Matchup Preview: Rambo vs. Epple

By Austin Owens | Jun 24, 2022

Week 4 in the Premier Lacrosse League is upon us in Baltimore, and the feature matchup of the weekend is the first iteration of the Redwoods-Whipsnakes rivalry in 2022. 

With the bright lights shining down at Homewood Field, a fierce head-to-head between Matt Rambo and Garrett Epple is on deck. 

You may not find a more physical pairing to go mano a mano. Rambo – the leader of Thicc Boi Nation – loves to lower a shoulder and back down his defender in order to get topside or free up his hands. He’s fearless and won’t back down from anyone, and he’s up there as one of the toughest players in the PLL. 

However, the same goes for Epple. He’ll give no quarter when going up against opposing attackmen. On top of being one of the most physically imposing close defenders the league has to offer, he plays with a nasty streak that has made him a nightmare matchup.

This will be a showdown with two bulls locking horns for a full 48 minutes. 

The pair went head to head in Week 8 of last season, with Rambo returning to the Whips’ lineup after an injury stint. 

In the first half, Rambo managed just a single assist, as Epple operated above the goal line with Rambo behind at X. Throughout the game, the Whips used the two-man game to switch Epple off of Rambo. Rambo’s lone assist of the first half came off of a play where he got a switch against Finn Sullivan after setting a pick for Zed Williams – who Epple switched onto. Rambo was able to muscle Sullivan about five yards up the right-wing for a dish to Jay Carlson

Through three quarters, the Woods were able to hold Rambo to just two points, which could be looked at as a victory for them.

Then…the fourth rolled around.

Rambo was in on three consecutive goals to open the frame, and he potted two of them himself. The first came off another switch against Myles Jones, who was caught on defense. Jake Bernhardt took him to X and set a pick on Epple – which the defender blew up to try and get to Rambo. Another roll topside and the game was tied. Rambo finished the night with four goals and six points. He didn’t need to get a specific player one-on-one to win. The goal was ultimately to get Rambo off of Epple to give him the best chance to succeed.

The Woods like to switch every pick, and that played into the Whips’ hand in that matchup, and it will likely be prominent again on Friday. 

The Whips are in familiar standing, sitting at the top of the standings with an undefeated record. Nothing changes for them. Play Whipsnakes lacrosse and hit singles. Come in, execute, leave…usually with a victory. 

The Woods have managed to mitigate the loss of Matt Landis, who was their top matchup defender. Epple went from one of the scariest slide threats in the league into that role since 2019. He’s been able to do a great job transitioning and staying one of the top defenders in the PLL. 

This time around

Getting switches for Rambo led to a victory for the Whips last season. They’ll undoubtedly be looking for that again. Also playing against the Woods is the return of Zed Williams, who was activated to the 25-man roster mid-week. 

Zed adds another element with his quick-strike ability from anywhere in the offensive end. He even proved that he can sting 2-bombs if given the room. He finished with five goals in the Week 8 matchup, and goal totals like that seem to be par for the course for Zeddy. 

With Zed in the lineup, Rambo had averaged 3.5 points per game while shooting 29.7 percent. Without his running mate at attack, Rambo is at 1.75 PPG while shooting just 13.3 percent. 

With the Whips back to full strength offensively, the Woods will get their biggest challenge of the year to date on defense. 

Rambo is still the offensive initiator for Jim Stagnitta’s outfit, and Epple will have to put in a complete shift to help his team come out with their second consecutive victory.

What a way to kick off the weekend at one of the best venues in lacrosse.