Previewing the PLL Cash App Championship battle between Michael Sowers and Graeme Hossack
When Michael Sowers walks into a Subaru Park on Sunday, the stands will be packed with his jerseys for the second year running. Having grown up in Upper Dublin, PA, less than an hour outside Philadelphia, Sowers’ fan section will be back in Chester, hoping to celebrate his second championship victory in the stadium, 371 days after the first.
Sowers said an assortment of family, high school friends, Princeton teammates and former coaches will be in attendance as the hometown kid goes for back-to-back titles. Last year, Sowers scored twice, assisted once and picked up four ground balls to take home the Championship MVP Trophy in his second pro season.
“On a personal level, it’s really cool,” Sowers said. “I’m going to have a lot of family and friends there, and I wouldn’t be here today without their support and their guidance. A lot of former coaches and I think it’s just cool for me to be able to play in front of them.”
Sowers’ fearlessness has shined brightest on the big stage, and the home crowd provides an extra boost for the speedster. Former Defender of the Year Graeme Hossack awaits Sowers on Sunday. Hossack will revisit his toughest cover of the regular season, and their matchup could determine the course of this game.
Hossack has held opposing players to 3-for-40 shooting (7.5%) as the closest defender this season. Michael Sowers scored two of those three goals. Apart from him, opposing players shot 3.1% on Hossack.
Asher Nolting, Cross Ferrara, Ryder Garnsey and Jeff Teat were all blanked by Hossack this season on multiple attempts. The physical defender locked down some of the best shooters in the world this season, making a slew of highlight-reel hits in the process. In Dallas, Hossack laid the boom on Zach Currier and Eli Gobrecht like he was playing linebacker for the Cowboys.
If he played with that much aggression in a regular season showdown, expect even more ferocity in a matchup for all the marbles on Sunday.
“He’s very cerebral, but at the same time he plays his angles well, he’s strong and I think he’s deceptively fast,” Sowers said.
Sowers is preparing for battle in a matchup where neither player will hesitate to get physical. Despite his 5-foot-9 frame, contact is something Sowers never shies away from. He credited his years of playing football for toughening his mindset. It’s allowed him to not only welcome contact, but know how to take it more safely, he explained.
Most players his size don’t go flying through the crease routinely. And on the flip side, most defenders won’t hit as hard on the backside of those finishes. It’s a true heavyweight matchup that will draw eyes all over the field.
Both of Sowers’ goals against Hossack came in Dallas, when the Dogs fell 19-18, and they weren’t typical scores for the X attackman. He received the ball above the goal line in transition, hitting two shots from the wing rather than leaping into the crease as he usually does.
The first goal trickled past Brett Dobson’s save attempt and into the net. On the second, Sowers used a screen from SSDM Matt Whitcher to create space on the left wing, where he buried the shot. These two goals were in the second half, despite Sowers being adamant about inserting himself into PLL games from the jump.
“I think it’s changed from letting the game come to me to inserting myself, and that’s why I usually try to get into it early,” Sowers said in an all-star roundtable. “Like off the end line, take a run because even if I miss, even if I get stripped, it’s like, ‘alright, I’m here.’”
Sowers hasn’t flashed his usual fast-paced production against Hossack from X, as he was battered and doubled near the crease. That same game plan will likely remain in place. Sowers has 13 points and eight goals in two playoff games. With the crowd behind him and a diverse shooting record versus the Archers, everything is pointing toward a massive game for the hometown hero.
“When it comes down to it, it’s just another game,” Sowers said. “But I think there is some comfort in knowing that those guys are there.”
He won’t prepare any differently, but when he crosses those white lines, every second means a little bit more than usual. Sowers and company prevailed in this exact environment a year ago, and he jump-started the offense’s four-goal run on an electric, airborne put-back at the end of the first quarter.
Sowers is always looking to get involved out of the gate. But, when facing Hossack, he said it takes more of a calculated relay race than a sprint to succeed, wearing him down as the game goes on.
“I think you can be aggressive within the framework of our offense,” Sowers said. “When you go into a matchup like that, you need to understand that they are going to make plays… especially when you’re going against a guy like [Hossack], and especially in the championship game.”