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Top takeaways from PLL Week 4 in Minneapolis

Redwoods vs. Outlaws Redwoods vs. Outlaws

Maryland Whipsnakes 16, New York Atlas 12

Adam Lamberti: Rookies propel Whipsnakes to statement win

Levi Anderson. Adam Poitras. Jack Koras.

Combining for seven points, these three rookies had brilliant games in the first PLL appearance for both Anderson and Poitras. Couple that with Koras chipping in two goals and TJ Malone continuing his Rookie of the Year campaign with a hat trick, and that’s a recipe for success.

It seems as if the rest of the team was sparked by the performances. Brendan Krebs continued his strong play with 14 saves, including 10 in the first half to keep the Whipsnakes level going into halftime.

Joe Nardella went 18-for-32 at the faceoff stripe against Trevor Baptiste and scored, as well.

Matt Rambo, Zed Williams, and Colin Heacock scored timely goals, with Heacock’s behind-the-back effort serving as an exclamation point on a great evening for the Whipsnakes.

Are the Whipsnakes back? If they can get performances like this from their rookies along with Krebs, Nardella and other Whips staples playing at their best, watch out.

Oh, and don’t forget, 2023 Rookie of the Year Tucker Dordevic hasn’t touched the field yet this season.

Up next for Maryland: vs. Utah Archers (Saturday, July 6, 4:30 p.m. ET)

Lauren Merola: Liam Entenmann gets his shot in down day for Atlas

We finally know what it’d take for New York coach Mike Pressler to sit Tim Troutner and give rookie goalie Liam Entenmann his shot: 14 goals against, a five-goal hole and lack of momentum in the fourth quarter.

That’s how the game looked when Troutner was pulled. Entenmann finished with four saves against two let-ups but he still showed glimpses of elite potential at this level. Now that Entenmann has his opening, Pressler should ride the momentum and start Entenmann next week to see his full scope of capabilities. Both the offense and defense were frazzled against the Whipsnakes, and Entenmann entering the game in the final quarter wasn’t going to change that.

The offense scored its easiest goals when in motion, with Jeff Teat and Connor Shellenberger getting their touches. But New York failed to find both players enough after the first quarter, enduring an 11-minute scoreless stretch. Teat had three points in the first eight minutes and finished the day with five points (2G, 3A).

Baptiste won less than 50% of battles at the stripe and drew multiple penalties while also sitting out a few reps. It’s unclear whether the injury Baptiste sustained against the California Redwoods in Week 3 was lingering, but it was an uncharacteristic day for the star faceoff man. 

The defense had no answer for Malone, who ignited Maryland with three goals, and the Atlas had seven uncaused turnovers and 12 total turnovers.

It was an unmoving performance by the Atlas, but the bright spot of the game was rookie Jake Stevens, who scored two goals in his pro debut while proving to be another reliable two-way player for New York.

Up next for New York: vs. Denver Outlaws (Friday, July 5, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Boston Cannons 14, Utah Archers 9

Sarah Griffin: Boston two party powers the Cannons to victory

It was raining twos in Minneapolis for the Cannons. In its first win over the Archers in the club’s PLL history, Boston got it done from range. 

The Boom Squad set a new PLL record with five two-point goals to turn what would have been a 9-9 tie into their third straight victory.

With Archers top defenseman Graeme Hossack back in the mix, the Cannons’ quarterback, Asher Nolting, was limited from X, making it difficult for their offense to get into its usual flow. But like all good teams do, the Cannons found a way to make do. 

Matt Campbell led the charge in the first half with three goals, including two two-pointers. Outside of a lone goal from Marcus Holman right before the half, it was all Campbell through the first 24 minutes for the Cannons. 

Skilled with both hands and with one heck of a powerful shot from range, the second-year midfielder set the tone for Boston in the first half. In the second half, his teammates followed suit. 

There were five ties throughout the game, but it was Ryan Drenner’s first two-pointer of the night in the final four seconds of the third quarter that really kick-started the “Boston two party.”

Leading 10-8 entering the fourth quarter, Boston never lost its advantage thanks to -- you guessed it -- more two-pointers. 

