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Top takeaways from PLL Week 3 in Philadelphia

New York Atlas 20, California Redwoods 15 New York Atlas 20, California Redwoods 15 - PLL

Boston Cannons 12, Philadelphia Waterdogs 11 (OT)

Sarah Griffin: Zac Tucci is the hero for the Cannons against his former team

There was a lot of discussion about a “revenge game” coming into this matchup, but ultimately it was faceoff specialist Zac Tucci who found vengeance against his former team. 

It was domination at the stripe for the 24-year-old. He won 18 of 24 faceoffs and scooped up 13 ground balls. Without a specialist on the Waterdogs' roster, even the best two-way midfielder in the world, Zach Currier, couldn’t answer for what was happening at the faceoff. 

But Tucci wasn't just dominating on draws. He also led Boston in scoring with four points on the day (3G, 1T). He scored his professional career goal off a faceoff win in the first quarter, then notched a Hail Mary two-pointer right at the halftime buzzer. It only was right for Tucci to be the hero for his team and cap off his perfect day with the game-winner in overtime.

“That felt pretty good,” the ex-Dog said afterward.

Even with Tucci's offensive output in the game, head coach Brian Holman didn’t plan for his faceoff specialist to be the guy to take it to the rack in the final moments.

Going into overtime, Holman knew Tucci would win the faceoff. He told him from there to chuck the ball over the goal and allow the offense to get set up. Instead, Tucci took three steps out of the chute and decided he was going to take it to the net himself.

“I thank God he’s a lot smarter than I am,” Holman laughed.

Though Holman said the Cannons' faceoff strategy is still something they’ll address week by week, it’s safe to say Tucci earned his spot as Boston’s faceoff specialist. 

Up next for Boston: vs. Utah Archers (Friday, June 28, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Wyatt Miller: Turnovers killed the Dogs, and Sowers couldn’t save them

Turnovers killed the Waterdogs in this matchup. Whether they were failing to capitalize on gift-wrapped opportunities from the Cannons or turning the ball over unprompted, the Dogs wasted a lot of time and chances to do damage.

The Waterdogs finished the game with 14 turnovers, only four of which were caused, meaning they gave 10 possessions away in a one-goal game. On the other end, Boston finished with 24 turnovers, 10 of which were caused by the Dogs, and Philly couldn’t turn those into points. There are very few situations where the team with 10 fewer turnovers should win the game, but that’s part of the faceoff tradeoff the Waterdogs are employing.

Tucci’s first-half buzzer-beater from near midfield didn’t help, but that’s a microcosm of the issue. Not dressing a specialist gives those final possessions, and the first in overtime, to the opposing team, but it causes more cough-ups throughout.

Still, the Waterdogs didn’t go down without a fight. Michael Sowers and Kieran McArdle set the field on fire. They either assisted or scored on all but one Waterdogs goal, and the final three scores of the third quarter were connections between the two star attackmen. The two-man game was unstoppable. Sowers’ airborne goal on the skip pass was like a classic Sixers alley-oop, and the duo just kept cooking from there… until the fourth quarter started.

The Dogs didn’t find twine until Ryan Conrad scored with one second remaining to send the rivalry game to overtime. It was almost poetic that Tucci, who was on the Waterdogs last season, was careful not to allow a turnover off the draw and had the last laugh after the comeback.

Up next for Philadelphia: vs. Maryland Whipsnakes (Sunday, June 16, 3 p.m. ET)

Utah Archers 9, Carolina Chaos 7

Zach Carey: Brett Dobson wins the Archers another game

Standing across the field from four-time Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year Blaze Riorden, Archers keeper Brett Dobson outdueled the best goalie in the world.

“Dobber was every bit his match,” Archers head coach Chris Bates said postgame. “He really settled us down. He’s very composed. He settled us down on our clear, which was critical. He’s having another good year. He’s become a really good leader for us."

With 15 saves on 22 shots on goal (68.2%), Dobson anchored a Utah defense that was without defensive coordinator Tony Resch. He made save after save after save in the fourth quarter as the Archers held Carolina to only two goals in the final 31:23 of the game. It was yet another heroic performance from the third-year goalie when the club desperately needed it.

