Nick Rowlett made his presence felt, dominating the stripe going 13-for-18 (72%) and scooping up seven ground balls in the overtime loss to the Waterdogs.
“I hope the Rowlett’s don’t have a third boy coming up,” said Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan, as both brothers (Nick and Jack Rowlett) played exceptionally well.
With the rules changes from college to the PLL – allowing players to go down to one knee and use the motor grip – Rowlett said he elected to stay with the neutral grip.
“I was using the grip the last three years in college,” he explained. “I also find it easier to exit when I’m in the neutral grip as opposed to the motorcycle grip. The standing neutral grip can be a little hard on the body, whether that’s your hips, your hamstrings, or your lower back.”
For those reasons, along with finding success early on at camp, Rowlett remained consistent with the skills that got him to the pro level in the first place, and in turn, powered him to dominance on Opening Weekend.
Rowlett was quick to credit his wings for “making it easy,” as he put it.
“Although I might’ve gone 72%, it’s a three-on-three every time, and my wings did a great job.”
“Whether they were getting up field and creating space for the ground balls… or boxing out. They were all over the place.”
Rowlett didn’t need to rely on himself to make all the plays. He was able to lean on the experience of his wings outside of the initial faceoff to come up with the ball.
“They can bring them up on their own. I know CJ Costabile had a big one coming out of the locker room,” said Rowlett when referencing the impact of his LSM’s Costabile and Troy Reh.
In the beginning of the third quarter, Chaos were taking a man-down faceoff with Costabile on the wing. After the faceoff turned into a scrum close to the stripe, Costabile was able to come out with the ball through plenty of traffic.
It was not only the savviness by Costabile to pick up contested ground balls, but also his leadership that helped Rowlett in his pro debut.
“That veteran leadership plays a big part, but even leading up to the game, all week we would do 3-on-3 faceoffs with live wings. Our two, star LSMs – Costabile and Reh – when they were out there were the ones picking up the ground ball. I had a lot of confidence going in that if the ball didn’t necessarily bounce my way, our LSMs and d-middies would do a great job scrapping and picking up all that needed to be,” he said.
Although the impact of defensive midfielders is often overlooked, what they did on the wings was paramount in the unit’s success.
“They’re [the SSDMs] pure speed… Zach Geddes is one of the fastest players I ever played with. Him being able to be the first one to get a chance at a loose ground ball is going to be really beneficial going forward.”
Patrick Resch and Mark Glicini, two veteran SSDMs who have been with Chaos ever since the inception of the league, stand out for their athleticism, ability also to pick up tough ground balls, and communication.
“They’re some of the more experienced guys in the league and they have such great communication. Whether it’s rolling one way or another after picking up a ground ball, or getting to an outlet a little faster, Rowlett explained they do everything they can to get the ball going their way.
After Zac Tucci violated on multiple occasions, the Waterdogs sent out Zach Currier and Ryland Rees to take the draw, which provided a wrinkle to overcome against non-traditional faceoff personnel.
“My main goal was getting in-and-out quick and being an athlete and finding the ball after that… knowing that I could tell my wings and have confidence in them to box out gave me a lot more security with those quick exits,” remarked Rowlett.
The Waterdogs have strong wing players, boasted by Currier, who finished 6th in the league last season in ground balls with 53. After a successful day against their unit Rowlett believes, “our wings showed that they are just as capable.”
The faceoff position had a lot of question marks going into this season and game, but Rowlett put that doubt to rest early finishing the first half going 7-for-9 (77.8%). His dominance provided a spark and created extra possessions that helped take pressure off the offense, who were struggling to find their footing at the beginning.
Even though Chaos finished with 25 turnovers, the extra possession Rowlett created made that impact less severe and allowed them to dictate the pace of the game.
“We’re lucky to have guys like Nick on the team,” said Blaze Riorden, who leaves it all out on the field and plays with a competitive nature that is infectious through the locker room.
Watch Rowlett and Chaos LC take on the Cannons on Saturday at 5:30 PM est on ESPN+.