Drenner buried his second -- this one less of a lucky bounce than the first -- off a feed from Holman. Chris Aslanian, another of Boston's noted range scorers, then put the nail in the coffin with a two-point goal that closed out the scoring.

Of course, none of it would’ve been possible without Colin Kirst in the cage. Kirst made 11 saves for a 55% save percentage on the night, holding an offense that included the reigning MVP and one of the best shooters in the game to fewer than 10 goals. 

Boston continues to find ways to win no matter the obstacles. This was an all-out team effort and another feel-good win as the Cannons head into their Homecoming Weekend. 

Up next for Boston: vs. California Redwoods (Friday, July 5, 6 p.m. ET)

Zach Carey: Archers offense can’t match Cannons’ two-point assault

Friday night’s loss to the Cannons was already the second time that the Archers didn’t score in the final 11-plus minutes of a game this season. It was their fifth scoring drought of eight-plus minutes in four games. Meanwhile, their 21 turnovers per game lead the league by a wide margin. 

For an offense that returned every piece from its 2023 title run and is far healthier than it was back in September, scoring nine points in back-to-back weeks is a head-scratcher. 

Grant Ament, Tom Schreiber, Mac O’Keefe and Connor Fields continue to lead the offense, but the group as a whole has struggled to win matchups at the same rate as it did in 2023. That plus the league-leading turnover rate has hampered an offense that is third in the league in shooting percentage. 

The club could benefit from All-Star Matt Moore getting going. He has one point in four games on 0-for-13 shooting. That said, there also has been a lack of production from Utah's fifth midfield spot. 

Challen Rogers made his 2024 debut against Boston and had a rough go of it. Whether it was due to injury – he missed the first three games and then left the loss due to a hamstring issue – or rust, he only registered three turnovers and one penalty on the statsheet. Ryan Aughavin, who played in Rogers’ place to start the season, has two assists in three games. 

With Rogers and Aughavin quiet thus far, second-round pick Dyson Williams could get the nod for Utah against the Maryland Whipsnakes next week. The Canadian lefty could be the shot in the arm the offense needs as an off-ball demon who can help to free up Fields and O’Keefe even more in two-man games on the lefty wing.    

Defensively, nine goals allowed totaling 14 points allowed has to be a tough pill to swallow. The Cannons' shooters got hot, and goalie Brett Dobson wasn’t seeing the ball as well as he typically does. That’s how it goes sometimes. 

The Archers can be encouraged by how well Hossack bottled up Nolting and by Mike Sisselberger’s return to form at the faceoff stripe with a 68.4% performance. But cleaning up the sloppiness on offense and finding a greater diversity in the group’s production will be key as the Archers hope to turn things around next week against a resurgent Whipsnakes squad. 

Up next for Utah: vs. Maryland Whipsnakes (Saturday, July 6, 4:30 p.m. ET)

Denver Outlaws 13, California Redwoods 8

Topher Adams: Denver’s defense is back, and Graham Bundy has arrived

Through two weeks, the Outlaws weren’t playing defense up to their standard. Over the bye weeks, that defense shook off all the early-season rust. The Redwoods were held scoreless for long periods of time -- including more than 20 minutes in the first half.

JT Giles-Harris shut down Rob Pannell all night, as Pannell went without a point for the first time in his PLL career. If it weren’t for a pair of Romar Dennis two-pointers, Denver’s defensive showing would have looked even more dominant.

Goalie Owen McElroy deserves plenty of praise for the defensive turnaround, as well. He made 11 saves (64.7%) to give the Outlaws a solid base between the pipes.

Offensively, Brennan O’Neill couldn’t recreate his show-stopping performance from Week 2, but he didn’t have to. Against a slide-happy Redwoods defense, the Outlaws moved the ball to open shooters. Graham Bundy Jr. was the biggest beneficiary of that open grass.

The second-round pick from Georgetown scored four goals, including a two-pointer. All of his goals were powerful outside step-downs to beat the rotating California defense. Even when O’Neill can’t get goals, Denver is finding ways to create dangerous offense.

Up next for Denver: vs. New York Atlas (Friday, July 5, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Jerome Taylor: California’s inconsistent offense keeps the Woods winless

It’s been the story of the season, and the Redwoods' inconsistent offense once again led to an L.