Offensively, while the Archers scored just nine goals, they did enough against arguably the best defense in the league. Utah found the matchups it could win against the Carolina short sticks and had a well-rounded attack with Tom Schreiber (2G, 2A) leading the way and sealing the deal by scoring an insurance goal with 15 seconds left in the fourth. 

Otherwise, Ryan Ambler (2G, 1A) and Mac O’Keefe (2G, 1A) exploited their short-stick matchups well and capitalized on their opportunities. 

Against a club that has had their number since the league’s inception, pulling out this win is a major step in the right direction for the Archers as they try to run it back this summer. 

Up next for Utah: vs. Boston Cannons (Friday, June 28, 9:30 p.m. ET)

Hayden Lewis: Carolina’s near 14-minute scoring drought leads to second straight loss

After three quick goals in the first quarter, the Chaos offense was firing on all cylinders. Carolina finally found some mojo and looked primed for an explosive game. Then the long scoring droughts and turnovers returned, and the offense stalled out.

After leading the contest for essentially three quarters, the Chaos finally allowed the Archers to tie the game, and the offensive woes reached new heights. Carolina failed to score in the final 13:48 of regulation and couldn’t find a way to beat Dobson.

“Credit to Dobson. He is a phenomenal goalie, and he played a great game and he deserves the credit,” Chaos head coach and general manager Andy Towers said. “I felt like we generated a lot of high-quality opportunities, and we just didn’t bury enough of them.”

The Chaos shot 17.9%, a steep drop from the team’s 40.4% average coming into the game. 

The defense played solid throughout the contest and held an inconsistent Archers offense at bay. Jack Rowlett (three caused turnovers, two ground balls) pumped out another solid performance on defense, and Riorden made 11 saves in his return from injury. 

“I think they’re going to have nightmares about Blaze,” Towers said. 

Up next for Carolina: vs. Philadelphia Waterdogs (Saturday, June 29, 8:30 p.m. ET)

New York Atlas 20, California Redwoods 15

Lauren Merola: In a game of runs, New York ran away with it

The Atlas got off to their slowest start of the season and had a deficit to work back from. And work back they did, going on two 6-0 runs – one in the first half and one in the second.

In the first half, the team’s six unanswered goals gave it a two-point pad before the Redwoods equalized the game at eight heading into the half. New York’s second-half scoring spree saw it take a 14-8 advantage and Connor Shellenberger land his touches.

Shellenberger finished with seven points (4G, 3A) and is likely the early favorite for Rookie of the Year. Jeff Teat had eight points (4G, 4A) and the Atlas had nine goal-scorers on the day.

Coming into the weekend, Atlas players led the league in points (Teat), one-point goals (Xander Dickson), scoring points (Dickson), assists (Teat), shots (Teat), faceoff win percentage (Trevor Baptiste, who left Sunday's game with an injury) and tied for most two-point goals (Koby Smith). That offensive prowess stayed steady in Week 3.

Now the Atlas head into the bye week at a league-best 4-0. No other team has yet to eclipse three wins.

Up next for New York: vs. Maryland Whipsnakes (Friday, June 28, 7 p.m. ET)

Jerome Taylor: Redwoods Overwhelmed by the Atlas Offense

Despite TD Ierlan winning 70.6% of the faceoffs with Baptiste on the other side, the Redwoods were plagued by 20 turnovers. And ultimately, their offense just couldn’t keep up with the high-powered New York attack.

Things started on a high note for the Woods, as they got out to a 5-1 start. However, like last week, once the opposition went on a run, the Redwoods were without an answer for long stretches. 

“It’s not like the ball is dying in the same person’s stick all the time," Redwoods head coach Nat St. Laurent said. "One game is this guy, one game it’s that guy, we’ve got to clean that up.

“The first time it feels like we're not in a groove, these guys are alphas, and they go out and try to make a play… lacrosse is a beautiful game, but it’s a game you can’t insert yourself all the time, and we’ve started to figure that out, but we have to be more consistent.”

