Whipsnakes clinch first-round bye in 16-8 win over Atlas

By Sarah Griffin | Aug 14, 2022

The Whipsnakes have been the golden child of the PLL since its origination back in 2019 and their performance Friday night versus the Atlas showcased exactly why. 

In a dominant 16-8 victory, the Whipsnakes locked up the number one seed and the first-round bye as they prep for yet another hopeful deep playoff run. 

While the Whipsnakes’ offensive explosion in the first half led to complete control for the remainder of the game for Jim Stagnitta’s club, it was another standout performance from Kyle Bernlohr between the pipes against the typically potent Bulls’ offense that led the Whips to a commanding win. 

Bernlohr recorded his best game of the season last time he faced the Atlas in Week 3, with a 72% save percentage, 18 saves, and 9 scores against. He matched that this week with another 72% save percentage, 18 saves, and just 8 scores against. 

Bernlohr held the likes of Jeff Teat, Chris Gray, Eric Law, and Bryan Costabile to four goals total, with two from Gray including a two-pointer. Gray took seven shots on net for a 29% shooting percentage and Costabile nine but was held scoreless by Bernlohr. 

“Kyle’s been keeping us in a lot of games this season. If he doesn’t make some of those saves in the first half, the score and the momentum might’ve been different, but he’s been playing unbelievable all year,” said Matt Rambo.

Bernlohr credited his success against the Atlas offense to the work of the defense in front of him.

“Defensively, Ty Warner was huge for us, things we did with our short stick group, and down the stretch we kept our communication and honestly I got again an easy dose of shots. I know I sound like a broken record with that but that’s how I feel when I’m in there.”

With the best goaltender in the league on their side, the Whipsnakes offense did their part to provide support to their backstop, to say the least.

The Whips talk so much about “hitting singles” as the foundation to Whipsnakes lacrosse, and they did just that in the first half. They recorded eight different goal scorers, including a first half hat trick for Rambo who’s been rolling as of lately.

Of course, Rambo wasn’t the only one hitting singles for the Whips. Zed Williams recorded 5 points with the hat trick, Jay Carlson with 2 goals, Brad Smith with 2 goals, Mike Chanenchuk with 2 goals, faceoff specialist Joe Nardella with a goal, rookie Jackson Reid with his third goal of the season, and SSDM Jake Bernhardt with his first goal of the season.

“We’ve played some really good halves over the years, but I certainly believe that’s the best half we’ve probably ever played in two years,” remarked head coach Jim Stagnitta. “Just all around - on the offensive end and the defensive end, everybody did their job, everybody fought hard, everybody supported each other.”

“We’re playing Whipsnakes lacrosse right now,” reiterated Rambo. “Hitting singles on offense, defense doing defensive things, Zed’s back in outdoor form, it’s just great.”

With seemingly everything going in the Whips’ favor, even entering the second half down 12-1, as he often does, Trevor Baptiste kept his team in the fight to the very end.

The two top faceoff specialists in the PLL, Baptiste didn’t miss a beat at the stripe against Nardella. In the first half he recorded a 64% faceoff percentage along with six ground balls, as well as burying the one goal for the Atlas of the half. He ended the game winning 18-of-26 of his faceoffs.

A disorganized Atlas defense in the first half meant goaltender Jack Concannon saw 24 shots on net in that half alone. He made 12 saves total in the first and second quarter, as he saw shots from every angle. 

Concannon was able to settle in a bit more in the second half as both the defense and offense found their footing, but ultimately it was a little too late against this Whipsnakes team. 

In the final week of the regular season, the Atlas look to solidify their spot in the standings to determine their playoff seeding with a game against the Chaos. Meanwhile the Whipsnakes will round their regular season before they have a couple weeks off with a game against the 1-8 Cannons.