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Teammates congratulate Denver Outlaws rookie Graham Bundy Jr. after a breakout performance in Minnesota

PLL Week 4: Bundy's Breakout; Waterdogs in the Win Column

June 30, 2024
Jack Goods
Premier Lacrosse League

EAGAN, Minn. — Last time the Denver Outlaws took the field, viewers saw just how good Brennan O’Neill can be. This go around, it was Graham Bundy Jr. who had Outlaws fans smiling ear to ear thinking about the future.

The former Georgetown sharpshooter was lethal from range, converting four lasers in Denver’s 13-8 win against the Redwoods. One came from beyond the arc, pushing the rookie’s point total on day two of the Premier Lacrosse League in Minnesota to five.

Ironically, Bundy endured the opposite result during practice Friday — and coach Tim Soudan was quick to give him a hard time about it.

“Not to pick on Graham, but he had to change sticks,” Soudan said with a laugh. “The stick that he was using [at practice], he was throwing sideways. … I was like, “Dude, where’s your other stick? Get rid of that stick.’”

Bundy listened and went to his secondary option, then got out on the TCO Stadium field an hour early Saturday and dialed in.

“He was due for a breakout game,” fellow rookie Josh Zawada said.

The Outlaws have won two straight and at 2-1 have already doubled the team’s win total from when they played as the Chrome last year. The stellar young talents on offense are meshing and starting to connect with a more veteran-laden defensive unit.

Could Denver be the turnaround team of 2024?  

“They love each other,” Soudan said. “At meals they’re starting to loosen up and heckle each other. It’s my kind of room right now.”

And that’s with just three games under this group’s belt.

“Every game and the practice before is a new opportunity to build that chemistry,” Zawada said.

California, meanwhile, went cold in the fourth quarter, with TD Ierlan scoring the team’s final goal off a draw with 27 seconds remaining in the third. The Denver defense held the Woods to 0-for-14 shooting during that stretch, allowing the Outlaws to go on a game-closing 6-0 run. Rob Pannell went pointless for the first time in his PLL career.

“Frustrating, deflating,” Redwoods coach Nat St. Laurent said. “We talked about all the right things this week. A lot of film, a lot of tough conversations. Everything was lined up as it should and then we go out and have some tremendous turnovers at key points in the game, and I think we shot 16 percent.”

In fact, St. Laurent’s estimation was too high. The Redwoods shot just over 14 percent, with Romar Dennis serving as one of the few bright spots. He hit twice from 2-point range to lead the Redwoods with five points.

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Waterdogs get in the win column

The Philadelphia Waterdogs were victims of the 2-point shot in their first three weeks. On Saturday, it was finally on their side.

Ryland Rees nailed a bouncing deep shot with a bit over eight and a half minutes remaining, turning a one-possession advantage into a four-point lead to power the Dogs to a 10-6 win over Carolina. The result marked Bill Tierney’s first triumph as a professional coach.

“When you have those three losses like we did, those can become disheartening,” Tierney said. “Guys can point fingers. There was none of that. It was the strangest 0-3 I’ve ever seen, actually, putting more goals in the net against all three teams that you play. But the 2-pointer’s a big one, as you saw again tonight.”

Philadelphia made two major adjustments to the lineup, inserting a pair of players who previously suited up for Tierney collegiately at Denver. On offense, Jack Hannah returned to the gameday roster after missing the start of the season with an injury. He finished with three points.

“Not only is he a great player and can put the ball in the back of the goal, [but] he had one of the best assists that I’ve seen in a long time tonight that I thought changed the game,” Tierney said. “What he does to the other team is he pushes another guy down. Maybe a [Ryan] Conrad or a [Connor] Kelly or [Zach] Currier ends up with a short stick instead of a pole. That had a huge impact on what happened out here tonight.”

The Waterdogs additionally utilized a faceoff specialist for the first time this season following the signing of Alec Stathakis. He won 8 of 18 for a 44-percent success rate in his professional debut.

“He is a warrior,” Tierney said. “It took a little bit of the steam out of them, even when they won the faceoff. Every one of those faceoffs was a battle. And nothing makes Stath happier than battles.”

Kieran McArdle was additionally strong, finishing with five points on two goals and three assists.

The teams were knotted at 5 entering the final three minutes of the third quarter in what was a defensive duel. The Chaos beat Dillon Ward just once more the rest of the night.

“Credit to them, they hit a couple of incredible shots,” Carolina coach Andy Towers said. “It was a hard-fought game, but it could have gone either way.”

The medicine game

The PLL honored the Indigenous roots of lacrosse throughout the weekend with special uniforms, traditional games during halftime and video features highlighting the likes of Jake Piseno and Kyle Jackson.

It was Jackson who delivered the most poignant moment of the PLL’s time in Minnesota, sharing his pain during Carolina’s postgame press conference following the loss of his wife’s grandfather earlier in the day.

He delivered an important reminder of the true importance of lacrosse and its impact as “the medicine game.”