Photo credits Nick Ierardi

One Takeaway From Each Team’s Opening Weekend

By Sarah Griffin | Jun 5, 2023

1. Archers: A mix of the old and the new creates the perfect on and off-field chemistry for the Archers

The Archers saw a lot change this offseason losing some big names. The departures of Marcus Holman, Will Manny, and Adam Ghitelman marked the end of an era. A roster loaded with talent, they could never quite get over the hump.

Now after a 16-13 win to open the season, we got to see what this new era looks like and I have to say: it looks pretty, pretty good.

The Archers have created a perfect blend of the old and new. Tom Schreiber is still Tom Schreiber. Connor Fields’ role on offense has elevated. Grant Ament is dynamic as ever as an initiator, dodger, and feeder. Latrell Harris is still the most underrated SSDM in the league.

On the flip side, Ament reunited this offseason with his former Penn State teammate and perhaps favorite target in Mac O’Keefe. 23-year old Brett Dobson is now THE guy in net. Rookie faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger showed us he was well-worth that fifth overall pick. It’s obviously very very early in the season, but head coach Chris Bates took risks with his roster and it paid off in week one. 

Will the Archers go 10-0? Most likely not. But a 16-goal showing from their offense, an 80% day at the X from Sisselberger in his pro debut, and 16-save game from Dobson in his second pro field start sure is a good place to begin.

One thing that the stat sheet can’t show is the chemistry this team has even after only a week with each other. In their postgame press conference it was all smiles from Fields and Sisselberger. The vet and rookie both kept reiterating what a great week it’s been spending time with everyone and building that team connection on and off the field. Don’t interpret this as a way too early prediction because it’s not, but if there’s one thing we’ve seen over the last four seasons it’s that the teams who are the closest are usually the ones in the title game. Unless I end up being right - then this absolutely is a way too early prediction. 


2. Atlas: Is practice overrated? Xander Dickson makes a good case

Kidding, for the most part. Atlas head coach Mike Pressler did joke after his three-goal game in his pro debut fresh off Final Four Weekend, for Xander Dickson, that might be the case.

Dickson shot 75% in his first game for the Bulls fitting in seamlessly on an already lethal Atlas attack. He connected with both Jeff Teat and Eric Law to help produce his first professional hat trick, and even landed himself a spot on SportsCenter Top 10.

“He’s everything we thought he was,” remarked Pressler. “He’s as advertised. He’s an incredible off-ball player and a better on-ball player than he gets credit for. He was terrific.”

It was a slow start for Atlas in the first quarter against a Redwoods team that came out swinging but the Bulls battled back. Dickson’s third goal brought them within one goal with less than a minute remaining in regulation as he put the whole league on notice of his arrival.

Despite the disappointing result, it’s safe to say the Whipsnakes defense is likely game planning for Dickson ahead of this weekend as we speak. 


3. Cannons: Even with some returning faces, this is an entirely new Cannons team

I don’t think I’m alone when I say there wasn’t a team I was more excited to see on Opening Weekend than the Cannons. New coach, new faces on both sides of the ball, and an overall new team mentality. Even with some returning faces, this is not the same team as last year - anything you remember about the 2022 Cannons is in the past.

Marcus Holman, Matt Kavanagh, Kyle Hartzell, and Adam Ghitelman all touched the field for the first time in red, white, and blue along with rookie Matt Campbell’s pro debut. All five made an instant impact in their respective roles, but as head coach Brian Holman said, there’s still a lot to figure out after one game.

“As a group, we’re still trying to establish an identity,” explained Coach Holman. “We were tough and we were resilient - both words our guys want to be described as. It’s all about wins and learns, and today we learned a lot.”

If there’s one clear takeaway after Opening Weekend, it’s the importance of the development of “Cannon culture” on and off the field.

Marcus used the phrase in his postgame press conference as Kavanagh nodded in agreement.

 “It’s about our energy. It’s a lot of guys hungry to win. We want to make the right plays, and we want to play together,” said Marcus. “I’m not a Philly guy, but we’ve got to trust the process.”

Coach Holman mentioned returning players wanted a change in the locker room mentality; the idea of “buy-in” was never an issue with this group. Saturday afternoon was just step one in the process. 

4. Chaos: What’s worse than facing one Rowlett…?

After Nick Rowlett’s pro debut Sunday afternoon in the championship rematch versus the Waterdogs, the answer to this one is easy.

“I hope the Rowletts don’t have a third boy coming up,” joked Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan. 

Nick went 13-for-18 (72%) at the X with 7 ground balls in his first pro game. After a dominant season at Michigan this spring to help lead the Wolverines to their first tournament appearance, the faceoff specialist picked up right where he left off. 

“With success at the faceoff X I probably get all the credit because of the percentage, but every time it’s a 3-on-3. My attackmen are getting open for me, guys are boxing out, guys are getting up field, clearing out space on the field, they made it easy for me,” Nick said. 

In a gritty low-scoring defensive battle on both sides, Coach Towers lauded Nick’s efforts at the stripe to fight for those offensive possessions for Chaos. Of course, when you’re talking about a defensive battle with Chaos, you have to assume brother Jack was in the mix. 

