Photo courtesy of Nick Ieradi

How Chaos Can Stop Rob Pannell

By Daniel May | Sep 4, 2023

Chaos LC commence another Cash App Playoffs run this Saturday against the Redwoods, whom they’ve split the season series with 1-1. 

A big name on the scouting report is Rob Pannell, who sits 4th in assists and 9th in points in the PLL this season. In 2023, Pannell has had more success against Chaos than any other team – averaging 5.5 points per game. 

There’s no question that limiting the production of one of the greatest players in pro lacrosse history will be imperative to their success in Saturday’s quarterfinal. So how can they do it? 

Make it a 1-on-1 Battle

Let one of the best players in PLL, who’s made a living in his career dodging from behind the cage, initiate all game? You might think I’m crazy, but you forgot one thing – Chaos has Jack Rowlett.

The finalist for PLL Defender of the Year is a nightmare of a cover who has neutralized his matchup all season. 

“There’s no one in the league he can't cover.  Whether it's an attackman with speed in [Michael] Sowers or an attackman like Zed Williams – he's covered both of those guys extremely well. And then he has the versatility to get bumped up and cover top-notch midfielders as well. I think he's the best takeaway guy in the league, as you can see with all the overhead checks he consistently throws at such a high rate,” said Troy Reh.  

Rowlett has 12 caused turnovers on the season, which is fifth in the PLL. He's limited shooters to 15% shooting when he’s the closest defender, tied for 11th in the league with Chaos teammate Ian MacKay

Pannell hasn't found much success this season shooting the rock with a 21% shooting percentage.

Combined with the fact that Rowlett thrives as a versatile defender who sticks to his matchup, forcing Pannell to take him on as a shooter and dodger will play into Chaos’ hand.  Pannell has a deep bag of tricks and an impeccable lacrosse IQ, but he cannot get a step on Rowlett. Good chances will not come out of it.

Rowlett has had success this season covering Pannell, keeping him goalless in their last matchup.

In the second matchup, he caused one turnover off a longer isolation dodge from X. Pannell drove upfield to his right hand, never getting a step or his hands-free. He drove up to the edge of the 2-pt arc, rolled back to his left hand, and Rowlett took the ball away with an opportunistic over-the-head check.

Every time Rowlett has covered Pannell this season, he hasn’t scored. He owns the matchup, forcing multiple missed shots in the second matchup in Baltimore.

In this example, Pannell drove upfield to his left hand. Since he has a patented question mark dodge, Rowlett was patient – knowing Pannell was setting up his right hand. Once he rolled back and tried to get off a right-handed shot, Rowlett stayed on his shoulder, which forced an off-balanced shot, leaning away from the goal. It was an easy save for Blaze Riorden and sparked transition the other way. 

Pannell will inevitably find his way on the scoresheet this weekend, but as we’ve seen this season, Rowlett is a menacing matchup that will severely affect his impact. 

Don’t Let Pannell Sit and Survey the Field

Pannell thrives against Chaos as a feeder. With 19 assists on the season – fourth in the PLL – Pannell will find open players on the field. His vision is vast, and his IQ allows him to see the next play as it develops. 

In their first matchup of the season during week 4 in Minneapolis, Pannell went off for three goals and four assists. But the goals weren't the issue; it was how Pannell torched Chaos as a feeder. He showcased his vision with uncanny cross-field passes only Tom Schreiber or Grant Ament have replicated.

Although that clip was a one-and-done, Pannell found the easy looks that Chaos had given him in both matchups. 

The point of emphasis needs to be turning him into a shooter rather than a feeder, getting on his hands from behind the cage, and not hedge aggressively to prevent him from finding players on the crease; that’s how he capitalized in prior matchups. 

Don’t let Pannell hang you up behind the cage. And if he does, make sure you get beneath your man in front of the cage and check down on their hands to prevent chances on the crease.

Yes, Chaos has Blaze Riorden, but it’s imperative not to rely on him the whole game. Get on Pannell’s hands, cover players above the cage, and try to flush him out as best you can to take away those easy opportunities. 

Don’t Hedge Aggressively When He Dodges

I have faith Rowlett will win his matchup, and Chaos is poised behind the dodge when he’s on-ball. That’s not a concern.

 When Pannell gets a short-stick matchup, he finds the open man inside caused by an over-hedging defender.

Zach Geddes was doing a great job keeping Pannell contained so there’s no need to flush the ball out of his stick when his feet are set, his head is up, and his hands are free. 

Yes, it’s advantageous to get the ball out of Pannell’s stick. Still, it’s important to flush the ball out of his stick in a manner that doesn’t create high-quality scoring chances. 

Chaos has the athletes on the defensive end to make Pannell work extremely hard for chances, so there’s no need to panic. Slow to go and poise in the slide and recovery packages will negate his impact.