Archers Lacrosse

Why the Archers still believe “the championship goes through us” after Waterdogs loss

By Zach Carey

Aug 29, 2023

Mac O’Keefe’s goal with 49 seconds left against the Waterdogs should’ve sealed the deal. That put the Archers up by two, and with Mike Sisselberger dominating at the faceoff stripe, it seemed inevitable that the club would close out their season at 9-1 and waltz into the playoffs with another clutch win in their back pocket.

But that’s not how it played out. 

“Balls didn’t bounce our way in some regards,” said Archers Head Coach and General Manager Christ Bates. “That’s a well coached team, that’s a playoff team. And, at the end of the day, as I told our guys, ‘No harm, no foul.’ We’re okay, we believe in us.” 

That’s the overwhelming sentiment for the PLL’s best team heading into the postseason. Despite the loss and the quarterfinal bye that has left previous no. 1 seeds rusty, the Archers are pleased with how Friday night’s game went both for their quality of play and what it will provide them moving forward. 

“I thought we played pretty well,” added Bates. “I don’t think we played our best game on either end, and to play a caliber team like that and have it in hand with some regard with a two point lead and twenty seconds to go. We’ll take it, we move on, and it’s playoff time for us now.” 

For Connor Fields and the players, they’re approaching this loss as a spark that can light a fire under the club heading into the semifinals on Long Island. 

“Tonight could be one of the best things for us,” the Attackman of the Year finalist emphasized. “It’s a little fire spark underneath us that fires us up a little. Obviously you play to win the championship and that’s enough motivation in itself. But having this and then having a bye week, I think we’re all going to be itching and getting better through the bye week.” 

Fields continued, noting that “we’re all thankful we played a team of that caliber as the last game of the season. It felt like a playoff game, it felt like a playoff atmosphere. That’s a great team and those are the teams we’re going to need to win the championship. At the end of the day we know we can get better and we know we will get better for the playoffs.”

The loss not only provided the club motivation to be better, but it also helped to expose tangible areas for improvement for the club. Bates pointed to the value of facing the Waterdogs and their faceoff prevent strategy as useful. 

“Week to week it’s a funky deal with faceoffs and how we deal with how everybody’s playing that,” he said. “So I think tonight was a good opportunity for us to try some new things and we spent a decent amount of time with it.”

He also highlighted how the offense shot the ball. The team only shot 12-for-56 (21.4%) against Waterdogs keepers Dillon Ward and Matt Deluca and particularly struggled in the first half when they put only four shots past Ward. 

Beyond that, Tom Schreiber’s impact on the Archers offense has never been clearer than on Friday evening when an apparent illness limited his production to just one assist. “Tom didn’t have his best game and Tom’s the MVP of the league really,” commented Bates, alluding to the fact that Schreiber at full-strength would give the club a boost in a potential rematch against the 'Dogs.  

The quarterfinal bye has been a topic of much debate in the lacrosse world. Since the league adopted this playoff format the top seed hasn’t even managed to win its semifinal contest with the Waterdogs losing in the semifinals in 2021 and the Whipsnakes following suit in 2022. That hasn’t fazed the Archers, though. They’re still happy with the bye and believe they’re set up well to be successful against whichever club they face. 

“At the end of the day I’ll do simple math,” said Bates. “I’d rather win one game to get to a championship game than win two. Simple as that. In this league there’s too much parity. Anybody can beat you on any given day. So, if I had the choice, we’ll take the bye week for sure. It’s on us to stay mentally focused and prepared.” 

“We’re a very confident group,” added Fields. “We have the best coach, we have the MVP in Tom [Schreiber]. We trust ourselves that we’re all going to put in the work to be the best version of ourselves come Long Island.”

It’s that confidence and trust that have the Archers feeling good about where they stand ahead of their push for the club’s first PLL Championship. 

“From a psyche standpoint or mentality standpoint, our message is simple: It’s back to work. Game in game out, day in day out, week in week out that’s been our mantra and we’re confident,” concluded Bates. “This is a group we all believe in and we think the championship goes through us in every way. We just want the opportunity to back it up.” 

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