The Positional Battles to Watch for Archers LC in Training Camp

By Zach Carey

May 25, 2023

The PLL’s training camp is fast approaching and with it will be 25-man roster cutdowns next Wednesday. The Archers Lacrosse Club will have to cut five players from their 30 man roster while also making initial decisions for which guys will make up the 19-player game day roster for the season opener on June 3rd. 

Ahead of camp, which kicks off on Saturday, May 27th, the notable positional battles are coming into focus. Chris Bates’ club is fortunate to have nailed on starters at positions up and down the field. But there are still a number of spots up for grabs and positions with uncertain depth which mean that training camp should be fairly competitive.

Face-off: Mike Sisselberger vs Justin Inacio vs Frankie Labetti 

The most significant position of interest for the Archers heading into this season is absolutely the face-off position. After the club won a league-low 38.3% in 2022, Head Coach and General Manager Chris Bates heavily prioritized the position by selecting Lehigh’s Mike Sisselberger fifth overall in the 2023 College Draft. Of course, Justin Inacio coming off the PUP List and back onto the roster implies that he’ll be battling with Sisselberger to be the club’s leading face-off specialist come the season opener on June 3rd. 

The reality for those two and Frankie Labetti (the Archers’ backup face-off athlete in 2022) is that the club will likely take just two of the three of them on the 25-man roster and will only dress one on the gameday 19-man roster.

Sisselberger looks to be the favorite to win the starting job at this point in time. The commitment the club made by taking him fifth overall and the raw talent he has put him a step above the other two heading into camp. Anything can happen between the lines, but that’s where things stand at the moment. Inacio is also coming off a serious knee injury suffered last fall so his current condition is uncertain. Should he be up to speed for camp, the Ohio State product similarly appears to be slotted for the second face-off specialist spot on the 25-man roster with Labetti on the outside looking in. 

Close Defense Depth: Cam Wyers vs Chris Campbell vs Reece Eddy vs Andrew Darby vs Ryan Sharkey

The top four poles for the Archers are pretty clear with close defenders Graeme Hossack, Matt McMahon, and Warren Jeffery alongside LSM Jared Conners. Jon Robbins likely has the backup LSM spot locked down after a stellar rookie season. That leaves Reece Eddy, Cam Wyers, Chris Campbell, and the two newest additions of Andrew Darby and Ryan Sharkey to fight it out for the fifth active spot on game days and what is likely the sixth and final roster spot at the position. Jeffrey will also be missing training camp due to the NLL Championship, potentially leaving an additional open spot for week one. 

Wyers, the big lefty close defender who Bates picked in the fourth round of the 2023 College Draft, would be the most logical player to make the gameday roster with Bates prioritizing him over Campbell (an undrafted rookie) and Eddy coming off a 2022 season where he didn’t play in any games for the club. That would leave Tony Resch’s defense with no right-handed close defenders on the active roster once Jeffrey returns. But Wyers’ status as a draft pick and the potential he has could very well be the edge he needs. 

Among the other players, Eddy has both the most versatility with the ability to play LSM and close and the most experience with 14 appearances in PLL games. But the three undrafted rookies are all intriguing players. Darby in particular is a name to watch as a guy who could provide physicality as a right-handed close defender to complement the team’s slew of big lefties. Whichever way this battle goes, training camp will be competitive for the close defenders. 

Game Day SSDMs: Mark McNeill vs Connor Maher vs Piper Bond 

Tim Edwards being on the Unavailable to Travel List for training camp takes some of the juice out of the battle among the short-stick defensive midfielders. Latrell Harris will be penciled in as a starter, but the three remaining SSDMs will be competing against each other to make the game day roster while also hoping to avoid being cut when Edwards returns. 

McNeil is now 30 with one year remaining on his contract, so the Archers could prioritize youth at the position and roll with the 25 year old Harris (who signed a two-year deal this offseason) and the two rookies on game days. But the experience McNeil has should by no means be counted out especially after Dominique Alexander’s retirement this offseason. 

Between Maher and Bond, Bond is the more technically sound defender with the athleticism and technique to defend a wide variety of offensive players. But Maher provides more playmaking chops with caused turnovers, the transition game, and wing play all strong parts of his game.

All four of Harris, McNeil, Maher, and Bond seem primed to make it through cuts in the middle of next week. Edwards could make a splash if given the opportunity. But, as a player who joined Archers LC as a free agent this offseason, missing training camp leaves him at a disadvantage compared to the returning Harris and McNeil and the much younger draft picks Maher and Bond. 

Offensive Depth: Connor DeSimone vs Ryan Aughavin vs Tre Leclaire vs Reid Bowering vs Brandon Galloway  

The offensive depth for the Archers is also up in the air. The six of Grant Ament, Matt Moore, Connor Fields, Tom Schreiber, Mac O’Keefe, and Ryan Ambler are all roster locks with Challen Rogers looking poised to be a seventh. Beyond them there are a number of unknowns. Connor DeSimone, Ryan Aughavin, and Tre Leclaire are all returners who have been valuable pieces of the club in the past. But the arrival of Rogers, Bowering, and Galloway complicates the decisions the staff will make regarding who will make up the Archers’ offensive depth. 

Leclaire, who was listed as an attackman in the club’s 30-man roster release, provides two-way ability and has thrived in that role in the past. Of course, Aughavin, Rogers, and Bowering all have the potential to do that as well, so decisions will be need to be made. Last season, the Archers typically carried five midfielders and three attackmen with Leclaire as a two-way player. Ament, Schreiber, Moore, Fields, O’Keefe, and Ambler take up six of those eight spots. So, there should be two game day slots that the likes of Rogers, DeSimone, Aughavin, Leclaire, Bowering, and Galloway will be duking it out for in camp with just a few other spots open on the 25-man roster.

Right now, Rogers, and Leclaire are probably the favorites to play alongside the club’s big six on offense with DeSimone and Aughavin as the last two offensive weapons on the roster after the 25-man cut downs next Wednesday. 

Goalie: Brett Dobson vs Nick Washuta 

This may be an under the radar competition, but Adam Ghitelman’s departure in free agency has left the Archers in a position where they will be starting a far less experienced keeper in 2023. 

Brett Dobson, the club’s second round pick in the 2022 College Draft, is probably the heir apparent. But Nick Washuta’s impressive string of performances in the PLL Championship Series earlier this year could prevent the staff from simply handing Dobson the starting job on day one. The Canadian Dobson will still be the favorite and both will be active on game days. But, with an impressive training camp, Washuta could force Bates to make a call on a weekly basis regarding who gets the starting nod.

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