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Matt Rambo scored the winning goal in front of his hometown Philadelphia crowd.

Atlas Stay Perfect, Whips Nab First Win in Overtime

June 16, 2024
Justin Feil
Premier Lacrosse League

VILLANOVA, Pa. — It wasn’t the equal of his overtime game-winner that clinched the 2019 Premier Lacrosse League championship, but Matt Rambo added another memorable goal to his Maryland Whipsnakes resume and did so on his home turf.

Rambo, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs not far from the Philadelphia Waterdogs’ Michael Sowers, got the overtime winner to frustrate the hosts, 15-14, Sunday at Villanova Stadium.

The Waterdogs lost both games of their first homecoming weekend in overtime.

“It’s just special when you’re in your hometown,” Rambo said. “I get to go home and celebrate with my dad tonight and just get some dinner. Philly has a special place in my heart. Everyone would love to win in their hometown, so I’m just happy that we got it done. And we made it interesting in overtime.”

After Maryland’s Colin Heacock scored the final goal of regulation, teammate Jack Koras tried to follow his first PLL goal with another one, but Philadelphia goalie Dillon Ward made his 17th save. At the other end, Philadelphia had a chance to win when Zach Currier hit Kieran McArdle at the doorstep all alone. He faked at Krebs, who followed it but recovered to stuff him for his 14th save, setting up Rambo’s winner.

“Every goalie in this league is ridiculously good, and you saw it at the end,” Waterdogs coach Bill Tierney said. “Kieran has a layup, and they steal it.”

Rambo took advantage of his opportunity 26 seconds later for the win, the Whipsnakes’ first in three games this season.

“I made it very clear what my expectations were and who we were and what I wanted to see out there,” Maryland coach Jim Stagnitta said. “It wasn’t pretty. We certainly made our share of mistakes. There are things we can fix, but you can’t fix effort, and we had a great effort today.”

The Whipsnakes scored the first two goals of the game, and a pair of two-point goals in the second half helped establish a 10-7 lead. But the Waterdogs rallied. Sowers scored a pair to sandwich a goal by Currier for a 14-13 lead with less than four minutes left.

The Whipsnakes expect to employ the sort of balanced attack going forward that worked Sunday. Mike Chanenchuk and Zed Williams each had three points and one two-pointer apiece. Jackson Morrill also had three points on a goal and two assists. Heacock, Matt Dunn, TJ Malone, Kevin Winkoff and Rambo all had two points.

“It wasn’t about shooting and dodging,” Rambo said. “It was about ground balls, riding and just doing the little things. And if we can do the little things better than the other team, then usually good things happen. And that’s kind of like the old school Whips model, so we’re just trying to get back to that.”

Currier led the Waterdogs with five points on three goals and two assists. Sowers — harassed by rookie Ajax Zappitello, who had three caused turnovers — finished with a hat trick. Jake Carraway had a pair of goals and Marcus Hudgins caused four turnovers. Philadelphia rotated who lined up to take the faceoff, taking pressure off Currier, whose offense had suffered while taking most of the faceoffs the last two games.

Philadelphia focused on defending the short shot clock, and Joe Nardella became the third Whipsnakes player to go perfect for a game, finishing 31-for-31.

“At the end of the game when you need the ball or you’re in overtime, you need Joe Nardella,” Stagnitta said. “You need someone to win a faceoff for you and get you those possessions.”

Tierney is sticking with his strategy.

“The issue has been our shooting acumen hasn’t been great,” he said.

The Waterdogs (0-3) and the California Redwoods are the lone winless teams in the PLL, while the New York Atlas are the only unbeaten team. 

In the first game Sunday, the Redwoods’ TD Ierlan helped negate one of New York’s strengths at the faceoff.

It didn’t matter.

The Atlas improved to 4-0 with a 20-15 comeback win over the Redwoods despite a 24-for-34 showing by Ierlan compared to New York ace Trevor Baptiste, who went 12-for-29 before leaving the field under his own power with an undisclosed injury. The rest of New York had more than enough strength to rally from a 5-1 deficit.

“This team is super special,” Myles Jones said. “We’ve got guys all over field that can make plays, guys playing for each other, and when things got down, no one freaked out.”

The New York offense put up a season-high total behind leading scorer Jeff Teat’s subtle eight points on four goals and four assists, rookie Connor Schellenberger’s four goals and three assists, a hat trick from Xander Dickson and five points from Jones.

“We needed to make one play,” Jones said. “Once Jeff Teat scored that one goal for us to get 2 on the board, we knew we were rolling.”

Defensively, Michael Rexrode caused three turnovers and delivered one particularly memorable hit, while Tim Troutner made 16 saves, the most in a game since 2021 when he played for the Redwoods. Troutner signed with the Atlas in the offseason after backing up Redwoods goalie Jack Kelly last year, and he’s taken off with the new opportunity to start again.

“He was terrific today,” Atlas coach Mike Pressler said. “Not only between the pipes, but he was great on the clear.”

Baptiste’s 41-percent win rate was his lowest since winning 25 percent July 30, 2020, against Nardella. The Atlas had plenty of others step up. There was no immediate word on the outlook for Baptiste.

“If for some reason Trevor’s not ready, then we have to think about what’s next and figure out a way to make a change,” Pressler said. “We want to continue facing off with No. 9.”

Ryder Garnsey led the 0-2 Redwoods with seven points on three goals (one two-pointer) and three assists. Rob Pannell, Charlie Bertrand and Chris Gray all scored two goals apiece. It was Gray’s first game with the Redwoods, who traded the fifth pick of the 2024 College Draft to the Atlas for him.

The Redwoods, who lost defender Chris Fake to a hamstring injury in the first quarter, feel confident that with more time together, they will start winning.

“We got the locker room right with this group,” Redwoods coach Nat St. Laurent said. “Teams that are going to get us, they need to get us right now. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”