Whipsnakes Outlast Archers 15-14, Improve to 4-1
By Quinn Magner | Jul 5, 2021
Head coach Jim Stagnitta’s now 4-1 Whipsnakes LC came out on top against Chris Bates’ 3-2 Archers LC in Shuart Stadium, home of Hofstra University, on Independence Day in the most talked about PLL matchup of the 2021 season so far.
Both clubs were coming into the game at 3-1 with Archers sitting at #1 and Whipsnakes holding the #2 spot in the league after both teams suffered their first losses of the 2021 season to Chrome. The level of chemistry, athleticism and overall talent making up the DNA of both of these teams is uncanny.
“You know, I wasn’t disappointed, but I think we were all a little bit embarrassed with the way that it all came about,” Stagnitta explained after the win regarding last weekend’s loss to Chrome. “I felt good about the fact that, like I said, it was a learning experience, and it was going to happen. We were not going to go undefeated forever despite people’s thoughts that that could happen – it doesn’t. But it made us better.”
No-Go for Rambo? No Problem.
The 2019 MVP of the PLL’s inaugural season, Matt Rambo, was sidelined after an early injury suffered against Chrome last weekend. Reigning 2020 Championship Series MVP Zed Williams helped lead the charge at attack for Stagnitta’s bunch and finished the game with two 1-point goals and one 2-pointer for a total of 4 points against Archers.
Archers’ attackman and the PLL’s leader in points, Grant Ament, opened the high-scoring bout with a low-to-low blast past Whipsnakes’ goalie Kyle Bernlohr at the 10:12 mark. Then, midfielder Ryan Ambler stepped into the middle of the field and fired off a lefty goal to increase Archers’ lead 2-0. Whipsnakes’ Williams put the team on the board and tied up the game that same minute; he stepped out calling for the ball with his stick in his right hand, wound up and popped off with a 2-pointer that would blister by Archers’ veteran keeper Adam Ghitelman stickside-high. At 2-2, both teams locked down on defense and allowed no other goals for the final ten minutes of the 1st quarter before the battle really began on Long Island.
After four lead changes throughout the entirety of the shootout, it was Whips midfielder Brad Smith who seemed to have Ghitelman’s number all four quarters. Smith capitalized on a few screens as well as hiding his quick release, finishing out the win with four goals and an assist. To top it all off as he, John Haus (3A) and Mike Chanenchuk (2G, 1A) helped spearhead the strikes from midfield. Smith created a mini tutorial on how to perfect jump shots on-the-run down the alley during the game, hammering home his four goals in what looked like carbon copies of the same high-to-high cannons past Ghitelman. Smith was close to walking out of Shuart Stadium with five against Archers, but that shot was denied at the 1-minute mark in the fourth quarter coming around GLE and Ghitelman taking that shot off of his shins.
“Just play Whipsnakes lacrosse. It doesn't change week-to-week,” Smith said after the game when asked about the absence of Rambo. “So, with Matt going down, the next guy’s just gotta step up. So, not too much changes game-wise, we’re just trying to play fast, make the right decisions and move the ball.”
Joe Nardella: King of the Stripe
Whipsnakes’ faceoff specialist Joe Nardella won 23 of his 32 faceoffs on Sunday and truly dominated in what was nearly the all-time best faceoff performance since the PLL started in 2019. Nardella, who finished with a 72 percent faceoff percentage against Archers’ Stephen Kelly, was the key contributor to Whipsnakes’ offensive possessions. His 23 wins at the stripe ended being his personal best pro lacrosse showing to date.
“You know, it’s – and I’m guilty of this – but you expect so much out of Joe,” Stagnitta said. “We just talked about him picking up some missed groundballs. You just expect him to make every single play. He’s an athlete, he’s a lacrosse player, he’s just not a FOGO. So he makes all kinds of plays. Joe really settled in today, and he made all the big plays, was consistent throughout, and certainly we’re a little bit spoiled because we get a lot of possessions because of him.”
Whipsnakes Strike as Time Expires
Whipsnakes had a messy shooting clinic after the half going 2-for-14 for shots on goal halfway through the 3rd quarter. Stagnitta’s high-octane offensive weapons actually outshot Archers 20-7 by the end of the 3rd quarter and were supported by Smith and Jay Carlson goals; however, there were a handful of exciting plays that carried the weight for Archers.
There was a Sports Center-quality captain-to-captain goal in transition at the 6:39 mark of the third quarter. Archers’ defenseman Matt McMahon stepped in goal on the left post behind Ghitelman and took a shot off the body. Ghitelman then turned, scooped and slung the outlet to captain Marcus Holman who would flip it to fellow captain Tom Schreiber. From there, Holman created a give-and-go scenario, having just slung the ball to the QB in Schreiber who would then drive to his right and feed it back to Holman. Holman finished the play off by firing it past Bernlohr side-arm before being sandwiched by two Whips defensemen as the ball hit the back of the net.
That said, this game could have truly gone to either team with a little more time to work with. Yet, Whipsnakes’ Carlson was the one who would get away with the final blow to put Stagnitta’s team in red on top, garnering the league’s top spot over the equally threatening Archers.
Archers’ defensive middie Dominique Alexander bodied up Zed Williams who rolled back to feed Whips’ captain John Haus at the top-center of Archers’ defensive territory. Haus then saw a drifting Carlson looping around Archers’ captain and LSM Scott Ratliff in the middle of the field. On a whim, Haus fed a still-moving Carlson who caught the pass with his right as he was creating an island of space for himself. Having created the separation, Carlson rolled back with Ratliff chasing him milliseconds too late as he jumped with the ball in his right and fired off an overhand shot from the heart of Archers’ defense. The shot slipped by Ghitelman stickside-high and put Whipsnakes up 15-14 with 34 seconds remaining in the 4th.
Whipsnakes travel to Minneapolis for Week 5 of the PLL season and take on the 3-2 Redwoods in TCO Stadium on Saturday, July 10, and the game can be watched at 6 PM ET on NBCSN and Peacock. Coach Bates’ Archers have the last game of the weekend squaring off against Sean Quirk’s 1-4 Cannons that Sunday, July 11, and the game can be watched at 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN and Peacock as well.
Coach Bates seemed optimistic and as authentic as head coaches come after a tough loss.
“It’s a work in progress, and there’s very little margin for error in this league. These are one-goal games, and it’s a possession or two, and so, we’ve got to keep advancing and finding ways to get better.”