PLL Quarterfinals Prove You Should Never Doubt the Underdog

PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE

Chris Sabia (center) had one assist in the Waterdogs' 19-14 win over the Atlas in the PLL quarterfinals on Saturday.


Don’t mind the seedings too much. The quarterfinals reminded Premier Lacrosse League fans everywhere to never doubt the underdog — especially when said underdog is the reigning champion.

Two of the three quarterfinal games played Saturday in Foxborough, Mass., were won by the lower seed, with the No. 7 Chaos upsetting the No. 2 Chrome for the second time in three years and the No. 5 Waterdogs rolling past the No. 4 Atlas. The third-seeded Archers avoided a sweep of the favorites, and another disastrous early playoff exit, by handling the No. 6 Redwoods.

By far the most surprising outcome was the Chaos’ 11-3 victory, even when factoring in the club’s previous history of turning fortunes around in the postseason. Goalie Blaze Riorden once again brought his game to another level when needed most, making 15 saves and tying the PLL record for goals allowed in a game. He was 21 seconds away from breaking that record, previously set by the Chrome against the Redwoods earlier this summer, but Logan Wisnauskas added a late score.

The Chaos scored the first five goals of the game, with the Chrome failing to beat Riorden until the final three minutes of the first half.

“Blaze is unbelievable,” Challen Rogers said. “I’ve been playing against him, and this is the first time I’m playing with him, just seeing what he’s capable of. And the defense, what a performance they put out. Three goals, and the last one was whatever. You play the full game only letting them score two goals and you’re going to have a chance.”

Rogers and Josh Byrne each notched a hat trick to match the Chrome’s scoring individually. Byrne added three assists. Only 2.8 percent of fans picked the Chaos to win the championship prior to the playoffs, a slight tick down from the 3.2 percent that picked the group to win it all last year. Can they shock the world again?

The fans didn’t give the Waterdogs much better odds despite the squad’s higher seed. Only 6.2 percent had Andy Copelan’s group going all the way, but that didn’t discourage the Dogs. A dominant third quarter helped the team pull away in a 19-14 triumph.

Already up 9-4 at the break, Waterdogs strung together an 8-3 run in the third to enter the final frame up 10. The Atlas clawed back slightly by notching the final six tallies of the game, but given the time remaining, the Waterdogs’ lead remained safe.

“We were all getting together on Zoom calls, watching film together through these two weeks off,” Waterdogs midfielder Zach Currier said. “I think it goes to show we were disappointed with the outcome last year and thought we could have done a little better. I’m sure that’s still in the back of our minds going into these games.”

Currier notched four points and snagged eight ground balls. Ryan Conrad and Michael Sowers each accounted for five points.

Currier was also valuable off the wings in helping the Waterdogs limit Trevor Baptiste’s impact. As expected, Baptiste still won most of the clamps against Jake Withers but only came away with possession half the time.







“Look, it’s no secret the last two games of the regular season we lost so we had to take a good long hard look at ourselves in the mirror,” Copelan said. “We had some real honest conversations. I had a real honest one with Zach, and there’s no one in the league I have more respect for or love for, frankly. I absolutely love the guy as a competitor and as a person. And today I thought he was unbelievable at doing a lot of things really well but also managing his minutes, so we let the young guys get into a rhythm and that allowed Zach to stay at his best for all four quarters.”

With the win, the Waterdogs secured another shot at the Whipsnakes, which eliminated them in the playoffs in the semifinals last season. The Waterdogs were the only team to upend the Whips in the regular season this year. The Whips, as the top seed, had a bye in the quarterfinals.

The Archers quickly made sure they wouldn’t be the victim of an upset in their contest. They went on a six-point run stretching from the middle of the first quarter into the second and never looked back in a 13-8 victory.

Connor Fields led with five points, displaying the Archers’ versatility by swapping between attack and midfield. Ryan Ambler and Marcus Holman each scored three times, while Tom Schreiber found the back of the net twice.

After the game, Archers coach Chris Bates keyed in on the team’s defensive midfield for helping shut down the Redwoods’ powerful unit. The Woods turned things around this season after a disastrous start but couldn’t best an Archers team that faces a potential exodus in free agency this offseason.

“We just wanted another week together,” Holman said. “There are some guys on this team, we have deep relationships that extend beyond teammates. We want to keep playing together and competing with an Archers jersey on.”

NOTEWORTHY

“Fate of a Sport” was released on ESPN+ last Monday, and Matt DaSilva reviewed the film for USA Lacrosse Magazine. … Paul Rabil was featured on Uninterrupted’s “The Shop” this week, where he discussed the history of lacrosse and the PLL. … Chris Cloutier of the Chaos showed off his new tattoo of the 2021 championship trophy, which fittingly displayed the glass cup broken in two. … Andy Towers got a shoutout on Twitter from Rob Gronkowski after the Chaos coach wore his New England Patriots jersey upon arrival. … The Redwoods were without defenseman Eddy Glazener, who is still dealing with a lower extremity injury. … The Chaos moved Matt Rees down to close midfield as a part of their strong defensive effort.

UP NEXT
ALL TIMES EASTERN

(PLL semifinals in Washington, D.C.)

Sunday

Waterdogs vs. Whipsnakes, 1 p.m. (ABC)
Chaos vs. Archers, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

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