Ryder Garnsey Jarrod Neumann

Three things to watch for Redwoods against Chaos in the quarterfinals

By Jerome Taylor

Sep 4, 2023

For the third and final time this year, the Redwoods and Chaos will play each other. This time, only one team’s season will continue after the game. 

In their first meeting of the year, the ‘Woods won 13-8 against a Blaze Riorden-less Chaos on the back of a seven-point performance by Rob Pannell (3G, 4A). 

When the two teams squared off again in early August, they scored the same number of goals, but a pair of 2-pointers from Ian MacKay and CJ Costabile lifted Chaos to a 14-12 victory. Since then, the Redwoods have rattled off three straight wins en route to clinching the fourth seed in the Cash App Playoffs.

“We're very familiar with them, they're very familiar with us,” Nat St. Laurent said. “We feel like we're in a good spot heading into this.”  

As Labor Day approaches, here are three things to watch for:

Ryder Garnsey v Jarrod Neuman 

One of the reasons for St. Laurent’s confidence is that his team’s offense has looked more cohesive over these last three games.

One of the main contributors to that increased cohesion is Ryder Garnsey. Pannell is usually the first name that comes to mind when talking about playmakers in the Redwoods offense, and rightfully so; he’s only got the second most assists all time

But Garnsey has been exceptional in serving his teammates lately. Over the past three weeks, he has racked up five assists, compared to 6 in the seven games prior.

In the last matchup against Chaos, we saw glimpses of why Garnsey can be an effective playmaker. 

He’s fearless going to goal, whether off a screen or dodge, and his reputation as a scorer proceeds him. Garnsey's scoring reputation has often drawn extra defensive attention. Lately, he's exploited that, dissecting overly aggressive defenses with precise passes.

Countering him is Jarrod Neumann, one of the league's most formidable one-on-one defenders. This season, Neumann has allowed only five goals on 52 shots as the closest defender (9.62%). 

The former defender of the year can match feet with Garnsey, and his physicality might be as renowned as Garnsey’s scoring acumen. 

The battle on the left side of the field will be one to watch, but not just when the ‘Woods have the ball. 

Garrett Epple v Josh Byrne 

The matchup on the other half of the field also includes a dynamic attackman and a physical defender.

In six games this year, Josh Byrne has only failed to score multiple goals once—which was against the Redwoods, largely thanks to Garrett Epple

Epple was all over Byrne in their matchup earlier this year, making shots as uncomfortable as possible. 

In the play below, Epple keeps his stick right on Byrne’s hands as he starts his dodge, and by the time he’s ready to shoot, Epple’s locked in a v-hold to make the shot go awry. 

Just because Byrne only scored once doesn’t mean he didn’t put the pressure on Epple and the defense. He found himself open off of broken plays and worked off ball for his lone goal of the afternoon. 

In this matchup, Epple, who is once again nominated for defender of the year,  will have to continue to be physical with him to limit his clean looks.

Don’t overreact to Dhane Smith 

Dhane Smith is going to set up his teammates in this game, it’s a virtual lock. 

He’s coming off a six-assist game; this year, he’s tied with Tom Schreiber for the fourth most assist opportunities in the league.

What can’t happen if you’re the Redwoods is giving up easy assists. Twice in their last matchup, Smith took advantage of the ‘Woods treating him like he’s Tupac. 

On his first assist, before he even gets to the 2-point arc, all eyes are on him, and he found Chris Cloutier's backside without even having to draw a slide.

Smith’s career-high in assists this year proves he’s taken his playmaking to another level. Still, the Redwoods must force him to beat his primary defender before allowing him to showcase his facilitating skills.

Apart from these factors, the Redwoods, even without Nakeie Montgomery, must generate and convert transition opportunities. This year, their offensive efficiency in transition (32%) was significantly higher than their settled offensive efficiency (22%), a gap matched only by Chaos. Overcoming Blaze Riorden is going to require capitalizing on transition opportunities.

Ultimately, if the Redwoods can carry over the success they’ve been having at the end of the season, then they have a good chance of winning in Boston and moving on in the Cash App Playoffs, where Archers await the victor. 

Share This With Friends