Waterdogs

Waterdogs Lacrosse Club: 2021 Premier Lacrosse League Preview

The Waterdogs had a very active offseason in 2021, trading for goalie Dillon Ward and drafting well in the collegiate draft while moving off of attackman Wes Berg. This offense will put up goals, but the defense and defensive midfield are both worrying. The Waterdogs have two issues when it comes to defensive personnel: high-level starters and depth. Despite the Waterdogs’ issues, however, rookies Michael Sowers and Ethan Walker should provide an immediate impact and Ward should give some consistency in net.

Additions

Trade: Eli Gobrecht (D), Dillon Ward (G)

Entry Draft: Liam Byrnes (D), Mikie Schlosser (M), Ben Randall (D)

College Draft: Michael Sowers (A), Ethan Walker (A)

Player Pool: Christian Scarpello, Matt Whitcher (SSDM), Casey Dowd (FO), Brian Karalunas (LSM)

Offense

Projected Starting Attack: Michael Sowers, Ryan Brown, Kieran McArdle. The Waterdogs selected Michael Sowers number two overall in the collegiate draft and he will be a starter right away. Sowers is an excellent dodger who might have the fastest first step in all of lacrosse. Ryan Brown was a huge pickup for the Dogs as he will get several scoring opportunities with Sowers operating from x. Kieran McArdle and Ben Reeves will fight for that lefty spot, but I think McArdle wins out. Reeves is also looking to complete his MBA this summer, so we may not see much of him, but Reeves and Christian Cuccinello will likely come out of the box in hopes of getting a short stick matchup. Finally, the Waterdogs drafted Denver’s Ethan Walker with their second pick. Walker can also battle for that lefty position and could pose as a threat in man-up situations.

Projected Starting Midfield: Zach Currier, Connor Kelly, Nick Schlosser. The Dogs’ midfield does not have many big names but they do have a bunch of solid players. Currier played most of last season injured, but he is the definition of a swiss army knife, being able to score, defend, and even hold his own at the face-off dot. Kelly is a great offensive midfielder and will have no problem getting scoring opportunities for himself. The midfield is going to benefit from the Waterdogs’ attack unit, as most of the defense’s attention will be on Sowers and Brown. Sowers is going to beat his man all of the time when he dodges, which causes the defense to slide early. If the defense slides to him early, he will move it to one of the wing attackman or midfielders for a stepdown opportunity. If the defense does not slide to him, Sowers will make them pay by putting the ball in the back of the net.

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Defense/ Goaltending

Projected Defensive Starters: Liam Brynes, Ben Randall, Chris Sabia. This Waterdogs defense is the one area of concern. Liam Brynes was a nice pickup in the entry draft and Brynes can hopefully take on a leadership role on this defensive unit. Randall is a solid on-ball defender and Sabia was second on the team in caused turnovers. BJ Grill led the Dogs in caused turnovers with six, but Grill is a mere five-foot-five and could have trouble guarding a bigger attackman. Another area of concern for this Waterdogs team is their defensive midfield play. Rees is a solid LSM and should be the starting pole once the games start. Their short-stick defensive midfielders are suspect at best: Kyle McClancy is young and can run up and down the field, but I question his skills to cover in space, and Steve DeNapoli is a veteran who has a lot of Team USA and MLL experience, but he is going to be 32 years old this upcoming summer.

Goalie: Dillon Ward was a huge get for the Waterdogs. Ward has been a top goalie in both the MLL and PLL and will be the starter come week one. Ward served as Blaze Riordan’s backup last season and was traded for in exchange for Wes Berg and a first-round pick. At the 2014 FIL World Games, Ward was outstanding and became the first-ever goalie to take home the MVP award.

Face-Off

Jack Withers and Drew Simoneau were both top-five FOGOs in the PLL last year. Unfortunately, Simoneau is no longer on the Waterdogs, meaning Withers will have an increased workload in 2021, but Withers won 58% of his draws last season, good for third-highest in the league. The Waterdogs also added Casey Dowd in the player pool, and if there is one position to have depth in, it is the face-off dot. Having a competent backup that can come in, provide a change of pace, or is a better matchup could be the difference between a win and loss.

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