Kieran McArdle, who has never won a pro championship, had one of the best seasons of his career this summer.

How PLL Veterans Chase the Elusive Championship

On Friday, August 26, Kieran McArdle was announced as one of the finalists for the Premier Lacrosse League’s Eamon McEneaney Attackman of the Year award. His 2022 season ended with his highest point total (42) in four years since joining the PLL, finishing first in the league in assists (23) and second in points to Lyle Thompson (44).

He lifted his game in the second half of the regular season, tallying 27 of his points in the final five games — including a seven-point effort against the Cannons on July 31 and an eight-point outing against the Archers — to help the Waterdogs recover from an 0-3 start to the season to finish 5-5 and earn the No. 5 in the playoffs.

It was nice to be recognized for his individual performance, but McArdle’s focus was on the one thing that has eluded him since his rookie season in 2014 — a championship.

“You’re starting off your career, and you’re excited to play and travel and do all those things,” he said. “I got a little taste [of the playoffs], and you become more and more hungry. As the clock ticks more and more, you get more and more hungry. Being a veteran, that’s what keeps you going and gets you in the gym and gets you on the field doing that extra work, worried about winning a championship at the end of the day.”

A team championship was what Chrome defender Mike Manley was thinking about as he drove to Foxborough for the PLL quarterfinals last weekend.

He won an NCAA championship at Duke in 2010, and after that, he came close to winning his first pro title on several occasions. In seven seasons (2012-18) with the Rochester/Dallas Rattlers in Major League Lacrosse, his team went to the championship game three different times. Each season ended with a loss, though — twice to the Denver Outlaws and once to the New York Lizards.

Many of those Rattlers players were added to the first Chrome roster. Recently, longtime teammates John Galloway, Joel White and Jordan Wolf all retired without winning a professional field lacrosse championship. Left on the Chrome roster this year from those Rattlers locker rooms was Manley, Jordan MacIntosh and John Ranagan.

“You battle with those guys for so long and so many years that, you know, you really want to be able to enjoy a championship with them, with your teammates and best friends, so it was extremely disappointing,” Manley said. “It's a hard pill to swallow, but it's also, you know, a motivational factor to keep trying.”

“Being a veteran, that’s what keeps you going.”

— Kieran McArdle

The 1980s and 1990s of the NBA were dominated by dynasties. In 19 seasons (1980-99), only six teams won championships. Five won multiple titles. Three teams — the Chicago Bulls (six), Los Angeles Lakers (five) and Boston Celtics (three) — combined to win 14 of the 19. While Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird left incredible championship-winning legacies, Hall of Famers like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton and Karl Malone were left without a single ring to complement their extraordinary careers.

The professional lacrosse landscape is no different. In 20 seasons of Major League Lacrosse, only eight organizations won a championship. From 2012-20, the list of champions was even more concentrated, as the Denver Outlaws and Chesapeake Bayhawks combined to win six of the league’s final nine championships. The PLL has a much smaller sample size, with only three years of existence prior to the 2022 season, but in that timeframe, the Whipsnakes have won two championships (and appeared in a third) while the Chaos have been to two championship games, winning one. Both teams are still alive in the PLL semifinals this Sunday.

That’s left players like McArdle and Manley without a title to add to their legacies. They agreed that winning a championship drives them and would be a great addition to their resumes, but that the body of their work doesn’t change if they don’t win one.

“For me, I want it for myself to prove to myself I can win one, and I’m hungry to win one,” McArdle said. “You try not to worry about if anyone says anything. Whether you win one or not, hopefully your legacy remains the same: hard worker, good teammate, someone who battled.”

“Obviously, having a championship under your belt is a huge contributing factor to your legacy,” Manley said, “but I think that if you ask anybody, if you ask about teammates and stuff like that, if you can say, ‘Hey man, he was a really great locker room guy, he's a great teammate, and he's a great leader,’ I think that’s one of the best legacies someone can leave.”

The Chrome finished last in the standings in twice in the first three seasons of the PLL and did not qualify for the playoffs. The team was riding high headed into the 2022 playoffs, however, thanks to a 7-3 turnaround season and the second seed in the playoffs.

Despite their regular season success, Manley acknowledged the playoffs are a different beast.

“It's a whole new season,” he said. “Your record doesn’t matter. How you played the team prior to that, you know, that game doesn't matter. It comes down to there's a lot of emotional aspects in these championship games and playoff games because they know it's do or die, so it's whether you can control those emotions and have a positive outcome from them. Sometimes guys grip their sticks a little too tight or are just a little nervous in those games. It happens.”

Unfortunately for Manley and the Chrome, they were not able to replicate their regular season success in the playoffs, losing in the quarterfinals to last year’s defending champion Chaos 11-3.

The second game of the afternoon, between the Redwoods and Archers, featured more veterans looking for their first championships in the outdoor game. The Archers were victorious 13-8, meaning first-time championship hopes for players like Adam Ghitelman, Scott Ratliff, Graeme Hossack and Conor Fields lived on, while Myles Jones and Sergio Perkovic would have to wait another year.

When the fourth-seeded Atlas took on the fifth-seeded Waterdogs in the final game of the quarterfinals, McArdle matched up against former teammate Tucker Durkin, who was also still looking for his first pro field lacrosse championship.


The first-time championship hopes of Scott Ratliff are still alive with the Archers.

From 2014 (McArdle’s rookie season) through 2018, the two were teammates on Major League Lacrosse’s Florida Launch. The Launch made the playoffs once in five seasons; in those other four years, the team finished no better than seventh place.

Both went from the Launch in the MLL to the Atlas in the PLL, where they once again failed to reach the playoffs. McArdle was picked up by the expansion Waterdogs the following year and both teams tied with a 1-3 record. It wasn’t until the 2021 season that both players reached the playoffs with their respective teams.

With the score tied at zero with 10:47 remaining in the first quarter, the Waterdogs backed up a missed shot. McArdle lined up just above the crease, and Durkin shadowed him. As Michael Sowers took the ball from X and swept to his left, Durkin — the hot slide — keyed in on him, ready to help. McArdle subtlety took a step backwards then cut to the crease. He created enough separation from Durkin that Sowers was able to fire a pass across the crease that McArdle caught and easily put in the back of the net.

It was the first of 19 points the Waterdogs would score that day, helping McArdle beat his former teammate and the Atlas 19-14.

While McArdle and the Waterdogs still have to win two games in order to win a championship, including in the semifinals against the top-seeded Whipsnakes, McArdle admits he has always imagined what it would look like to eventually reach the top of the mountain.

“You envision it as a grind,” he said. “Winning all those playoff games, leaving it all out there on the field, and in return, you’re hoisting up the trophy. I don’t know that feeling yet, so I can’t describe it, but I know a lot of hard work needs to go in before you get there, and at the end of the day, a lot of luck goes into it.

“You make sure you put your best foot forward,” he added. “Hopefully, we can find a little luck because we’ve done everything we can leading up to here.”