament’s pass to O’Keefe and O’Keefe’s pump fake to Connor Fields on his left meant that Will Bowen bumped down to his left to occupy Ryan Ambler to allow Jarrod Neumann to bump up and match Fields.

With the defense rotating to O’Keefe’s side, that meant that the Chaos’ weakside defenders – Zach Geddes and Jack Rowlett – collapsed in. At that point, all it took was a gentle seal from Ament on Geddes to give Schreiber a wide-open 10-foot step-down. 

This set is designed to exploit prepared defenses. The subtlety of O’Keefe’s pump fake and the off-ball action is all it takes to create space. And with guys who can sling the rock like Schreiber and O’Keefe, that’s all that’s necessary. 

Utah can run this action on either side of the field – in fact, the Archers scored with it against the Denver Outlaws with O’Keefe and Schreiber switching roles.

Even though Denver rotated less dramatically, the slight shift and Ambler’s occupation of the crease were enough for O’Keefe to exploit a hasty closeout with a hitch to free his hands and can a low-to-low rip. 

The beauty of the play on that occasion was how it worked in a short-clock situation. On the powerplay coming out of halftime, Utah only had 15 seconds of an advantage after winning the faceoff. But that’s all it took thanks to the rapid nature of the play design. 

Where things get really fun is when penalty kill units think they know what’s coming. In the Archers’ 2023 season opener against the Cannons, they ran the same set for an O’Keefe step-down in the first quarter. Although Colin Kirst saved the shot, it set up another powerplay look later on. 

In the third quarter, Utah went back to the same action with O’Keefe curling up the lefty wing as Schreiber pump faked, spun and looked back to his right. After losing O’Keefe and getting stuck behind the Ambler seal in the first half, Jake Pulver extended out to O’Keefe to take away that shot. 

Expecting that, Schreiber threw a second pump fake to O’Keefe to keep pulling Pulver upfield and then found Ambler open in the gap because the rest of the Cannons defense failed to rotate with Pulver.

It’s such a simple but sneaky play that leaves defenses scratching their heads. Utah has run it three times so far in 2024 and has scored twice. It’s not the basis of the Archers’ powerplay. But it’s a great counter that forces defenses to be on their toes and highlights the intricacies of the club’s offensive scheme.