Redwoods Rookies: What Pressure?

There’s at least one goalie in the PLL who’s figured out some of Ryder Garnsey’s tendencies. Fortunately for the Redwoods, Timmy Troutner wears the same jersey as Garnsey on game days.

“Timmy has got the better of me in practice the last couple weeks,” Garnsey admits.

Few defenses can make that claim. Most are probably still searching for answers about how to stop Garnsey once he, in the words of Redwoods assistant coach Dom Marzano, “catches his rhythm.” Although Garnsey was held scoreless by the Whipsnakes during their Week 8 matchup in Hamilton, Ontario, he leads the PLL in points since the All-Star break. He probably has the most one-handed plays too. The ludicrous feats--almost always accomplished with his right--are slightly more plausible when Garnsey tells you that he writes with his right hand and is a righty in every sport besides lacrosse and hockey.

“Oh yeah,” Troutner says when asked if his fellow Rookie of the Year nominee showcases the same spellbinding efforts in practice that we see during games. “Sometimes I look behind me and the ball is in the back of the net and I don’t know what he did to score it.”

Troutner though has the skill that all great goalies possess. He’s able to move on and focus on the next shot. He’s unflappable both between the pipes and in conversation. Just talking with him will probably lower your resting heart rate.

But like Garnsey, he puts his mellow vibe aside during games.

“I definitely become a little bit of a different person,” he says. “Before a game I am pretty calm and collected, but when I hear that whistle and step across that line I get in game mode and have one goal in mind to win. It’s just kind of like a switch in the head.”

Troutner says his teammates have smoothed the transition to the professional ranks and helped him handle the inherent pressures of his position.

“When you have veteran guys like Joe [Walters], Kyle [Harrison], and Greg [Gurenlian] just telling you to play your game, do your thing, it’s relieving,” he says. “Especially the guys in front of me, [Garrett] Epple, (Eddy) Glaze, and (Matt) Landis, they always have my back if I give up one that is my fault.”

Harrison and Landis worked with and shot on Troutner near his hometown of Annapolis even before Training Camp started. Landis’s instructions for the rookie were simple.

He wanted Troutner simply to focus on saving the ball and not worry about managing the unit’s communication. “We’ll take care of that and we’ll give you the shots you want,” Troutner recalls Landis saying.

The High Point grad has been more than up to the task. He earned All-Star status, won the goalie skills competition, and led the league of all starting goalies during the regular season in Score Against Average (11.5).

It’s well chronicled that Troutner likes to let shooters know when they’re off the mark and yell “Ewww.”

“It helps me get a little more into the game,” he explains about the chirping. He’s found other ways to chide his opponents. During the final seconds of the third quarter in Week 10, Chrome defenseman Chris Sabia pulled up from behind the two-point arc. Troutner saved the bounce shot casually. After the whistle blew, he tossed the ball back towards Sabia.

“Try again,” Troutner told Sabia, who he’s good friends with.

This weekend the Redwoods will again attempt to beat the Chaos who they’ve lost to in their previous two meetings, including an overtime defeat in Week 3. While the stakes might ratchet up in the playoffs, don’t expect the Redwoods rookie sensations to let it get to them.

“He is just about as confident a guy as I’ve ever met,” Redwoods LSM, John Sexton, says of Troutner. “Having a goalie with that kind of confidence gives you an edge because you know he has your back.”

“Especially this past week I didn’t feel any,” Garnsey said when asked about pressure. “We were the last team to get in, so no one really expects anything from us, but I think we expect a lot of ourselves. Nobody is gonna put more pressure on us than we already put on ourselves. I think that's the way it needs to be.”

Thanks in part to major contributions from rookies who laugh in the face of pressure, a culture instilled by a group of living legends, and a shutdown defense that leads the league in caused turnovers, the Redwoods are playing their best lacrosse at the perfect time. Less than a month ago, their playoff hopes were more of a pipe dream. The Redwoods’ 17-4 loss to the Whips was the largest defeat any club has endured in the PLL. It was their fourth loss in a row.

“After Canada happened to us,” is the way Marzano describes the blowout.

