How Grant Ament has flourished playing midfield for the Archers
Grant Ament has always played attack. He’s a prototypical X-attackman in the same mold of guys like Rob Pannell and Michael Sowers. His lightning quick, flawless footwork and elite vision made him the #1 pick in the 2020 PLL College Draft and the league’s Attackman of the Year in 2021.
So why in the world is the former Penn State star running out of the box for the Archers in the back half of the season?
Why Grant Ament is playing midfield
Believe it or not, Ament playing at midfield has been something on the mind of Archers Head Coach and General Manager Chris Bates from before the 2023 season began. With so many mouths to feed on an offense loaded with talent, the club has always been willing to mix and match as the season progresses and Bates trusted that Ament could be positionally versatile if it suited the offense.
The offseason addition of Ament’s partner in crime, Mac O’Keefe, the added importance of an aggressive dodging presence in early offense as a result of the 32-second shot clock, and the emergence of Connor Fields and Matt Moore at attack have all contributed to Ament’s move to midfield. His left hamstring injury that flared back up in the season opener and has been nagging him ever since certainly hasn’t helped matters.
Since Moore — who’s also been dealing with a left hamstring injury himself over the last month plus — thrived at attack in Ament’s absence and provides “a little more thump,” in early offense, Ament has willingly tried his hand at coming out of the box over the last four games.
“Everyone’s pushing in the same direction, and everybody knows their role,” says Ament of his shift to midfield. “The beauty of it is we don’t think we’ve played our best lacrosse yet, and that’s exciting for us. I’ve been running out of the box the last three games and it was a little uncomfortable, but we were still able to win and that’s a testament to a great team.”
Ament clearly wasn’t comfortable dodging up top over the past few weekends. Something looked off in his typically explosive footwork with short stick defenders able to bully him at the point of attack. He scored two points in the two games — versus Waterdogs and Atlas — he played fully at midfield, and he only registered 12 touches against Atlas as he struggled to establish much rhythm within the offense.
How Ament is starting to make a difference at midfield
But in Saturday’s win against Chrome, something changed. From the jump he looked like the Ament of old, able to exploit angles and create separation in uncomfortable areas of the field for the defense.
On his very first touch of the game he created a clear scoring opportunity by dodging down the left alley.
His hard movement and plant to his right froze Alexander Smith, and his subsequent roll to his left put Smith on his back. Ament’s anticipation of JT Giles Harris hedging towards him paid off with Moore’s cut around the crease, and his perfect feed to his cutting teammate created a great look at the cage.
This is the type of impact Bates would’ve hoped Ament could have out of the box. Speed is speed and agility is agility no matter where it is on the field, and that’s becoming more obvious as Ament spends more time up top.
He did nearly the same thing again in the second quarter. Ament’s right-to-left split left Smith in his dust, and he read Chrome’s slide perfectly, delaying his dodge enough to fade back to his right and place the ball in Fields’ stick for a straightforward step-down.
A collection of developments have led to Ament’s growing comfort out of the box. First of all, he’s getting healthier and is starting to feel like himself again on the field.
“I was definitely more comfortable today,” said Ament after the game. “Physically I was more confident, candidly. I felt like I had my legs back under me.”
Ament has also been picking the brains of Bates and the team’s resident best midfielder in the world, Tom Schreiber. “I had some good conversations with Tom and Coach Bates,” he added. “Really just trying to learn from those guys and to try to be able to play anywhere on the field. I felt like tonight I was able to get some steps on guys and create. That’s a testament to Coach Bates and Tom getting in my ear, getting me confident, and saying ‘Be aggressive, go do your thing.’ It’s pretty easy to believe in yourself when you’ve got those guys behind you.”
Bates and Schreiber are a pretty spectacular duo from which to learn the ins and outs of playing offensive midfield, and Ament is adapting well. He’s always been best when he can utilize angles, find open space to get his defender moving in different directions, and then punish the defense for not being perfect in their slide package. Impressively, he and the Archers offense have quickly grown comfortable with creating opportunities for that with him playing up top.
It’s a testament to the Archers’ culture and Ament’s selflessness as a player that both parties are now seeing returns on his switch to midfield. Frankly, he would’ve been justified for being frustrated with the position change. But there’s been no evidence of that whatsoever, and it’s paying off in major ways for him and the club as a whole.
Assuming that Moore’s tweak of his left hamstring on Saturday isn’t too severe, Ament will be back at midfield in due time. But after his first half performance against Chrome, the Archers can be confident that he can still bring his typical snap, crackle, and pop to the midfield position.
Winning championships requires compromise. It necessitates individuals sacrificing and adapting for the sake of the team and doing it willingly and effectively. The Archers have been the best team in the PLL through eight weeks, and Ament’s continued impact as an initiator out of the box could be the offense’s x-factor in a potential championship run.