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Semifinals: Whipsnakes-Waterdogs Preview

By Lauren Merola | Sep 3, 2021

Welcome to Week 10.

It’s the Whipsnakes. It’s the Waterdogs.

It’s the semifinals.

Quarterfinal Review

In case you missed it, the Whipsnakes and Redwoods showed out, again. These two teams have battled to the final minute in each of their three postseason matchups. 

In 2019, the Whipsnakes ousted the Redwoods 12-11 to claim the inaugural PLL championship after Matt Rambo tied the game with 21 seconds left and won it in overtime.

In the 2020 PLL Championship Series, the Whipsnakes took it home 13-12 in overtime. 

In 2021, the Whips win, by one, again.

To start the fourth, it was tied at 11. With one minute left to play, it was tied at 13. Then Rambo did what Rambo does. He beat Garrett Epple around the crease, slung it over his left shoulder and bounced it past Tim Troutner.

Thus, thicc boy summer continues.

The Whips now face the No. 1 seed coming off the first-round bye.

Bye bye bye

There’s been talk about whether the bye week can help or hurt the Waterdogs. Will they be out of sorts or well-rested?

In a league where everybody can beat anybody, I’d gladly take the freebie.

The Dogs haven’t been on your screen in weeks, but don’t forget how lethal — unselfish, fast — they are.

There’s MVP and Gait Brothers Midfielder of the Year nominee Zach Currier, who does it all, and does it well.

On defense, the Dogs have Dave Pietramala Defensive Player of the Year Finalist Liam Byrnes holding down the fort. He leads the league in caused turnovers (20) and won the 2019 MLL Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Byrnes told Katie McNulty he considers himself a slider.

“I’ll cover that one attackman who’s in the middle mostly and an off-ball guy,” he said. “That allows me to be the slide man. I’m in that support role, making sure the guys who are covering the dodger are forcing them the right way. If they do get beat, that’s what I’m there to do.” 

Backing up the defense is the leader in cage and most valuable off-season acquisition Dillon Ward.

Also important to remember just how good their social media game is:

The Waterdogs are out to dethrone the two-time champions, but it sure won’t happen without a fight. The Whips proved time and time again just how hard it is to take them down. After winless Weeks 5 and 7 and a 5-4 regular-season record, the Whips fought their way back to a semifinal appearance.

The Stripe

Like everything else in this matchup, it’s too close to call who will win a game-long battle at the stripe. 

The Waterdogs won 52% of faceoffs on the season so far and the Whipsnakes 56%. Joe Nardella is 57% on the season and Jake Withers is 54%. 

Don’t expect either to spring off the field immediately. Joe Keegan sums it up in the Ten Man Ride newsletter:

“Joe Nardella will fake some subs, too. The battle between Nardella and Jake Withers at the stripe will extend deep into possessions whether it’s Withers picking for Zach Currier, or Nardella jumping into 6-on-5s with [Michael] Ehrhardt & co.

Read more about Ehrhardt and the Whipsnakes early offense.”

Major Matchup

Ehrhardt has the tall task of taming Currier, starting on the faceoff wing, but the LSM will stay and play longer than others in the position.

Ehrhardt’s endurance will be noticeable in his endline-to-endline play. On attack, he clocks in unofficial pick assists with his 6’5” frame:

Who Ya Got?

About 18% of PLL fans chose the Waterdogs to win it all and 10% the Whipsnakes, but DraftKings Sportsbook gives the Whips the nod at -1.5.

All Eyes on D.C.

The last time these two teams met in Week 7, the Waterdogs won 11-6, but with both rosters loaded and looking for a spot in that championship game, it’s bound to be closer this time around.

The Waterdogs and Whipsnakes take the turf at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 5.

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