New York Atlas midfielder Dox Aitken

Top takeaways as Atlas stay unbeaten, Cannons bounce back

By PLL Beat Writers | Jun 8, 2024

New York Atlas 15, Carolina Chaos 12

Lauren Merola: The stripe’s deed is in Trevor Baptiste’s hands 

After three games, it’s clear the new PLL rule banning long poles from taking faceoffs means battles at the stripe are positional wunderkind Trevor Baptiste’s to lose.

With a minute to go against the Chaos, Baptiste proved just how valuable that is in a league where everybody can beat anybody.

With 1:04 remaining, the Chaos’ Tye Kurtz hit a two-pointer to pull Carolina within three goals. It’s a doable – though remarkable – comeback in lacrosse, but not when Baptiste is waiting for you at the stripe. He won his 20th faceoff (of 23) right after, and the Atlas ran out the clock for the win, never giving the Chaos the chance to pull off the extraordinary.

That is the power Baptiste wields this season.

“Trevor Baptiste is probably the best in the history of the sport at that position, and we made him earn every inch,” Carolina coach Andy Towers said postgame. “[The faceoff is] a very important aspect of the game, there’s no question about it.”

Baptiste’s wing players, as he said with a smile postgame, “are really, really good” this season. Of the multiple wing players on the day, Dox Aitken picked up four ground balls and rookie Tyler Carpenter found nine. Baptiste nabbed 12. 

Aitken also scored two goals, and Carpenter added a two-pointer.

[Aitken] is a beast,” Baptiste said. “He’s so great in between the lines. He can pick up the ground ball. He can run back, play defense and he can score goals. He can dodge and kick-start our offense.”

Up next for New York: vs. California Redwoods (Sunday, June 16, 12:30 p.m. ET)

Hayden Lewis: Slow start, powerplay struggles leave Carolina strides behind

Suiting up for their third game in seven days, the Chaos knew the Atlas would pose a challenge. 

Less than three minutes into the contest, it was bombs away for New York as Myles Jones buried the first deep goal of the game, giving the road squad an early 2-0 lead. From there, the Atlas added three more points in four minutes and took a chokehold over the game.

Already down five, the Chaos were reeling and looking to anybody for an answer. Answers presented themselves via undisciplined play from the Atlas resulting in multiple powerplays.

The Chaos struggled to get momentum going on the powerplay, however, and were 1-for-6 through three quarters. 

“They did a good job of defending the knowns,” Towers said.

The unit cleaned it up in the fourth quarter in front of the Homecoming crowd, providing a couple of goals and moving the powerplay dial to 3-of-8 on the day. Finding consistency will be important for Carolina ahead of its next matchup against Utah, which is 43% on the penalty kill this season.  

“We’ve got to make sure that we evolve and that we’re a little bit different every time that we play,” Towers said. “We will do that and make sure that we’re a little bit different in Philadelphia.”

Up next for Carolina: vs. Utah Archers (Saturday, June 15, 7 p.m. ET)

Boston Cannons 13, Maryland Whipsnakes 9

Sarah Griffin: The Cannons offense has arrived led by Asher Nolting 

It was a nail-biter for the Cannons until it wasn’t. 

In the Cannons' first win of the season, it was Asher Nolting who took the reins and showed why he holds the keys to this Boston offense.

Nolting recorded nine points with a career-high six assists as the quarterback for Boston. An Attackman of the Year candidate last year, in his third pro season, he’s already campaigning as a serious MVP contender. 

The deadly one-two punch of Nolting and Marcus Holman was in full force. Nolting assisted on three goals by Holman, who shot 44.4% on the day (4-for-9, 1T). 

It was a tale of two halves for Boston. Outside of Holman’s two goals in the first half, the Cannons shot an abysmal 15.4% (4-for-26) as a team. They looked much better in settled offense than they did in their season opener against the Atlas, but with a lot of sloppy shots.

Down 6-4 at halftime, Nolting led the Cannons as they fired from all cylinders. Highlighted by a 9-0 run from the third into the fourth quarter, they weren’t missing a beat. Despite a few garbage-time goals from the Whipsnakes, Nolting’s heroics as the facilitator of the offense were more than enough to secure the victory.

Both of Boston's rookies got in on the fun. Pat Kavanagh scored his first professional goal and then a second in the fourth quarter, and Alex Vardardo tallied his first goal, as well, in his pro debut. 

It was also the Cannons debut for faceoff specialist Zac Tucci, who went 11-for-24 at the stripe. 

“That’s something I thought I’d never say. We won a game facing off,” head coach Brian Holman laughed.

All in all, it was exactly the type of game the Cannons needed to rebound from Week 1. 

Up next for Boston: vs. Philadelphia Waterdogs (Saturday, June 15, 12:30 p.m. ET)

Adam Lamberti: The Whipsnakes offense misses Tucker Dordevic and Brad Smith

The glaring issue for this Whipsnakes offense is their lack of downhill midfield dodgers.

Maryland didn’t score a second-half goal until 3:08 left in the game, and a lot of that had to do with not having someone who could break down a defense early in the possession. Dordevic and Smith are such threats out of the box and can push with tempo, which is sorely missed right now. Not only can they generate their own shot, but they draw attention and open up the only players on the Whipsnakes offense by routinely drawing slides.

Not to mention that the lack of offensive efficiency hurts the Whipsnakes defense, as well. When you can’t put the ball in the back of the net, that leads to extended possessions for opposing teams with a 52-second shot clock. The Cannons took advantage of that Saturday with an 8-0 run to open up the second half.

The expectation is Dordevic should be back in the next week or so as he recovers from a foot injury, while Smith’s timetable is a little longer.

Dordevic’s return is essential for the Whipsnakes not only because of how special a player he is, but because his presence will unlock other players on the offense for opportunities.

Up next for Maryland: vs. Philadelphia Waterdogs (Sunday, June 16, 3 p.m. ET)