Redwoods Win PLL Opener as Rob Pannell Shines With New Team


Rob Pannell led all players in points in the 12-11 win.

The league you know and love is back, and it’s poised to be bigger and better than ever.

The opening night of the Premier Lacrosse League’s third season featured every pillar the league was founded on. Unmatched access with mid-game interviews. Replays, slow-mo and unique camera angles. A knowledgeable broadcast crew. Mic’d up players. Fast-paced, up-and-down lacrosse.

And, finally for the first time in the league’s history, all of the best players in the world under one figurative roof.

“I think that’s important,” Kyle Harrison said minutes after Redwoods LC eked out a thrilling 12-11 win over Cannons LC at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. “That’s an important step for the sport. Right now, lacrosse fans and enthusiasts in general are really excited about the momentum we have, and I think it’s going to be an exciting season.”

This will be Harrison’s final season, a decision the veteran in his 17th pro season announced Wednesday evening. The transcendent ambassador for the game is leaving the sport better than he found it.

The touring model PLL built its structure on his back after a three-week, fully quarantined tournament in Herriman, Utah, last summer. The fact that the PLL was able to pull that season off in the middle of a pandemic was impressive in its own right. But now the league is back, touring the country through September with enthusiastic fans of all ages right there to take in all the action.

“It was electric,” Redwoods head coach Nat St. Laurent said. “It was just a really cool feeling to see kids out playing lacrosse. It was raining. There was tailgating. That kind of got the juices flowing.”

The juices certainly flowed on the field, too. The expansion Cannons got out to an inspiring start, but the Redwoods closed the gap to trail 5-4 after the first quarter. Then the sport-defining game of runs began.

St. Laurent’s Redwoods pitched a 4-0 shutout in the second quarter, taking an 8-5 lead into halftime. Sean Quirk’s Cannons responded, scoring all three third-quarter goals to head into the final stanza tied at 8.

A back-and-forth fourth quarter in the opening game of this new era of PLL lacrosse also featured a near-vintage Paul Rabil performance. Drafted first overall by the Boston Cannons when he first began his pro lacrosse career, Rabil impressed in his first game with his new club, fitting in seamlessly with the offense.

The game ended in fitting fashion, an example of the on-field excitement the PLL offers. With the Redwoods clinging to the ball with a one-goal lead and mere seconds remaining, the Cannons defense forced a turnover.

With just about five seconds left and the ball at the midline, Tim Troutner stood in his crease with a low shot incoming. He put his body in front of it for the stop. While it might have been one of the easier saves he made in the game, it exemplified the down-to-the-wire nature of high level lacrosse.

“I thought the atmosphere tonight was really great,” Rabil said. “There were a lot of momentum swings. It was really a template for how the PLL goes.”

Rob Pannell, one of the newest Redwoods, was his team’s leader with three goals and two assists. After struggling through his first PLL season with Atlas LC during the bubble, Pannell said he feels renewed.

“This for me feels like a fresh start, and it feels like I’m coming over to the PLL for the first time,” he said. “I’m where I belong with the Redwoods.”

Overall, as Harrison put it, the PLL’s opening night was “pretty damn exciting.”

“We went a year with no fans,” Harrison said. “We were in the bubble, and it was an incredible experience … but in terms of being an athlete and what we’re used to doing, it’s competing in front of fans.”

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