Zed leads Whips over Waterdogs, 14-10
By Lauren Merola | Sep 6, 2021
The Whipsnakes return to the championship stage after ousting the Waterdogs 14-10 in a back and forth semifinal battle in Philadelphia.
With 9:19 left in the first half, Justin Guterding drove right from X, rolled and changed hands to get the shot off and past Dillon Ward. Guterding scored his fourth goal in his fourth game as a Whipsnake to put the team up 4-3. The Waterdogs kept chasing the lead but never recovered.
“This just means that we get this and another week with the guys,” Rambo said. “This season has been weird with all the bye weekends. I feel like we didn't get to hang out with them as much as we could. So we're happy to spend one more week with them, digest this game, start getting prepared for Chaos. So right now we're going to celebrate together and we're pretty happy.”
With the win, the Whipsnakes head to their third straight PLL championship.
For the Waterdogs, Kieran McArdle scored three goals and had three assists.
“I love playing with Kieran because I feel like every time I'm open and the ball is on the left side, he going to find me,” Ryan Brown said. He has incredible vision and I think he’s an underrated dodger. When he has the ball in his stick, honestly, he's a bear to cover. He's not huge by any means. He’s not a big guy, but he uses his body so well.”
“[Sower’s] is awesome,” Waterdogs coach Andy Copelan said. “I think everybody saw that he is so dynamic in front of the cage, behind the cage. We tried to get him out there every shift throughout the course of the second half and tried not to be too disruptive with our attack… but Michael Sowers has a huge professional career in front of him. I'm really proud of him, especially in those circumstances, and he just battled through and kept the faith. When he was reinserted into the lineup today, he didn't try to make up for what he missed in the last 10 weeks, I thought he carried himself with simplicity. He has a winning attitude. He's going to be a big part of our future.”
Sowers and Walker, the only rookies on the Waterdogs’ roster, played off each other and made solid connections that’ll be a two-man game to watch in the future.
Copelan said grabbing the No. 1 seed and bye week for the quarterfinals allowed for Sowers and Connor Kelly to have time to get healthy and return to the lineup.
On the ground, the Whipsnakes grabbed 36 ground balls and the Waterdogs 28. The Whips turned the ball over 15 times and caused seven turnovers. The Dogs turned it over 12 times and caused 10 turnovers.
Rambo attests the Whipsnakes’ consistent play to the team’s postseason experience.
“I think everyone didn't have those pregame jitters and we didn't have to be so nervous about getting to the semifinals game,” Rambo said. “I think that helped us out and I think we had a really good game plan that our coaches brought to us this week. I think we executed, for the most part, pretty well.”
Brian Phipps started between the pipes for the Whips. He began the season as a third-string goalie on the Redwoods and is now heading into the championships as a starter. He had 13 saves.
Still, Whipsnakes coach Jim Stagnitta said Kyle Bernlohr is the team’s future.
“Kyle has won us two championships and he saved us over and over and over again,” Stagnitta said. “He's just in a slump and we rode it as long as he could. It didn't seem like it was going to be easy for him to come out of it. I think it's a lot of pressure. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. I just think it's continued to grow. It got to the point where he just he couldn't do the job the way we knew he could.”
Dillon Ward’s momentum flatlined against the Whipsnakes. After coming up big the last few games, Ward made nine saves on 39%.
Stagnitta said once the team started prioritizing the road to D.C., everything fell into place.
“We really didn't necessarily focus on the process for a while,” Stagnitta said. “We worried too much about the outcome. It's hard to win one championship. It's really difficult to win two and in order to win three, you just got to get there. That was our focus and trying to win and to do the things that we needed to do to get here. There were some bumps in the road, but I think every time you look back now, I would say that every time we ran into one of those obstacles, we got better from it. I think that helped us in these last two weeks.”
The Whipsnakes go for the threepeat Sept. 19 at 12 p.m. ET in Washington D.C.