While explaining how the Redwoods rebounded, Marzano notes that they didn’t point fingers. That isn’t how the club operates. They didn’t make excuses like how they were without defensive air-traffic controller Eddy Glazener or starting attackman Matt Kavanagh. They didn’t even mention the Whipsnakes game during practice at Albany. Instead, in the week leading up to the final regular season game, Harrison called the offensive guys, once, sometimes even twice a day. He helped rebuild the club’s morale.

“He’s probably one of the greatest leaders there is,” Marzano says.

“I think they’ve done an incredible job cultivating a locker room where everyone’s voice is heard,” Garnsey said of team leaders like Harrison, Walters, and Gurenlian. “Obviously when Kyle, or Joe, or Greg say something it demands a little bit more respect because everyone in our locker room has so much admiration for them. But everyone else feels comfortable to say something if they see something.”

So when Harrison told Garnsey before their Week 10 matchup with the Chrome that “you’re gonna be the best player out here today, own it,” how can you not put up four goals and three assists, each seemingly more difficult than the previous one?

“That gives you nothing but juice,” Marzano says about Harrison’s encouragement. “When our younger guys saw the confidence that our older guys have in them, I think that’s when they started getting really comfortable on the field together and felt as one.”

After Jules Heningburg, the Redwoods’ leading scorer, left the game with a concussion in the first quarter after an illegal hit to the head by Chrome goalie Brett Queener, Garnsey assumed more of a quarterbacking role. The plan even before Heningburg’s injury, though, was to increase Garnsey’s touches in order to help the flow of the offense and lighten the burden on Heningburg.

Marzano emphasized that directive after the first quarter last Friday in Columbus.

“Ryder you need to touch the ball more,” Marzano told him. “You got to get into your flow.”

Garnsey did. He beat his man top side twice for two goals and distributed three assists from all over the field. Along with two goals and two assists from Heningburg, a natural hat-trick from Wes Berg in the third quarter, and 12 saves by Troutner, the Redwoods dispatched the Archers 16-12.

“Finally it all clicked,” Marzano says.

Garnsey also received attention this week for his chirps against the Archers.

A couple examples:

 “You can’t guard me, you need to switch right now!” Garnsey yelled at their defense after he dusted Curtis Corely.

“What’s up baby,” Garnsey called over to McNeill after they collided at midfield in the fourth quarter. McNeill, who’s listed at six inches taller and almost 40 pounds heavier than Garnsey, went tumbling to the turf. Garnsey held his ground.

We can’t print most of the other things he said.

“Oh yeah,” Garnsey said with a knowing chuckle when you reference the video.

“In the heat of the moment, whatever comes to my mind I say and deal with the consequences later I guess,” he explains. He plays his best when he lets his instincts take over.

Although Garnsey was voted the best chirper on the team in a Twitter poll this week, he insists Walters should have that distinction.

“He’s just got fire,” Marzano says of Walters.

“When you’re on the field in the heat of battle things are said,” Walters says before he adds a caveat. “I genuinely don’t start talking trash until I’m provoked, until someone starts to go at me or one of my teammates. When that happens, I take offense to that and I start going at them.”

Walters contributes far more to Redwoods than his witty comebacks.

“You’re a liability,” he told McNeill in Week 6.

In the past two games Walters has been a key distributor from the midfield — putting up five assists —  and makes all the calls on their power play.

That included the play that sequence in Garnsey’s final goal against the Chrome. In the huddle before a one-minute power play, Walters outlined exactly what was about to happen. After swinging it around, he had the ball at the top of the arc. He looked off Will Haus and the rest of the Chrome defense, then threaded a skip pass to Garnsey, who was creeping around the left pipe. The pass fooled Chrome so much that Garnsey finished the play untouched.

“Joe called me up before we stepped on the field and told me that was going to be there,” Garnsey told the NBC sports broadcast team after the goal. “All the credit to him.”

“One of the most high level IQ moments I have ever seen,” Marzano says.

The Redwoods put up a season-high mark with 17 goals against the Chrome. They followed up the performance in Columbus with 16 goals, their second highest output.

Nat St. Laurent knew his club had this potential.

“We're close to erupting and we're looking forward to putting 15, 16, 17 goals up here soon,” he said before Week 9.

While his prediction was a week early, the Redwoods are surging when it matters most. They’ve bounced back from that loss to Whipsnakes. Four quarters stand behind them and a rematch in Philadelphia.

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