The 2022 Championship MVP dished 11 assists during the regular season. That number doesn’t do his passing justice.
Michael Sowers knows when to keep his head up to see the double team and when to put his head down to drive toward the crease. He sets up a ton of shots – but teammates only buried 25.5% of his feeds in ’22.
Sowers’ favorite target, Ryan Brown, retired in the offseason. As much as Brown being the first read simplified the Waterdogs’ offense, it also made them predictable to defend. Without Brown in the lineup, Sowers sprayed feeds to every area of the field.
This offense got even better in the offseason. Jake Carraway extends their range on the righty side. First-round pick Thomas McConvey (Virginia) is a slick lefty scorer – from all levels of the field. There’s no shortage of shooters for Sowers to feed.
Several stars found new homes during free agency this winter. Mac O’Keefe signed with Archers LC, reuniting with Grant Ament. The Bunk Bed Bros broke up; Will Manny (to Whipsnakes LC) and Marcus Holman (to Cannons LC) are starting new chapters in their career. Carraway joined the Waterdogs after being in-and-out of the Atlas lineup.
Next offseason will be even busier. An all-time draft class. A post-World Games wave of retirements. And another loaded class of free agents.
Bryan Costabile would garner interest from every team if he tested the market. He’s a two-way midfielder with 2-point range (20.0% career from deep). His shot blends velocity with deception.
The most intriguing landing spot? Redwoods LC – reuniting with Ryder Garnsey and more Notre Dame teammates.
Other free agents to watch: Jules Heningburg, Matt Rambo, Dillon Ward, Romar Dennis, Jeff Teat, Rob Pannell, Zach Goodrich, Connor Farrell, JT Giles-Harris, and Ryan Terefenko.
Two-man rate (i.e. the percentage of shots initiated off a pick) has been increasing gradually since 2015. Last year I predicted it to hit all-time levels – but we saw a dip.
Atlas picked less than ever. Jeff Teat’s pick-and-roll production dropped (4G, 8A, 9TO in pick-and-rolls in ’21; 3G, 4A, 12TO in ’22). He missed Mark Cockerton. Teat needs a natural lefty picking for him; not a dodge-first player like Daniel Bucaro or Dox Aitken awkwardly jammed into that role. Defenses will trap Teat and live with the throwback to the picker until Atlas finds a better two-man tango partner for Teat. Can Marc O’Rourke make those actions more dangerous?
The team poised to set more picks: Hall of Famer John Grant Jr. taking the reigns of the Redwoods LC offense. Only 23.0% of the ‘Woods settled shots started with a pick in 2022 (2nd lowest in PLL). Grant Jr. will install a pairs-style scheme – similar to the offenses Myles Jones (Duke) and Charlie Bertrand (Merrimack) played in during their college years.
Expect Archers LC (41.5% two-man rate in ’22), Whipsnakes LC (37.3%), and Chaos LC (33.1%) to continue to lead the league.
Sixth overall pick Tucker Dordevic (Georgetown) couldn’t have landed in a better spot. A two-handed downhill dodger, Dordevic will trot out of the box alongside Brad Smith and Mike Chanenchuk – all threats to sweep or drive down the alley to set up a weak side slam pick.
Shot creation is a skill; Dordevic can get his hands free on command. If he draws a short-stick, he’ll have a green light to invert to X, where he spent the last couple years of his college career.
The Whipsnakes will keep offense simple for Dordevic: Draw a double. Move it forward. Hit singles. He’s set up to succeed after falling to one of the league’s best teams.
The reigning MVP won 69.9% of faceoffs (1st in PLL), 74.0% of clamps (1st in PLL), created 39 fast break shots off FO wins (1st in PLL), allowed 11 fast break shots off FO losses (1st in PLL), and – you get the point. Baptiste is dominant.
Personnel changes across the league benefit Trevor Baptiste. Counter experts Jake Withers (40.2% FO following a clamp loss) and Joe Nardella (39.2%) will each miss time. Baptiste’s first move is the best in the league — and there’s nobody poised to scrap after Baptiste wins the clamp.
