Film Study: Connor Kelly’s staircase dodging

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Sep 1, 2021

Waterdogs LC has matchup nightmares running out of the midfield. Zach Currier’s do-it-all style often traps opponents on the wrong side of the midfield line. Mikie Schlosser’s downhill speed is too much for a short-stick to contain. And Connor Kelly’s staircase dodging uses subtle changes of speed to get his hands free in an entirely different way.

Most alley dodgers try to shake their defender with one decisive split dodge, then win a foot race. Kelly makes multiple moves. His rocker and rollback are perfect complements.

Those rolls and re-rolls can bait even the slowest-to-go defenses into a slide. It’s a long time to leave a short-stick on the ball, while his teammates are wondering, “Should we go? Should we go now?”

When they do slide, Kelly has his head up -- and his eyes on Ryan Brown. Brown has shot 4-for-10 (40.0%) off feeds from Kelly. Only Kieran McArdle (4-for-9) has assisted Brown as many times.

Rollbacks are green lights for defenses to send double teams. The Whipsnakes trap from the blindside better than any defense -- but Kelly knows that. He baits those slides, and then hits the open man before the slide arrives.

The Waterdogs are attacking from all angles. Up top with Schlosser. On the lefty wing with Currier. From X with McArdle. And on the righty wing with Kelly’s rollbacks.

“We don’t have a Lyle or a guy like that, an X attackman who’s going to have the ball and make stuff happen. For us, it’s really important that we can keep the thing hot, flip the field, and get the defense’s head turning left, right, up top, down low. That allows us to open up some cutting lanes, some room to pop off each other and rubs,” said Brown after the Waterdogs sweep in Minnesota.

“That’s when we’re at our best. We talk about getting sticky sticks… I think that plays into pro defense’s schemes because then you can double backs and things just get jammed up. Off-ball, when the ball sits in a guy’s stick for a minute, you can only cut so many times before you’re just running into each other. For us we’ve found that the more we make passes, the more offensive movements off the ball open up.”

This sequence is a perfect example of that ball movement. Kelly pops behind an Ethan Walker dodge. He dodges before the defense is ready to help -- and he finds McArdle on the pipe before the third slide arrives.

Hitting singles off those rollbacks is one thing; hitting skips requires an insane level of skill.

The ball doesn’t die in Kelly’s stick. He’ll make the extra move -- like this head fake to sell the granny rocker -- to bait the slide, then bang it thru X.

Kelly, Currier, and Schlosser will need to attack the Whipsnakes’ SSDMs early. Opponents have shot a league-high 29.9% on unassisted attempts against the Whips. The reigning champs miss Tyler Warner. There are one-on-one matchups to be won -- whether it’s with Schlosser’s speed or Kelly’s change of speed and change of direction.

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