Jake Carraway’s Champ Series shooting experience will give the Waterdogs a boost
When Jake Carraway leapt off one leg to sink the first step-back 2 in Championship Series history, tears streamed from his eyes. After catching a pass from Romar Dennis in the teeth of the defense, Carraway spun back to the top of the arc and fired a laser just below the crossbar, then hobbled off the field.
“If you’re giving me the first step-back 2 in PLL Champ Series history, I’ll take that,” Carraway said postgame.
Carraway pulled his groin on the first day of practice with the Atlas before the inaugural Championship Series. He could barely take two steps at full speed without suffering immense pain, so Carraway was tasked to stick with his strength: shooting. In five games, he hit six 2-point shots at a 55% rate, ranking third in the tournament. He totaled 15 scoring points.
“I felt bad for the team because my role was essentially to just go out and shoot,” Carraway said. “I couldn’t really play defense, and I couldn’t really dodge.”
Carraway described the Champ Series’ 13-yard arc as “every shooter’s dream.” 2-point land is two yards closer in sixes than it is in the summer, which puts shooters like Carraway at a massive advantage. With a fresh bill of health and experience in the midfield, Carraway is aiming to expand on his dominant performance from a year ago to make it more complete.
Carraway’s grit in the Champ Series caught the eye of Waterdogs head coach and general manager Andy Copelan, who signed him shortly thereafter. Carraway “reinvented” himself with the ‘Dogs, playing “some of the most fun lacrosse” he’d ever played, in a new role. He embraced the shift from attack to midfield, and his sharpshooting was just what the ‘Dogs needed after Ryan Brown retired.
Among players on a Championship Series roster, Carraway ranks fourth in shots and goals from 13+ yards since 2019. He hit three 2s this past season before his would-be game-winner in the championship game was barely swatted away.
“My strength as a player has always been shooting,” Carraway said. “I think just doing my normal drills I’ve done my entire life will flow into that and make things a lot easier when we step on the sixes field and it’s two yards closer.”
With that said, Carraway was much more than just a shooter for the Waterdogs last season. In the midfield, he learned to dodge the alleys, shoot with his left, get back in the hole and come screaming out of the box. Those weren’t in his job description at Georgetown or with the Atlas, but will come in handy during sixes.
Apart from the injured Carraway, everyone played offense and everyone played defense in the Champ Series last season. It’s unavoidable with the quick pace and limited personnel. The Atlas subbed players off after 2-3 runs, Carraway said, a strategy somewhere between basketball and hockey. Having that perspective is valuable to him in the tournament’s second year of operation, especially since none of his teammates have experience with this format.
To prepare for the quick pace and instinctual movements in sixes, Carraway has done high-intensity interval training (HIIT). He’s focused on short burst sprint duration, which is different from the long-distance cardio work he typically does for the outdoor season.
To that end, Carraway hopes to make his presence known on both ends after being unable to last season. No team has scored less than 14 in a game, and the Atlas reached 31 against the Archers. Thus, defensive effort and adjustments will be increasingly significant as the week goes on, and Carraway is determined to contribute this time around.
“As a primarily offensive guy my whole life, I think I have a little chip on my shoulder to get back in and dish out a couple cross checks and slaps here and there to guys that deserve them,” Carraway said.
Last season, Atlas’ game plan was to hammer the 2, which they did, scoring over 3x more (38) than the next closest team (12). Carraway’s offensive presence was at the center of their success, and he’ll be featured similarly this year.
In May, Copelan said he signed Carraway partially because of his belief that winning the 2-point battle puts PLL teams at a “distinct advantage.” That advantage is magnified in the Championship Series format, making Carraway’s role even more significant.
“I think the 2-pointer is huge for sixes, to capitalize on that early and often,” Carraway said eagerly. “13 yards is short. That is very short.”