10 Storylines to Watch During the PLL Championship Series


Marcus Holman's father, Brian, was recently hired as the head coach of the Cannons.

The 2023 PLL Championship Series begins Wednesday. The top four teams from the 2022 regular season — Archers, Atlas, Chrome, and Whipsnakes — will compete to be the first winner of the inaugural offseason tournament.

There will be new rules and many fresh faces, and the people we’re familiar with will be asked to take on new responsibilities in this Sixes discipline. We could see the beginning of budding careers and possibly the end of the line for some all-time greats.

Whether fans are live in attendance or watching on ESPN platforms, here are some of the biggest storylines to consider heading into the event.

What will it look like?

“It’s all new,” Whipsnakes head coach Jim Stagnitta said. “No one knows what to expect.”

There's limited experience with this format. Justin Anderson (Chrome), Dan Bucaro (Atlas), Justin Guterding (Whipsnakes) and Brad Smith (Whipsnakes) played for the U.S. in the Super Sixes competition in October 2021, and Guterding played for the U.S. in The World Games last summer.

There’s no shot backup, a 30-second shot clock and quick restarts after goals. How much of an adjustment will the change in style be? It’s likely Sunday gameplay looks vastly different than Wednesday.

How will attackmen do on defense?

All field players will act as two-way midfielders, and teams factored that in when creating rosters. Guys like Will Manny, Jay Carlson, Dylan Molloy, Logan Wisnauskas, Chris Gray and Jake Carraway have never really been asked to defend, other than on the ride. It’s not just the on-ball defense, either; it’s guarding guys off-ball and sliding to help. Substitutions will be used, but there will be more times than normal when they’ll have to be on the defensive end. Will they hold their own or be liabilities?

No poles, no problems?

Manny, Molloy, Wisnauskas and Gray have been drawing the opposition’s top pole their entire careers. In the Championship Series, not only did most teams not bring their top defenders (no Tucker Durkin, Graeme Hossack, Mike Manley, JT Giles-Harris, Michael Ehrhardt or Matt Dunn), the defenders won’t have long poles.

The Sixes format is designed to be fast and high scoring, which was evident during The World Games. With the two-point arc, scores were already going to be inflated, but how much will guys like Gray and Molloy feast being matched up with a shortie?

What impact will the 13-yard two-point arc have?

The two-point arc in the PLL is typically a 15-yard boundary, but Sixes is played on a smaller field, so the league moved the two-point line in to 13 yards.

PLL analyst Joe Keegan wrote that the shooting percentage on shots from 15 yards out was around 14.7 percent, while shots from two yards closer improved to 18.9 percent. The two players in the Championship Series with the best shooting percentage from 13 yards since 2019 play for the Atlas —Bryan Costabile (20.2 percent) and Romar Dennis (17.8 percent).

Is this a coaching audition for Steven Brooks?

On October 21, Atlas head coach Ben Rubeor stepped down from his position and assistant Steven Brooks was named his interim replacement. While the Cannons, who have already named Sean Quirk’s replacement, didn’t waste time finding a new leading man, the interim tag has not yet been lifted from Brooks’ title.

Brooks played for and coached the Atlas. He has built relationships and seems to be well-liked. He is a candidate to be the permanent head coach, and the league could be waiting to see how the Championship Series plays out to make its final decision.

Which unheralded players will shine?

Many star players for the four teams will be unavailable, creating opportunities for players that didn’t play much last summer.

Two specifically to watch are Gibson Smith (Chrome) and Will Perry (Whipsnakes).

Smith is a two-time USILA All-American but went undrafted and hasn’t played in a PLL game. He is a defender and will have to play with a short stick.

Perry (Whipsnakes) is North Carolina’s all-time leader in goals from the midfield but played only two games for the Whipsnakes in 2021 and didn’t make it out of training camp in 2022.

How will Nick Washuta and Reed Junkin/Brian Phipps play in comparison to other goalies?

Of the four teams playing in the Championship Series, the Archers and Whipsnakes are the only one without its regular starting goalie. While the Chrome and Atlas will have Sean Sconone and Jack Concannon, respectively, the Archers will have Nick Washuta, who was an emergency goalie last summer, and the Whipsnakes will have Brian Phipps or Reed Junkin, who replaced Bernlohr (torso injury) on the roster on Monday.

He started all four years for Vermont in college, and he does have pro experience. He played five games for the Denver Outlaws in the 2020 Major League Lacrosse bubble and appeared twice for the Archers last season. He’s talented, but it will be interesting to see how he compares to three of the best in the world.

Is this the last time Marcus Holman wears an Archers uniform?

Holman finished third on the Archers in points last season with his second-highest PLL total (29). He is a free agent after the Championship Series, and his father, Brian Holman, was just named the head coach of the Cannons. Holman is a three-time PLL All-Star and not someone you want to let go for nothing, but the Archers also have 13 other free agents — including Manny and Connor Fields — who are important parts of the offense, too.

Holman isn’t the only free-agent-to-be playing in the Championship Series.

Manny, who is coming off his best statistical PLL season, will be a free agent. Because of how close he is the Holmans — he was a Utah assistant under Brian Holman — the speculation of a change hasn’t eluded him.

Guterding and Bucaro are versatile offensive threats. They can play attack or come out of the box and have had primary roles and secondary roles. The lowest scoring teams (which were also the three teams at the bottom of the standings) or teams that lose many players to free agency may look to them for value.

Does 2021 Jake Carraway make a comeback?

Carraway is another potential free agent, and he seems the most likely to change teams. He emerged as a difference maker as a rookie in 2021 with 21 points, but when the Atlas drafted Gray the following year, Carraway was the one pushed out of the starting attack. He only appeared in one game and scored one goal last year. He’ll likely be looking for a team that will play him more regularly, and the Championship Series will be an opportunity to prove he can still be a top scorer in this league.

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