2023 Premier Lacrosse League Preview: Atlas LC


Trevor Baptiste was the 2022 PLL MVP.

With the 2023 Premier Lacrosse League season set to open in Albany, N.Y., on June 3, USA Lacrosse Magazine is going team by team in the days leading up to the opener. Today, we take a deep dive on Atlas LC.


2022 Record: 6-4
Head Coach: Mike Pressler
Assistants: Steven Brooks, Kevin Unterstein

Key Additions: Justin Guterding, M; Gavin Adler, D; Brett Makar, D; Xander Dickson, A

Key departures: Jake Carraway, A (Waterdogs); John Crawley, M (retired)


Will Romar Dennis’s momentum from the Championship Series continue?

The biggest breakout player of February’s Championship Series was Dennis, who earned the scoring title with 34 scores, including 15 two-point goals. Afterwards, Dennis was very clear he was frustrated with the number of times he was a healthy scratch during the summer. At the time, interim head coach Steven Brooks said Dennis absolutely played himself into an every-week role. Brooks was later named an assistant coach under new head coach Mike Pressler, who later echoed a similar sentiment.

With playing time not a factor, will Dennis have the same impact? The Championship Series roster was missing two of its three starting attackmen and leading scorers in Jeff Teat and Eric Law, so one has to imagine they’ll be taking touches away from Dennis. Conversely, in the Sixes discipline, teams were basically picking up and faceguarding Dennis from before the midfield line, so the defensive pressure and attention will likely be different. Spencer Ford, who served as interim assistant during the Championship Series, said he believes Dennis’ success will continue in full-field play, comparing his ability to shoot on the run to that of Paul Rabil’s.

How does Trevor Baptiste follow up his MVP season?

Baptiste became only the second faceoff athlete ever to earn MVP honors, joining Greg Gurenlian (2015). Baptiste finished first in winning percentage (69.9 percent) and second in ground balls (83); he also tied for the most goals among faceoff athletes (four) and was the only one to score a two-point goal. While the winning percentage was the highest of his career, it was the third time in five seasons he won at least 63 percent of his faceoffs. He’s won 62 percent of his faceoffs over the course of his career.

Only two players (John Grant Jr. and Tom Schreiber) have won back-to-back MVPs in pro field lacrosse, so history is not on Baptiste’s side, but he still should be one of the top faceoff athletes in the league. Baptiste could also potentially go up against two rookies in his first three weeks, as the Atlas play the Whipsnakes in Week 2 (Joe Nardella is currently recovering from a torn ACL) and the Waterdogs in Week 3 (Jake Withers is currently on the holdout list). An experienced talent like Baptiste could set a dominant tone early in the season.

How do the rookies fit in?

The Atlas already had a close-to-complete roster heading into the 2023 draft but held three of the top 11 picks. They added extremely talented prospects in defensemen Gavin Adler and Brett Makar and attackman Xander Dickson.

What’s interesting, however, was that before the draft, Pressler seemed to continuously hint that the team would be looking to add to its group of midfielders with one of its early selections. The attack and defense positions seemed set. The Atlas finished third in the league in scores thanks in part to an attack trio of Teat, Law and Chris Gray, while the defense — aided by starting close defensemen Tucker Durkin, Michael Rexrode and Cade van Raaphorst — finished fourth. Additionally, the team just re-signed van Raaphorst in free agency.

Competition in Atlas training camp will be fierce. It will probably be difficult to unseat one of the starting attackmen, but one of Dickson’s strengths is his ability to move off ball and put up points without being a ball carrier. He likely runs out of the box this summer. Who starts at close defense is the bigger question, and is it possible the top picks in the draft don’t even dress for some games?


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