The shot clock is now 32 seconds after faceoffs. Teams are toying with ways to save seconds. Possession shots out of bounds pause the shot clock while the game clock winds – lacrosse’s version of an NBA point guard walking alongside a rolling ball in the backcourt. Some are substituting one (or none) of their wings after wins. Baptiste’s offensive and defensive versatility makes him more valuable than ever. He’ll wear down opponents at the stripe and in the substitution game.
The 12th overall pick in the 2022 College Draft backed up Adam Ghitelman as a rookie. Now, it’s Brett Dobson’s chance between the pipes.
Dobson saved 66.5% of shots as a senior at St. Bonaventure (higher than any goalie in the country since Jordan Burke stopped 67.4% at Brown in 2008). He’s a natural shot-stopper. In Sixes, box lacrosse, and field lacrosse – Dobson has dominated all formats.
Defensive coordinator Tony Resch’s unit is always among the league’s best. Only 7.7% of opponent shots last year were from the doorstep area (second lowest in the league). There’s been roster turnover. 2019 George Boiardi SSDM of the Year Dominique Alexander and LSM-turned-close defender Scott Ratliff both retired. But thorough scouting reports, a switch-y scheme, and the best in-game adjustments in the league will help Dobson in his first year as a starter.
Losing Lyle Thompson has led to an offensive overhaul. The ’22 Cannons had a heliocentric half-field set, rotating around Lyle. They finished last in passes per game (192.4) and touches per game (247.9). Only 67.8% of Lyle’s touches ended in a pass (3rd lowest among players with 20+ touches per game). The offense started and ended with him.
This year’s offense has no sun for the other five players to orbit. Their best offensive player – Marcus Holman – is primarily an off-ball player. Every offense Holman has played on from the Machine to Archers has pinged the ball around the perimeter. Their midfield is dodging decisively and throwing it forward. Two- and three-man games are tying up slides and ramping up the tempo. Offensive coordinator Jim Mitchell’s group is playing with pace. Expect the ball to spin fast. Cannons LC looks like a playoff team. Which means someone else will be the odd team out…
Quick free agency recap. Chaos LC lost Mac O’Keefe (to Archers), Challen Rogers (to Archers), Matt Rees (to Cannons), and Wes Berg (to Redwoods). That’s a lot of talent to try to replace with undrafted rookies and last-minute player pool pickups.
The O’Keefe loss will hurt. He was Josh Byrne’s primary picker. Byrne is at his best in the two-man game. Since 2019, he has shot 33.9% (21-for-62) unassisted off a pick – and only 22.5% (16-for-71) unassisted off a dodge. O’Keefe’s range made those high-wing picks one of the league’s most dangerous actions. Who fills that void?
The defense will still dominate. Either first-round pick Will Bowen (Georgetown) or Johnny Surdick will slide into Matt Rees’ role. Their strict man-to-man scheme will eliminate assisted shots and force shooters to beat Blaze Riorden off the dodge.
But you can’t bank on winning games 7-6 in this league. And even if you could, this offense is going to struggle to get to 7.
Logan Wisnauskas scored 24 goals as quietly as you could possibly score 24 goals as rookie.
He buried sweeps, stepdowns, hitches, and S-dodges underneath for doorstep dunks. If Mac O’Keefe’s shot resembles a golfer’s stroke and Ryan Brown’s resembles Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing, Wisnauskas’ shooting mechanics look like the release of an NBA jump shooter. His shot and his shot fake are identical – until he decides to face dodge and blow by the close out.
Wisnauskas was the only player to finish top-10 in unassisted goals and top-10 in assisted goals in 2022. And he’s about to take his game to a new level. If Chrome LC finishes near the top of the standings (a safe bet), then Wisnauskas’ MVP candidacy will be strong come September.
The Whipsnakes addressed every need during the offseason. Their third attack spot – occupied by Keegan Khan, Jay Carlson, and Jackson Reid at different points throughout 2022 – now belongs to future first-ballot HOFer Will Manny. They bolstered their offensive midfield with Dordevic, Garrett Leadmon, and Sean Lulley. Roman Puglise returns to the lineup after missing his rookie summer due to injury. And while Joe Nardella will be sidelined to start 2023, second round pick Petey LaSalla (Virginia) looks ready to compete at the stripe.
The Whipsnakes are deep. They’re incredibly well-coached. And they’re angry about their poor performance in February.