Whipsnakes LC Preview with Jim Stagnitta
By Jim Stagnitta | Jul 8, 2020
Our first PLL season was like no other season I personally have ever experienced. The speed, intensity, and competitiveness of every game on a weekly basis was like none I have faced in my 30 plus years as a college and professional coach. There was very little room for error and no lead was safe. We experienced that dynamic firsthand in each of our first 3 games. We built leads of 4-6 goals in each of these games vs Chaos, Chrome, and Archers only to win each of those games in overtime. Game 3 vs the Archers illustrated the momentum changes and ebbs and tides of the new professional game. We jumped out to a 4 goal lead which the Archers closed at half to 1. The Archers jumped out to a 3 goal lead with under 5 minutes left to which we responded to with a 2 point goal and the game equalizer all in the final few minutes of the game before sealing the win with the first goal in OT. The first quarter of the regular season was only scratching the surface of what the full PLL season had in store for the Whipsnakes. In most seasons if a team jumps out to a 4-0 start you might feel comfortable with your accomplishments and the direction of your team. I think we all understood that we were 3 goals from being 1-4 and needed to play more consistent and put together a full 4 quarters every game to make a run for the championship. We learned just how true that was over the next 4 game stretch!
The first third of the season for us was focused on evaluating our roster and for the players to become comfortable with each other in both the team offense and defense. Our goal was to have a steady line-up and consistent style of play going into the next phase of the season. What we did not prepare well to handle was the time off for the All-Star game and bye weekend. While this next 5-6 weeks was not particularly successful from a wins and losses standpoint, I believe it is what eventually propelled us to the championship. We went 2-3 over the final stretch of the season in which we were plagued by inconsistency not only during the game but in how we prepared during the off weeks. In every season you have a defining moment, how you come out of that and respond will impact the rest of your season in a positive or negative way. We faced that moment in Sacramento following a lackluster effort in a loss to Chrome. At that point, we regrouped and refocused. The Whipsnakes recommitted to individually embracing their roles, preparing as professionals, and playing 4 quarters with purpose. Every single play became important. I believe this propelled us throughout the playoffs to play our best lacrosse of the season. We truly reached our goal of playing our best lacrosse down the stretch. In the final phase of the season, we drew from all our prior experiences and mistakes to overcome every challenge we faced including the final minute and overtime of the Championship game vs the Redwoods. Despite the Redwoods erasing a 6 goal deficit and taking a last-minute lead we showed no panic only confidence in each huddle, knowing that we had been here before. Our execution to tie the game and win in overtime was a culmination of a full season of experiences that created confidence and belief in each other.
Much like the start of the 2019 season, we find ourselves facing a situation none of us has any experience in. Our focus is not on repeating as champions but putting ourselves in a position to compete every day at our highest level. If we focus on the process and prepare for one game at a time everything else will take care of itself. Our approach is to focus only on the things we can control, everything else is simply a distraction. Last season our goal was to play our best lacrosse down the stretch. We understand that the most important game is simply the one we are playing that day. We need to quickly integrate our new roster additions which will allow for us to achieve a level of consistency and comfort going into the playoff round of the tournament. Our main focus is on ourselves as compared to our opponent. The greatest challenges the Championship Series presents are completely different from last season. The ability to stay healthy and utilize the roster to not only compete in the pool play round but to come out of it healthy and prepared to play our best lacrosse in the championship portion of the series.
I believe our roster is set up well to compete in the tournament regardless of the opponent. We have the personnel to play fast as well as execute in the 6v6 offense. The versatility of our roster is key as we have players who can play multiple positions and short stick middies who can create offense. Overall the Whipsnakes are built to face the grind of the Championship Series.
- Jim Stagnitta, Whipsnakes LC Head Coach