Defensively, it is tough to make a fair assessment because Chris Fake went down in the first half with a left hamstring injury. Even though Brian Tevlin put forth a valiant and versatile effort by picking up a pole, it's not an ideal situation when you’re facing the best offense in lacrosse.

“They just got tired,” St Laurent said of his defense. “We need to do a better job managing the game from offense to defense.”

Now 0-2 and on the wrong end of a five-goal loss (remember, score differential matters for playoffs), the Redwoods will have the league’s bye week to figure out their go-to actions when they need to stop a run.

Up next for California: vs. Denver Outlaws (Saturday, June 29, 6 p.m. ET)

Maryland Whipsnakes 15, Philadelphia Waterdogs 14 (OT)

Adam Lamberti: Matt Rambo the hometown hero in overtime thriller

Philadelphia native Matt Rambo was the hometown hero for the Whipsnakes, burying the overtime winner to give Maryland its first win of the season.

While it’s only Week 3, this felt like a game the Whipsnakes needed to have. After losing a late fourth-quarter lead, Colin Heacock painted a corner to even the score and send the game into overtime.

In overtime, the Whipsnakes couldn’t convert after a Joe Nardella faceoff win, but Brendan Krebs saved the game with an unbelievable stop on the doorstep to deny Waterdogs attackman Kieran McArdle. On the next possession, Rambo curled to his strong left hand from behind the net, got a step and finished the shot.

This was the definition of a "team win." Nardella went a perfect 31-for-31 at the faceoff. Krebs made 14 saves, none bigger than the game-saving stop in overtime. The Whipsnakes had nine different goal-scorers, including two tallies from defenseman Matt Dunn.

Not only was it the Whipsnakes' first win, but they got it over a conference foe, something that will be meaningful later in the season come the battle for playoffs.

From a neutral perspective, this was as exciting a lacrosse game as you’ll find. For the Whipsnakes, this win was something to build upon.

Up next for Maryland: vs. New York Atlas (Friday, June 28, 7 p.m. ET)

Wyatt Miller: Zach Currier takes over in first game without faceoff duties, but Dogs fall short

The Waterdogs’ faceoff strategy has been a hot topic this season. Despite long poles not being allowed at the stripe, the Dogs have stuck to their no-specialist approach. In the first two games, Zach Currier supplemented the lack of a specialist with his box experience, but that has limited his production elsewhere. On Sunday, Currier was only used on offense and in limited defensive sets. The results were immediate.

Currier scored his first hat trick since 2021, including the game-tying goal in the fourth quarter, along with two assists to lead an otherwise stagnant Waterdogs offense. His quarterbacking skills made a clear difference after Philly managed just 11 points in each of its first two games. The defensive midfielders did a fine job of manning the stripe, but it wasn’t enough to get the Waterdogs their first win of the 2024 season.

“In the first two games, we thought Zach could battle through some of those faceoffs, but him winning only three or four, we thought that by having our defensive personnel on there… we believe in those guys,” head coach Bill Tierney said.

Conserving that energy was the key for Currier, as Tierney acknowledged that “Zach had more zip on offense.

"He showed what he was," the coach said.

Late in the fourth quarter, Currier fought through contact in the middle of the field to score low-to-high past Krebs in net, tying the game at 13. But that wasn’t his only impressive play. A shifty face dodge from the top of the arc followed by a low-to-high finish put his second goal on the board, and a flip to Ethan Walker after Currier drew the slide tied it at seven in the third quarter.

Currier’s command of the offense almost carried them to the win. In the Waterdogs’ only overtime possession, a weaving 77 found McArdle on the crease, but he couldn’t fake out Krebs, and the ball went back to Rambo on the other end. Even in defeat, Currier’s contributions can’t be understated. Figuring out where Currier brings the most value is priority No. 1 for Philadelphia, and Sunday's loss certainly informed that decision.

Up next for Philadelphia: vs. Carolina Chaos (Friday, June 28, 8:30 p.m. ET)