PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE

The Next Level: Slew of Retirements Open Door for New Generation of PLL Stars


Jim Stagnitta sat down for the postgame press conference.

His Whipsnakes had just defeated the defending champion Chaos in a one-goal, come-from-behind victory. He answered a few questions about the adjustments his team made in the second half and the play of Justin Guterding and Mike Chanenchuk. Then, one question seemingly caught him off guard, one that made him give a small smile and brought out a little emotion, but one that did not involve a player that participated in that day’s game.

The question was about John Haus and what it was like for Stagnitta to play a game without him for the first time in seven years. Haus recently announced his retirement from professional lacrosse, and Stagnitta had coached him with Major League Lacrosse’s Charlotte Hounds from 2016-18 and then the last three seasons with the Whipsnakes.

“It was hard,” he said. “That’s a tough one for me. One of my favorite all-time players, not even a secret. The guys on the team would joke about it. John was not just a great player but just a great teammate, a great leader. I would tell the guys he was like E.F. Hutton. No one knows who E.F. Hutton is, but it was an old commercial. ‘When he talks, people listen.’ That was John Haus. I told him I’d miss him. He’s a really talented coach and starting a family. He’s been in the league and been successful for a long time, but when I talk about leadership, I talk about being able to fill John Haus’ shoes.”

Next up at the podium was Chanenchuk, who scored the game-winning goal. He had been teammates with Haus for his entire professional career. He, too, couldn’t help but smile when asked about stepping onto the field without Haus.

“John was a great teammate,” he said. “I was lucky to play with him in college for a couple years, and then in Charlotte, and then the PLL, so he was actually my roommate as well. We were probably together the last nine or 10 years throughout lacrosse. Knowing me and John were kind of the veterans on the offensive side of the ball, knowing he stepped down and retired, [I] definitely felt more of a leadership role.”

Haus won two PLL championships with the Whipsnakes and was selected to the U.S. men’s national team roster for the 2018 World Lacrosse Men’s World Championship in Netanya, Israel. In addition to Haus, seven other players from that same 23-man roster retired prior to the 2022 PLL season: Ned Crotty, John Galloway, Paul Rabil, Drew Snider, Kevin Unterstein, Joel White and Jordan Wolf.

Additionally, the PLL said goodbye to Jackson Place, Eric Scott, Charlie Cipriano, former all-stars Connor Buczek and Joe Walters and former U.S. team members Drew Adams and Kyle Harrison.


“I’ve never seen anything like Teat, just in control of everything while looking like he doesn’t have a care in the world.”

— Kyle Harrison


While so many iconic players hung up their cleats prior to the season, the league is in good hands as a new crop of players steps into the spotlight.

While Stagnitta was at the podium, the Atlas and Redwoods were on the field warming up for the next game — a contest that included the player that was the betting favorite to win the 2022 PLL MVP. That former No. 1 overall pick wasn’t Rob Pannell, Myles Jones, or even fifth-year faceoff athlete Trevor Baptiste. It was second-year attackman Jeff Teat.

Teat was named the 2021 Rookie of the Year after he scored 16 goals and added 16 assists in seven games. Teat lived up to the hype in his first year, but that excitement — especially coupled with the high expectations for the Atlas and its high-powered offense featuring fourth-year midfielder Bryan Costabile, third-year midfielder Daniel Bucaro, and rookie Chris Gray — has only raised the bar.

Early on, he lived up to those expectations, too. In the team’s first two games, he scored eight goals and added four assists. His performances have caught the attention of one of those recently retired legends.

“I am offended watching him play,” Kyle Harrison said in a manner of the highest of praises. “He looks like he is casually trotting around the field just being the best player on the field. Honestly, he looks like he’d rather be doing something else. It’s crazy. I haven’t seen anything like it. Like, Ryan Boyle was a cerebral, casual player as well, but I’ve never seen anything like Teat, just in control of everything while looking like he doesn’t have a care in the world.”

Teat leads the league in points through the first two weeks of the season, but other young players are producing at high levels as well. The No. 2 pick in 2021, Michael Sowers, was fourth in the league with three goals and five points, while 2022 top pick and Tewaaraton Award winner Logan Wisnauskas was tenth after he scored five goals against the Redwoods in the second game of the season. Costabile was also in the top 25 in scoring, along with second-year pro Mac O’Keefe and rookies Asher Nolting and Brendan Nichtern.

After going up against Teat and Gray in Week 1 and Wisnauskas in Week 2, not to mention teaming with rookie Nakeie Montgomery — who was called “The Next Generation” by Quint Kessenich in a pregame interview before his debut — Pannell has been impressed with the league’s newest players.

“It speaks to the talent of these younger players,” he said. “I look at how the sport of lacrosse has evolved over the years. It used to be very difficult for a rookie to come in and really start day one on a professional team just because of the talent and experience that was on some of these rosters. Even now, when you think of it, 19 guys dress on game day. It’s difficult. You really have to be the best of the best. What I think is how talented these players are, how young they had a stick in their hand, and how much lacrosse they played growing up, and their skill level is just on a different level.

“These guys eat, sleep, and breathe lacrosse,” he added, “and you can tell.”

When Pannell moved from the MLL to the PLL, he said in an article written by USA Lacrosse Magazine’s Matt Hamilton that he missed his close friends, like Rabil and Adams, and wasn’t having fun.

After he found out they were all retiring this year, Pannell quipped that maybe it was time for him to retire as well. He then seriously added there was sadness in no longer seeing those individuals week in and week out with the PLL or the men’s national team.