Considered by many the top defenseman in the league, it’s nothing new for Jack to find himself matched up 1-on-1 with the best of the best on offense each weekend. Though Waterdogs attackman Michael Sowers might’ve gotten the best of him in 2022, round one this season goes to Jack. He held Sowers to only three shots on net in the first half, and four in the second half with just one goal all game coming in the fourth quarter with the Dogs on the man-up advantage. 

“Michael Sowers is an unbelievable player. He’s one of the very best players in the world,” exclaimed Towers. “But he had a tough matchup today in Jack Rowlett. I’ll take Jack Rowlett covering anybody, any day, any time.”


5. Chrome: Chrome’s selfless culture was on full display to account for their 12 goals 

Something I’ve always taken away in conversations with Chrome head coach Tim Soudan is how much he and his team value the selfless culture that they’ve built in their locker room over the years. No egos, no flashiness, just a group of guys playing for each other and looking to win. 

With eight different goal scorers in their 12-11 victory over the Whipsnakes, that selfless culture was on full display with Chrome’s offense. Soudan’s built a roster that as Chrome beat writer Nick Zoroya said “have legitimate threats all over the field.” We saw the usual culprits in Justin Anderson, Logan Wisnauskas, Jackson Morrill, and Colin Heacock get involved, but we also saw goals in transition from SSDM Ryan Terefenko and defenseman Mike Manley

I can’t discuss Chrome’s win without talking about their rookies though. Sam Handley shot 2-for-4 in his debut and assisted on one of Anderson’s four goals. Cross Ferrara, well - you know what Cross Ferrara did.

6. Redwoods: John Grant Jr.’s new-look Redwoods offense looks even better than expected

Before Saturday’s season opener between the Redwoods and Atlas, Redwoods head coach Nat St. Laurent said the vibes at the Woods training camp were much better than they were a year ago. Less than 24 hours later, the results on the field proved that sentiment to be true.

With John Grant Jr. now at the reins as the Redwoods offensive coordinator, everyone expected improvements from their O after a down year, but somehow they still exceeded expectations in their first game. 

“I think it’s going to be a happy medium of that Canadian philosophy of indoor and the American philosophy of outdoor,” attackman Rob Pannell told Redwoods beat writer Jerome Taylor ahead of Saturday’s game. “I’m excited to see the off-ball movement increase and guys creating space and keeping their defenders occupied.”

Well, they definitely checked off both boxes. Ryder Garnsey in particular showed out in Albany with six goals to help push his team to victory. “The Kid,” as Coach St. Laurent calls him, simply couldn’t stop winning last week. From an NCAA Championship as an assistant coach for Notre Dame last Monday, to a brief stint at training camp, right to a six-goal game for himself and a 1-0 start to the season, it was a good week to be Ryder Garnsey.

Outside of Garnsey, we also saw the return of Wes Berg in a Redwoods uniform. Berg played for the Woods in 2019 but was picked up by the Waterdogs in the 2020 expansion draft. A free agent this past season, it was a no-brainer for St. Laurent to bring him back. Berg has both the Canadian box background and also the personal connection to Grant Jr. from his Denver Outlaws days. He fit right in with this new-look Woods offense, producing three goals on three shots along with an assist. 


7. Waterdogs: There’s no such thing as a Championship hangover when you’re Zach Currier 

It wasn’t the prettiest win for the returning champs, but when you have the best two-way player in the world on your side (the Patrice Bergeron of lacrosse if you will), you still get it done.

As Waterdogs beat writer Wyatt Miller said, Zach Currier was the Dogs’ most efficient player on offense, defense, and the faceoff. Two goals on three shots, three caused turnovers, four ground balls, and a faceoff win, it was just another day at the office for Currier.

“He’s a beast,” said teammate Connor Kelly. “To have him between the lines playing defensive end, pushing transition, he’s one of the best in the world.”

“It’s the same old Zach,” added Kieran McArdle.

Like every team, the Waterdogs have a lot to clean up and look back at in film after Opening Weekend. But at the very least, it’s safe to say there’s no concern of a “Championship hangover” when it comes to Currier.


8. Whipsnakes: A never before seen youth movement on the Whips

The Whipsnakes dressed five rookies in their season opener, more than any other team. Petey LaSalla, Tucker Dordevic, Sean Lulley, Garrett Leadmon, and Roman Puglise all made their pro field debuts versus Chrome on Sunday afternoon. 

Head coach Jim Stagnitta said this year’s training camp has been the team’s most competitive one yet with so many new faces at camp. With injuries to some of their usual 19-man guys and strong showings in camp from the rookies, it was a youth movement from the Whips on Sunday afternoon.

“There were a lot of guys out there playing in their first PLL game. They made some good plays, and they made some plays that they’ll learn in time not to make,” said Stagnitta.

Dordevic in particular stood out in his debut with thirteen shots on net. While he only netted two of them, if there’s one thing to take away from Dordevic’s collegiate career, it’s that he’s eventually going to find his stride and find the back of the net consistently. The best thing the Whipsnakes can do for his development is let him keep shooting.