Joe Nardella Draws All The Right Answers in the Championship Series

By Marisa Ingemi | Aug 1, 2020

The strongest performance of the PLL Championship Series has come from Joe Nardella.

The Whipsnakes faceoff specialist has won 78 percent of his draws entering Sunday’s game with the Archers for the top seed, an astounding number more than 15 percent higher than the next leader.

It’s not like Nardella’s prowess is out of left field; he won 55 percent of his draws a season ago. But something about his game has a different edge this time around.

“I feel great, even as the games go on,” said Nardella. “I guess it’s a little bit of a surprise, but not really.”

This has been the first calendar year Nardella is playing lacrosse year-round, even during a global pandemic that paused everyone’s ability to play for several months.

He spent his first season playing professional indoor lacrosse over the winter before the NLL season abruptly halted, and spent time training with a group of other faceoff specialists he’s close with while preparing for the PLL season -- including Max Adler and TD Ierlan, but also the Waterdogs’ Drew Simoneau.

“I feel like that has given me better results in my field play,” said Nardella. “Those guys really helped me a lot…. The defensive play (of indoor) has helped my overall lacrosse IQ, and that decision making under pressure.”

Those elements and the stickwork it takes to play indoor lacrosse has given Nardella new skills, and in such a strong faceoff league, it’s elevated him to a new level.

All those efforts accumulated with a 71 percent showing against Trevor Baptiste -- widely regarded as the best faceoff specialist in the game -- on Thursday night in the second Whipsnakes win.

“A lot of what goes into taking him on is wing play,” said Nardella. “I think we have the best wings (Michael Ehrhardt, Tyler Warner) in the league. If you look at our clamp stats, we’re pretty even, but what happens after the faceoff is what it takes to beat him.”

Nardella’s clamp rate for 2020 is 54.5 percent, but what’s more impressive is how many draws he can win even when he doesn’t earn the clamp right off the bat; he’s won 72 percent of faceoffs where he doesn’t earn the clamp.

When he does get the clamp though, Nardella is just about unstoppable; his 93.3 percent of faceoff wins after he’s won the clamp is one of the more jarring stats in the entire league.

“You can’t even think about it,” he said. “It’s one faceoff at a time, like the first couple of games. That’s really what has brought us success since last season, there’s no need to deviate from that.”

Perhaps that’s where his biggest adjustment has been as well; Nardella’s 38.5 percent on the clamp was the worst in the league, and he still managed to be a faceoff specialist of the year finalist.

What we’re seeing now though is a different player.

“People underestimate how hard it is to put your body through that,” said Nardella. “If I do my job on the field and focus on helping the team, good things are going to happen.”

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