Zed Williams vs Ben Randall

Stats to know and matchups to watch before Waterdogs vs Whipsnakes

By Wyatt Miller

Sep 4, 2023

The first-round Cash App Playoff matchup between the Waterdogs and Whipsnakes will look considerably different than their last bout. In July, Michael Ehrhardt, Brad Smith and Matt Dunn were all unavailable for the Whips, while Kyle Bernlohr left in the first half and Matt Rambo exited in the fourth. The Whipsnakes have no one on the injury report for Monday. 

Meanwhile, the Waterdogs will add a valuable pole in Chris Sabia, but will be without midfielder Jake Carraway. These personnel differences will throw a wrench into the matchup – it’ll look nothing like it did last time.

The two teams may not be on even footing health-wise, but everyone now has a full season of context on their opponents. Teams will be looking to attack deficiencies the opposition has shown throughout the year. Even with a banged-up squad, the Waterdogs are well-placed to attack some of the Whips’ weak spots.

Here’s are some stats to know and matchups to watch in Waterdogs vs Whipsnakes on Monday at 2:20 p.m. EST:

Important Stats

52-second efficiency

The Waterdogs rank second in 52-second offensive efficiency (31.68%), while the Whipsnakes are second-to-last in defensive efficiency on the 52-second clock (32.52%).

The proof is in the pudding on this one. When the Dogs have a full clock, their ball movement and shot selection are noticeably better. The Whips’ defense has shown fatigue late in possessions, making slide mistakes that have led to poor efficiency. 

“A full 52, that’s when you really see who we are,” said offensive assistant coach Robert Cross.

If the Dogs can be patient on settled possessions, taking the right shots at the right time, the shooters on this offense should bury those inevitable open looks.

Transition Success

The Waterdogs’ 27 goals in transition are the most in the league. That bodes well against the Whipsnakes, who allow the third-highest shot percentage in transition (32%). 

This is another obvious area for the Dogs to attack, as transition success has been part of their identity since the team’s inception. Pace is the Dogs’ backbone, and head coach Andy Copelan has hammered that home all season, on and off the field. Against a Whipsnakes team that’s struggled to stop the transition attack, the Waterdogs will surely amp up the pace whenever possible.

Defending Assisted Shots

The Waterdogs’ defense has the best assisted shot percentage against by 3.4% (25.6%), allowing the least assisted goals this season (57). The Whips’ offense ranks 6th in assisted goals and seventh in assist rate (46.2%).

The Whipsnakes are one-of-three teams with over 50% of its shots coming unassisted, and those three teams, predictably, rank last in scoring. Assisted shot percentage has been higher than unassisted in every PLL season. The Whips’ disposition toward unassisted shots and solo dodges could be detrimental against a Dogs defense that swarms the ball faster than anyone.

Matchup Previews

Waterdogs vs Bernlohr

All Waterdogs shooters apart from one are at least 22% vs Kyle Bernlohr in their career. Combined, they’re 39-for-133 (29.3%):

Kieran McArdle: 9-for-38 (24%)

Michael Sowers: 7-for-21 (33%)

Ryan Conrad: 5-for-9 (56%)

Zach Currier: 5-for-13 (38%)

Ethan Walker: 4-for-13 (31%)

Jack Hannah: 4-for-18 (22%)

Jake Carraway: 3-for-5 (60%)

Connor Kelly: 2-for-16 (13%)

That shot percentage is more than the Waterdogs’ regular season average of 27.1%. A combined mark of over 29% against a 6x all-star is no small feat. The Waterdogs’ offensive weapons have had consistent success against Bernlohr, and head coach Andy Copelan will certainly lean into his players’ instincts because of it.

Defensive Matchup Predictions

After Zed Williams dominated Liam Byrnes without Sabia in the lineup last time out, the defensive matchups won’t look the same. Here are my predictions for the Dogs’ defensive marks in Monday’s playoff matchup.

Ben Randall on Matt Rambo

Liam Byrnes on Jackson Morrill

Chris Sabia on Zed Williams

Ryland Rees on Will Manny

Eli Gobrecht/SSDM on Tucker Dordevic

Eli Gobrecht/SSDM on Mike Chanenchuk

SSDM on Brad Smith

Ben Randall locked Rambo down last game, holding him scoreless on seven shots. That matchup won’t change. If Byrnes does switch off Williams, which seems likely, the natural matchup would be with Jackson Morrill. Byrnes has extensive experience guarding X attackmen, but has the versatility to expand beyond to guard Morrill from the wings down.

Sabia guarding Williams just makes sense. It was the Haudenosaunee’s physicality that neutered the Dogs’ defense in July, and Sabia’s baleful yet agile presence would be the best combatant. 

Last game, Alex Mazzone held Will Manny to one goal on two shots, which makes me think Ryland Rees will be the matchup here – they’re fairly similar players. 

Speed and comfortability in the middle of the field make Eli Gobrecht a good matchup for either of the Whips’ 25-point scorers from the midfield: Tucker Dordevic or Mike Channenchuk. Whoever he doesn’t mark, and it could change throughout the game, will get a short stick matchup while the other shorty locks onto Brad Smith.

If the Waterdogs stick to their identity, they can win this game by using their strengths (speed, physicality and pace) to attack the Whips’ weak spots (defensive fatigue and poor ball movement).

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