Homewood Field on the Johns Hopkins University campus hosted this week’s contests as the Premier Lacrosse League concluded its first month of play. (Photo courtesy of Chris Trotter.)
By: Mark J. Bartlett
A sun-drenched Homewood Field, seeped in a storied tradition of college lacrosse provided a homecoming of sorts to many members of the PLL, as the six team rosters are packed with local products who played high school or collegiate ball in the area.
The first PLL game at the venue saw Greg Gurenlian win the 1 p.m. opening faceoff and spark a Redwoods scoring play a mere seven seconds into the match. Another three first-quarter longpole goals stretched the lead to 5-2 at the end of the opening 12 minutes.
Team Chrome fought back to within one as the Redwoods carried the lead into halftime, 7-6. Both offenses cooled down for several minutes post-halftime, but they traded goals late into the fourth quarter, as the Redwoods held off a frantic Chrome rally to send coach Dom Starsia’s team to their fourth consecutive loss.
Redwoods attackman Jules Heningburg, part of the first-ever trade in PLL history, was awarded player of the game for his five goals and three assists.
Fans were then given a chance to catch their breath, as Game 2 of the Saturday double feature kicked off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The undefeated Whipsnakes would take on team Atlas in the evening contest. The two teams boast a total of 33 players who suited up for Johns Hopkins or nearby University of Maryland in their lifetimes. Fueling the fire between so many in-state rivals, the scrappy, hard-nosed play that has quickly become synonymous with the PLL was on display just after the two-minute mark.
After 60-second unsportsmanlike penalties, the two teams traded goals in lieu of punches. Whipsnakes overtime hero Ryan Drenner took a pass from Ben Reeves to give his team the first lead of the day. Team Atlas then held the high-powered offense of the Whipsnakes scoreless for more than 15 minutes of game time, but Mike Chanenchuk’s two-pointer tied the game for the third time.
Team Atlas’ Ryan Cloutier would answer with less than a minute left in the half, on a beautiful spot pass from Hopkins legend and league co-founder Paul Rabil. After a period that featured an uncharacteristic five penalties, the Atlas took a one-goal lead into the locker rooms, 5-4.
Both teams opened up the third with up-and-down-the-field transitional plays with great pace and enthusiasm but little scoring. Several two-point attempts landed unsuccessfully, and both creases were tight and frustrating for the offensive players.
Rabil ended the scoring drought at the 3:10 mark off a slick feed from Chris Cloutier. The end of the third quarter saw the Whipsnakes and Atlas tied at six.
Lacrosse has traditionally been a game of momentum and “runs,” in which a team can suddenly get hot and take over. The 8,500 fans at Homewood Field were treated to an electric fourth quarter that saw the Whipsnakes showcasing what may be the most explosive offense in the league. After Paul Rabil’s second goal and a two-pointer by faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste, Jim Stagnitta’s team demonstrated why they are the only undefeated team in the league.
Taking a six-point lead on a nine-goal fourth quarter, the Whipsnakes ended the “Homewood Homecoming” and remain the league’s only undefeated team at 4-0.
Action returned to Homewood Field at 3:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, amidst bright sunshine and game-time temperatures in the mid-80s. On-the-field action was equally hot as the Chaos squared off against the Archers in a race for each team’s third win of the season. Chaos attackman Connor Fields continued his hot streak, scoring the first two Chaos goals mere seconds apart.
This trend continued through the afternoon as the Chaos lacrosse club took the lead, and despite gallant performances by Archer players like Marcus Holman (four goals, one assist), the Chaos prevailed by a single goal and earned coach Andy Towers his third career win in the PLL.
Always colorful and outspoken, Towers commented on the preponderance of longpole (defensive) players goal scoring.
“Hunt the two!” Towers is quoted as saying, according to the Archers LC fan club on Twitter.
Apparently, his players took notice, as Providence College standout defenseman Jarrod Neumann scored four points on the day from two goals he fired behind the two-point arc.
Be sure to tune in next week as the PLL visits Atlanta with a Friday evening contest, followed by the usual Saturday doubleheader. Find the schedule here. If you can’t make it out, be sure to check out the outstanding coverage of the PLL Pass offered by NBC Gold, which you can purchase here.