Redwoods vs. Atlas Preview
By Andrew Crane | Jun 12, 2021
Where to Watch:
- Saturday, June 12th
- NBC Sports
As the Premier Lacrosse League’s weekend in Atlanta, Georgia and Kennesaw State University continues, the Redwoods (2-0) and Atlas (0-1) meet for the fourth time in league history on Saturday at 3 p.m. Behind Rob Pannell’s nine points and a perfect 4-for-4 power play — the only team to score a man-up goal on opening weekend — the Redwoods swept their first two games, while the Atlas fell behind 15-3 at halftime en route to an 18-6 loss against the Archers.
John Crawley led the Atlas with three points and Trevor Baptiste won 64% of his faceoffs, but Jack Concannon allowed 13 goals before being pulled in the first half, the opening 24 minutes where the Archers jumped out to their commanding lead that the Atlas never had a chance to consistently chip away at.
“(Jack Concannon) didn't play his best game,” Atlas head coach Ben Rubeor said. “But we certainly didn't help him.”
The Redwoods discovered a faceoff boost during their first two games through former Yale and Denver star TD Ierlan, who won 65% of his chances. It took some time for him to learn cadences, to adjust to the technical items the league was “cleaning up,” head coach Nat St. Laurent said, but once Ierlan did — and as he continues to do — it helped them erase multi-goal leads in each game.
All-time series: Redwoods lead, 2-1
After splitting their two meetings during the PLL’s inaugural season in 2019, Sergio Perkovic scored two-point goals in the fourth quarter to help the Redwoods regain a late lead and defeat the Atlas, 11-10. Trevor Baptiste won 15-of-20 faceoffs and scored once, Concannon made 13 saves and the Atlas’ midfield combined for eight points, but the Redwoods still snuck past them and clinched the No. 4 seed for the elimination round.
Just a fluke
After the Atlas lost to the Archers last week, assistant coach Steven Brooks cut up film segments and sent them to each individual player on Sunday and Monday — outlining key points for each player before a virtual group film session on Wednesday night. And in those clips, the “self-inflicted wounds,” as head coach Ben Rubeor called them, shone through: the pair of two-point goals at the end of the first quarter where they had a chance to alter them, the unfinished looks that Atlas sunk in training camp and scrimmages, the 12% shooting percentage, and the off-ball defense that dug them an immediate hole.
“When you watch our game in the scrimmages and you watch us all through training camp, the shots that we were taking in the game against the Archers we were hitting on a regular basis in training camp and in our scrimmages,” Brooks said.
Rubeor said that his offense took a lot of first-dodge shots, meaning that the Atlas shot either directly after the first dodge or after the first dodge and one pass. Instead, he wants them to score early in the possession, which indicates a transition opportunity, or late in the possession once the ball has cycled side to side and behind the cage multiple times.
When the Atlas struggled with their off-ball defense against the Archers — who Rubeor called one of the best passing offenses in the league — it left Concannon and backup goalie JD Colarusso stranded in difficult situations inside the cage. One immediate reinforcement arriving this weekend that could help prevent those problems from spanning multiple games, while also spearheading some runs in transition, is Dox Aitken, who won back-to-back national championships at Virginia and graduated as UVA’s all-time leading scorer among midfielders.
“I think that we could look at this like, 'What an absolute failure,' or we could look at it as, 'It's one game,'” Rubeor said. “I don't know, maybe the answer's somewhere in the middle there, but nonetheless, the season wasn't decided this past weekend.”
Cutting down turnovers, strengthening defense
The Redwoods emerged from opening weekend with two wins, but along with those victories came 38 turnovers — their 19-per-game average ranking third-highest in the league. St. Laurent said that the Redwoods were trying to play faster than they needed to, with offensive players putting too much pressure on themselves and defensive players trying to clear the ball too quickly.
But mixed in with those turnovers were possessions that benefited from the offseason addition of Rob Pannell and last year’s addition, Myles Jones. The pair combined for 15 points in the first two games, and St. Laurent said that Pannell allows the Redwoods to “change the field” and take pressure off Matt Kavanagh and Ryder Garnsey, their other attackmen.
St. Laurent also said that, after rewatching the first weekend’s game film, the Redwoods needed to be more aggressive with their on-ball defense and switch better off-ball — while aiming to not allow more than eight goals per game. The “general” of their defense has been Eddy Glazener, St. Laurent said, but Garrett Epple held Lyle Thompson to two goals against the Cannons, with one coming after a miscommunication on a switch, and Chrome’s Jordan Wolf to two assists before he left with an injury.
When those defensive miscues are eliminated and paired with an offense capable of erasing three-goal deficits within minutes, like late in the fourth quarter against the Cannons, it leverages the Redwoods as a difficult group to beat over four complete quarters.
“Timmy's (Troutner) been playing extremely well, and without him and TD, we're probably 0-2,” St. Laurent said.
Player to watch: Atlas attack Jake Carraway
Carraway, a rookie from Georgetown who led the Hoyas with 51 goals in 2021, finished with zero points, two shots and three turnovers in his first PLL game, where he was matched up against Graeme Hossack. Rubeor said that Carraway could’ve had a couple assists if he got his hands free at times, and that “I don't think it was Jake's best game, I think Jake's best lacrosse is ahead of him.”
Part of the reason for that optimism stems from Carraway’s quick release on his shot. He starts his windup before catching the pass, Brooks said, and he’s already loaded by the time the ball reaches him — meaning all that’s left is the weight transfer from the back foot to front foot. It tends to catch goalies off-guard because of the different types of releases Carraway could choose from, a larger variety because his shot process is condensed and just consists of flicking his wrists and snapping his hips through.
“Whenever he gets the ball, he's one of the best shooters I've seen that can catch and shoot in a quick windup,” Brooks said.
Stat to know: 1
While the Redwoods have assisted on 15 of their 26 goals (58%), the Atlas assisted on just one of their six — and their 17% rate was lowest in the PLL through one week. The second-worst percentage came from the Waterdogs, whose offense assisted on two of their seven goals.
The case for the Atlas
Rubeor said earlier this week that he’s not putting too much stock into their loss against the Archers. St. Laurent said to “throw that film out.” If the Atlas can sharpen their defense and prevent Pannell, Jones and Jules Heningburg from stringing goals together — while also finding a way to slow down the Redwoods’ top powerplay unit — that’ll allow for their offensive production to potentially be enough.
The case for the Redwoods
St. Laurent’s offense can score from a variety of areas and in a variety of scenarios, and it’s the perfect recipe against a team that struggled with defense and goalie play last weekend. The continued evolution of Perkovic, who’s taken a two-way midfielder role and turned it into one that includes hitting two-point shots and becoming a powerplay specialist, adds another layer to the Redwoods and their offense, too.