Skip to main content
Connor Fields scored the goal of the year in Utah's win over Maryland.

Patient Offense, Goal of the Year Candidate Lift Archers

July 7, 2024
Kyle Devitte
Premier Lacrosse League

BOSTON, Mass. — It might go down in history as the “Connor Fields between the legs game” for Utah Archers fans, as they took down the Maryland Whipsnakes 16-11 with a dizzying avalanche of goals Saturday night at Harvard Stadium.

The Archers rode a hot start in the first quarter in which they put up four unanswered goals and went up 6-2. From there, the Utah offense took its time to find the back of the net, and Brett Dobson’s 15 saves did the rest.

The Whipsnakes struggled to score in anything but early offense in the first half, as three of their five first-half tallies came from pure fast break finishes. Other than a cutting goal from Matt Rambo toward the end of the first half, the Whips really didn’t get that many well-worked goals. Instead, they fed a steady dose of early dodges and two-pass shot attempts to the Archers' defense, which was more than willing to cut the middle of the field in half with a quick double and force a rollback or a contested shot.

“I thought we made better decisions in the second half,” Whipsnakes head coach Jim Stagnitta said. “But at the same time, I thought we created a lot of opportunities in early offense earlier in the game. We either missed the cage or hit Dobson, and it certainly forced us to play a lot of defense. It’s hard to tell [the guys on offense] not to take those shots; some of them were ill-advised, but there were a lot of them that were good opportunities.”

The Utah offense worked much more patiently, and it paid off. In the first five minutes, they were happy to give up two possessions to shot clock violations as long as they were able to get back and kill Maryland’s fast break opportunities dead. Two big four-goal runs in the first and third quarters — the last of which bled into the fourth — were the biggest differences for Utah. Both of those runs came as a result of high-volume ball movement.

“For us offensively, we wanted to get deeper into the shot clock, we wanted to share [the ball] a little bit more,” Archers head coach Chris Bates said. “We wanted assisted goals. So, I thought our ball movement was better, and we got everybody involved. It was awesome to see Dyson [Williams] get his first goal, too. It was fun to get him into the lineup and get rewarded with a goal.”  

The Whips mucked up the draw early to keep Mike Sisselberger off balance, but as the game progressed, Joe Nardella won more and more draws and the Whips forced their way back into the game in the second half. It was 11-8 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter, but the foothold was not strong enough to make up the difference.

Mac O’Keefe’s four goals led the way for the Archers, and most of those tallies came from efficient transitions. That tempo control helped the Archers get downfield and settled before the Whips could get their full personnel change.

And that quick setup allowed for more creative options in the settled sets. Namely, that transcendent between-the-legs goal from Fields in the third quarter that halted a Whipsnakes run and broke the internet. The funny thing is, that was not a surprise to anyone in Archers orange.

“We 100 percent know that it’s coming every time,” Dobson said. “I was surprised he put it high; he got some heat on it this time.”

With this win, the Archers stay in first place in the West and head into the All-Star break with high hopes.

“It was a good win for us, felt like we needed it,” Bates said. “We trusted our group, really, and after a less-than-stellar performance last week, I felt like we buckled down.” 


The second game Saturday evening might have been the best of the weekend, as the Boston Cannons staged a wild fourth-quarter comeback to stun the Philadelphia Waterdogs, 14-10.

Things did not start well for the home squad, as the Boston offense struggled to get good looks in the early minutes. Defensively, the Cannons also struggled to slow down Michael Sowers, who had the Waterdogs’ first two goals and looked like he was on pace to score triple that amount.

“These are really talented young men on both teams,” Waterdogs head coach Bill Tierney said. “These are really talented coaches. When Michael [Sowers] goes and beats his guy a few times, they’re going to adjust. They slid to him earlier, they made it harder for Kieran [McArdle] to get the ball, and when teams do that to those two players, we have to get more from our midfield.”

Even as the Waterdogs took control in the first quarter, Boston kept plugging away. The Cannons were angrily fighting to get the ball back on the ride and trying to turn a loose ball scrum into a gritty ground ball to manufacture another possession. The shots still weren’t falling, but a three-goal run at the end of the second quarter saw the Waterdogs’ lead whittled down to 7-5.

The third quarter started with a bang, or a boom as it were, thanks to a Marcus Holman two-pointer that was started by a 50-yard outlet from Colin Kirst to Ethan Rall. That tied the score at 7 and got the crowd back into it.

But there was still work to do. After Holman’s goal brought the crowd to its feet, they were immediately seated back onto the concrete as the Waterdogs rattled off three straight goals. It all could have ended there, but cooler heads prevailed.

“The message doesn’t change that much,” Cannons head coach Brian Holman said. “You have to continue to play. I felt we weathered the storm early. We talked about that today — they’re the Waterdogs. They have some of the greatest players in the world on that team. But we have to stiffen our backs a little bit.”

Part of that was getting more out of the possessions than the Cannons did the night prior. Ball movement became paramount and more players — some of whom didn't see a lot of the ball on Friday — were much more involved with the offense. Particularly Matt Kavanagh, who finished with a game-high five points, including the goal that started the comeback at the end of the third quarter and the two-pointer that iced the game for Boston in the final minute.

“I don't know how many shots I took; I feel like I took a ton,” Kavanagh said. “But that was all part of good team offense and moving the ball. We pride ourselves on our ball movement. I don’t think we did a great job of that last night — a lot of one-dodge and done, but we knew we would have to beat our guys.”

The Cannons closed the weekend by going 1-1 at home, but the crowd at Harvard was clearly rooting for the team that goes boom on both days.