The Woods were held scoreless for 24:56, stretching through the first and second half. The offense had 21 turnovers. When the dust settled, the usual leader on the offensive side, Pannell, was held scoreless for the first time in the PLL (and the first time since 2014 as a professional).

Heading into the season, there were questions surrounding the defense. And they are still there. But the lack of efficiency on offense has been surprising and problematic since the start of the season, and there were few positive takeaways Friday night.

On the optimistic side, Dennis (four points) popped two two-pointers, which bodes well for his inclusion in the lineup moving forward. But there are still major questions surrounding how this offense gels moving forward.

As the only winless team in the Western Conference, the 0-3 Woods need to start finding answers to those questions before they take on the Cannons during Boston’s Homecoming Weekend.

Up next for California: vs. Boston Cannons (Friday, July 5, 6 p.m. ET)

Philadelphia Waterdogs 10, Carolina Chaos 6

Wyatt Miller: Dillon Ward, Jack Hannah lead Waterdogs to first win of Bill Tierney era

Boy, the Waterdogs sure did miss Jack Hannah. The third-year midfielder out of Denver utilized his unique creativity to revitalize the Waterdogs’ offense, leading Philadelphia to its first win of the 2024 season. The Waterdogs are now 7-0 against the Chaos all-time, and Bill Tierney earned his first victory as a professional head coach in a fitting defensive masterpiece.

Hannah, one of the best dodgers in the PLL, used a screen to get topside, beating the top goalie in the world off the bounce for his first goal of the season early in the second quarter. Later on, he created some deja vu for Waterdogs fans as he sniped a no-look skip pass across the formation and Connor Kelly finished high-to-high. He did the same thing last year on the field of his alma mater. The pressure he put on the Chaos out of the box made them bump a long pole up, and that made a significant difference for the Dogs’ offense.

“He had one of the best assists I’ve seen in a long time that I thought changed the game,” Tierney said. “But what he does to the other team is pushes another guy down so maybe [Ryan] Conrad or Kelly ends up with a short stick instead of a pole. I thought that had a huge impact on what happened here tonight.”

To cap it all off, Hannah beat Troy Reh’s long pole on a low-to-high sweeper two minutes later, giving the Waterdogs their first lead of the second half, which would only grow from there. Kieran McArdle was another bright spot, as he fought through a physical matchup with Jarrod Neumann to net two goals and three assists.

On the defensive end, goalie Dillon Ward shut down a Chaos offense that had averaged nearly 12 points per game coming in. Carolina only mustered half of that on Saturday night. Ward had his best game of the season by far, saving 12 of 18 shots (66.7%). He saved shots low and high, with his stick, body and leg. 

It was an absolute clinic from the master of the high arc, but it wasn’t without some help from the Waterdogs’ elite defensive unit. The defense caused eight turnovers, and the Chaos had 15 in total. Ward has historically gotten better as the season goes on, and this was his coming-out party for 2024. Opposing shooters beware, because when Ward is on, his high arc can cause… chaos.

Up next for Philadelphia: vs. Boston Cannons (Saturday, July 6, 7 p.m. ET)

Hayden Lewis: Offensive struggles lead to a third straight loss for Carolina

The Chaos have registered just 13 goals in their last 96 minutes of lacrosse. The offensive struggles have left the defense out to dry in the last two games. 

Brian Minicus was a redeeming sight on offense, recording three points (2G, 1A) on a meager nine touches. Minicus finding his game will help the offense find its footing as a unit. 

“I think one of our biggest problems right now is we’re too unselfish,” midfield Kyle Jackson said. “That’s a good problem to have. But the reality is, whoever becomes the best family and the closest family is going to win a championship.”

The offense only had two unassisted goals on the evening, and players had trouble creating their own looks off the dodge. 

“We want to score more goals, but there are also games that have more of a defensive flow, and there are games that have more offensive flow," head coach and general manager Andy Towers said.  

The Chaos have a two-week break with their bye next week and the All-Star break to follow that. It will be a great chance for the team to solve its offensive struggles. 

Up next for Carolina: Bye week