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Connor Shellenberger and Payton Cormier will rekindle their UVA connection on the Atlas.

PLL Preview: The New York Atlas' Cavalier Connection

May 29, 2024
Phil Shore
John Strohsacker

The 2024 Premier Lacrosse League season begins June 1 in Albany, N.Y. USA Lacrosse Magazine contributor Phil Shore is going team-by-team in the days leading up to the opener, previewing each club as we enter the home cities era of the PLL.

New York Atlas

2023 Record: 2-8
Head Coach: Mike Pressler
Assistants: Kevin Unterstein, Steven Brooks

Key Additions: Reid Bowering, A; Tyler Carpenter, LSM; Payton Cormier, A; Liam Entenmann, G; Ronan Jacoby, M; Connor Shellenberger, A; Jake Stevens, M; Tim Troutner, G
Key departures: Jack Concannon, G (retired); Tucker Durkin, D (retired); Chris Gray, A (Redwoods); Jake Richard, SSDM (Waterdogs)


Who fills the leadership void on defense left by Durkin?

Tucker Durkin announced his retirement in the offseason, and not only does he leave a large hole for the Atlas to replace on defense as a six-time All-Star and the Most Outstanding Defenseman at the 2014 FIL World Championship — he also was an 11-year veteran and the team captain. Pressler said Durkin was the ultimate captain and compared his leadership to that of other iconic New York legends like Thurmon Munson, Mark Messier and Derek Jeter.

So, who steps into those shoes to lead a defense that features two second-year players and a rookie LSM?

Eric Law and Trevor Baptiste return as team captains, but Pressler said fourth-year short-stick defensive midfielder Danny Logan would serve as the defensive captain. He believes the combination of Logan, Michael Rexrode and Tim Troutner will do a great job leading on the back end.

Enter Liam Entenmann

The last time a goalie was taken in the first round was 2019, when the Florida Launch took Troutner second overall in the Major League Lacrosse draft; in the PLL draft the same year, Troutner went in the fourth round to the Redwoods. The High Point goalie opted to play in the PLL and ended the season as Rookie of the Year.

This past offseason, he signed as a free agent with the Atlas, who then drafted Notre Dame goalie Liam Entenmann with the fifth pick. Entenmann has had high expectations for a long time. He was Inside Lacrosse’s top-ranked goalie in the class of 2019. He’s a four-time USILA All-American, a two-time Ensign C. Markland Kelly Jr. Award winner and he’s a finalist for the 2024 Tewaaraton Award, which a men’s goalie has never won.

“The guy’s a winner,” Pressler said. “He has rose to the occasion in college and repeatedly delivered in the big games. Throw aside he’s 6’4”, throw aside he sees over the defense in the clearing game. His poise, his athleticism and his ability to rise to the occasion and play big in the biggest moments is huge.”

There’s a lot of excitement surrounding Entenmann, but Pressler insists not only will there be a training camp battle between Entenmann and Troutner for the starting position, but that Drake Porter is also in consideration for the top spot as well. The Atlas announced Wednesday that all three goalies made the 25-man roster out of camp.

“Drake Porter has lost 40 pounds,” Pressler said. “He is ready to go to win a spot on that 25, and hopefully, in that top two. Tim Troutner is an amazing goalie at the pro level. I remember him well from his High Point days. He is arguably one of the greatest athletes in the goal I’ve ever seen. He’s going to bring that to the table.”

Cavaliers Reunion

The Virginia men’s lacrosse team has been one of the best over the past four years. From 2021-24, the team made the final four three times and won one championship.

Key members of Virginia’s offense included Xander Dickson, Connor Shellenberger and Payton Cormier. The last time the three played together, they reached the final four and total 83, 84, and 64 points, respectively. Now, all three have an opportunity to play together on New York.

The Atlas took Dickson with the third pick in the second round in the 2023 draft. Then in 2024, the team selected Shellenberger second overall. What surprised many was Cormier, the NCAA Division I record holder for career goals, was not drafted. The Atlas claimed him as an undrafted free agent.

Notoriously, teams in the pros don’t spend a ton of time together. Pressler said once the season gets started, they have a 30-minute Zoom on Wednesday to go over the previous week’s film, a 30-minute Zoom on Thursday to go over the scout for the next week’s game, fly in on Friday, have practice and some meetings, and then play the game.

Having guys that played together in college — like when the California Redwoods had a roster full of guys from Notre Dame or how the Maryland Whipsnakes are made up predominantly of Terps — can help build team chemistry.

“Those guys on your team that have previous chemistry, previous relationships, I think, is huge. We don’t have the volume of time during the season, or even in camp, to promote that and bring that together,” Pressler said. “By drafting or recruiting players from similar schools, I think, is the way to go. I’ve seen that with a couple of these teams. Having that UVA connection with those three guys certainly doesn’t hurt.”

In the NCAA tournament’s first-round matchup against Saint Joseph’s the weekend after the PLL Draft, Cormier scored eight goals. Shellenberger, who finished right behind Cormier in points with two goals and five assists, earned the assist on two of Cormier’s goals.

Having all three Cavs back together on the Atlas roster, especially a fired-up and vengeful Cormier, to go along with the likes of Jeff Teat, Bryan Costabile and Eric Law, could prove to be scary.