“You play this sport because you love it, but you play because you love the people who are in it and who you’re seeing each weekend, who you’re spending your weekends with, as it is a big commitment,” he said. “A lot of the guys that retired were many of those guys I looked forward to seeing each and every weekend. It was definitely a little bit of sadness but also the realization how far we’ve come in this sport and appreciation for those guys and their dedication to professional lacrosse.”








Pannell’s Redwoods were once one of the more veteran-heavy rosters. After the retirements of Harrison and Walters, however, new opportunities for playing time became available, and the team dressed five rookies in its second game of the summer: Montgomery, Joe Robertson, Ryan Hallenbeck, Arden Cohen and Ryan Kennedy.

Redwoods head coach Nat St. Laurent said this season proved to be the perfect storm for the rookies. Not only were there a lot of retirements, but because typical NCAA powerhouses like Duke, Notre Dame and North Carolina did not make the NCAA tournament, players were able to join their PLL teams in training camp, giving an edge to an undrafted player like Robertson to earn some playing time.

Still, St. Laurent said the team sorely missed the veteran leadership provided by Harrison — who St. Laurent coached for three years with the Redwoods and four years prior with the MLL’s Ohio Machine — in their Week 1 loss.

“Kyle had a very calming presence around him,” he said. “We had a young team the other night when we were playing. During the game, just trying to get everybody settled down, we have a bunch of guys who are playmakers. Not having his voice there on the sidelines telling guys they’re going to be alright, we’re going to be OK, don’t press so much, take a deep breath, all of that stuff. You certainly felt that presence lacking quite a bit.

“It was weird to walk out to practice and not have Harrison there cracking jokes,” St. Laurent added, “and young guys picking on him, telling him to make sure to get to bed by 8:30.”

The Chrome were hit even harder by retirements, losing four players — Galloway, White, Crotty and Wolf — that had not only been together since the Chrome’s inaugural season, but were a part of the close-knit locker room of the MLL’s Rochester Rattlers.

While many will tell you none of those players can truly be replaced, someone did have to follow them into the starting lineup. Fourth-year pro Sean Sconone earned the right to be the first Chrome starting goalie after Galloway. In his first two professional seasons with the Dallas Rattlers and Connecticut Hammerheads, he was named the MLL Goalie of the Year. When the MLL and PLL merged, however, he sat behind and played apprentice to Galloway.

“I knew he was a great leader,” Sconone said. “I heard great things about him from those old guys on the Rattlers that went to the Chrome, but when I saw it firsthand, I was like, ‘I cannot describe in words what he does for that team and what he means to those guys.’

“When he retired, that last game with Joel, and I saw the emotion on their faces, it goes to show how much he gave to those guys and that team,” he added. “It showed on Coach [Tim] Soudan’s face and [assistant coach Jacques] Monte’s face, too.”

Sconone said the biggest things he learned from Galloway were how he presented himself and how to be a leader. He’s also taking cues from current Chrome veterans Mike Manley and Jesse Bernhardt, and in the early goings, it seemed to be paying off.

The Chrome won the first two games of the season (the team had won two games total in each the 2019 and 2021 seasons), and Sconone was first in the league in scores against average (6.5) and second in the league in save percentage (58 percent, only one percentage point lower than fellow fourth-year goaltender Jack Concannon).

He’s appreciative to have earned the opportunity to play in the league and is proud to be a part of a group carrying on the path the retired legends put them on.

“Kyle Harrison, Paul Rabil and those guys, those guys are the epitome of professional lacrosse,” he said. “They set the brickwork down, and they are the steppingstones for lacrosse. The legacy left behind, it gives young guys an opportunity to follow their legacy and take it and run with it.”




PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE


While it has been a while since it has happened, there was a time before a lacrosse field featured the likes of players like Harrison, Rabil, Galloway or Haus.

Following the legacy set forth by the previous generation’s icons is exactly what Harrison said he tried to do when he was first starting in professional lacrosse back in 2005.

“When I look at Jesse Hubbard, Pat McCabe, Nicky Polanco, Brian Spallina, Ryan Boyle, when I look at that crew, for me they showed us what being a pro meant,” he said. “They showed us maybe we are not at the level of other sports in terms of earning, but in terms of what I’m expected to do, like you’re expected to take care of your body, train all week, you’re supposed show up on Saturday, and you’re supposed to bust peoples’ asses. That’s what you’re supposed to do, and you’re supposed to keep doing it. No one can look after you. No one is going to be calling you on a daily basis. No coach will get you out of bed. This is on you. We learned that from that group.

“I think we took what they did and what they taught us and the next evolution of the pro lacrosse player, in my opinion, was to professionalize it,” he added. “Become a pro, get sponsors, become a full-time pro lacrosse player, so you don’t have to work on Wall Street or get another job.”

While that group of recently retired players was extremely popular, Harrison said the league and the sport is in good hands. He pointed out that veterans like Pannell, Tom Schreiber, Lyle Thompson and Blaze Riorden — all former MVPS — are ready to take the mantle at the top of the sport, and he is encouraged by the younger group of players emerging on the scene like Grant Ament, Teat, Gray, O’Keefe and Sconone.

“This group has two opportunities. They have the opportunity to take professional lacrosse to the next level in terms of visibility and globally,” he said. “I was in New York City … and I’m on ESPN2 watching the game, and ESPN News watching the game. From a visibility perspective, they have a real opportunity to take this to the next level. And then secondly, from an earning perspective, real sponsors are spending real money on the sport now. Non-endemics are writing sizable checks to be a part of lacrosse. From a visibility and earning perspective, this group can take it to the next level.”


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