Top takeaways as Archers survive Waterdogs comeback in title game rematch

By Zach Carey and Wyatt Miller | Jun 1, 2024

The season-opening rematch of the 2023 Cash App Championship lived up to the hype Saturday in Albany, N.Y.

The defending champion Utah Archers built an eight-goal lead early in the third quarter and then withstood a furious Philadelphia Waterdogs comeback to hold on for a 12-11 win. It was the fourth straight matchup between the teams that was decided by just one goal. 

Here were our beat writers’ top takeaways from the Opening Weekend thriller:

Zach Carey: Tony Resch has the young Archers defense dialed

It’s pretty hard to win a lacrosse game without scoring a goal in the final 20:23 of regulation. Yet Brett Dobson’s three saves in the final 30 seconds sealed the deal on Tony Resch and the Archers defense’s master class. 

“Thank god we have the best goalie in the league,” Grant Ament said postgame.

Dobson was the star of the show. With 22 saves on 33 shots on goal (66.7%), the third-year keeper picked up right where he left off last September. Meanwhile, Resch – Utah’s renowned defensive coordinator – got his incredibly young defense to perform on a huge stage. 

Six of Utah's eight defenders are first- or second-year players. Three are rookies. Yet the Archers still held the league’s second-most efficient offense in 2023 to just 11 goals. Missing Jared Conners, Graeme Hossack, Matt McMahon and Latrell Harris had no tangible impact. 

That’s a testament to how the Archers have brought in pro-ready defenders, how good Resch is at coaching up that talent and just how effective he is at building a scheme that plays to Utah’s strengths. Of course, it helps that Warren Jeffrey and Cam Wyers stepped up and won their matchups against Michael Sowers and Kieran McArdle

Offensively, it was a tale of two halves. The sloppiness in the final 20 minutes will be an area for improvement moving forward. Fortunately for Utah, though, the 12 goals in the first 28 minutes were just enough. 

“A win’s a win,” Dobson said. “They don’t ask how, they ask how many.”

Up next for Utah: vs. Denver Outlaws (Friday, June 7, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Wyatt Miller: Cardiac Dogs can’t beat Dobson

The Waterdogs were down 12-4 in the third quarter, but they aren’t called the “Cardiac Dogs” for nothing. Bill Tierney diversified the offense, using Matt Brandau and McArdle at X at times, while Connor Kelly feasted inside and Zach Currier adjusted his faceoff checks after a dominant first half by Utah's Mike Sisselberger

Sowers was 0-for-5 at one point and McArdle was off, as they combined for just two goals. Still, the Dogs clawed back using aggressive checks and early slides. They shut down an Archers offense that looked unstoppable while scoring the first five goals of the game, most of which came near the crease. The Archers ended with 25 turnovers, 12 of them caused by the Dogs, and didn’t score in the last 20 minutes of play. That resulted in a 7-0 Waterdogs run to pull within one at the 4:59 mark in the fourth quarter. 

That’s when the real battle began, but the Waterdogs gave up a golden opportunity. On a 52-second possession that started in enemy territory, Ryan Conrad got the ball popped out of his stick. Then Philadelphia got a huge stop, and Tierney called a timeout after the clear.

It wasn’t enough, though. Dobson did exactly what he did last September in the Cash App Championship – he saved the day in the final seconds. It was complete deja vu, down to the long-range save in the final seconds of a one-goal game. Dobson displayed incredible athleticism all game long, and the Waterdogs just couldn’t figure him out. 

Up next for Philadelphia: Bye week