All season long, the Archers Lacrosse Club has been the best team in the Premier Lacrosse League and on a mission to win their first PLL championship.
They will get a chance to play for the title on Sept. 24 in Philadelphia, thanks to their convincing 14-6 win over Redwoods in the semifinals on Sunday at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
Archers will take on the defending champion Waterdogs, who defeated Cannons, 17-6, in the other semifinal on Sunday.
“It feels like we're exactly where we should be,’’ Archers attackman Mac O’Keefe said. “We've been working the entire year to get to this point. But everybody knows playoffs are a different beast. So you’ve just got to reset [and] just show up ready to play.’’
The teams played each other twice in the regular season. The Waterdogs won 14-13 in the final game of the regular season on Aug. 25. Archers won the other meeting, 19-18, on July 30.
O’Keefe, who went to Syosset High and played college lacrosse at Penn State, was the second-leading goal scorer (22) and third-leading point scorer (35) for Archers in the regular season. On Sunday he scored two goals and helped make up for the loss of the team’s leading scorer, Connor Fields, who left Sunday’s game in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury.
“It [stinks] that ‘Fieldsie’ went down, but I think the team stepped up and rallied behind that,’’ said Archers goalie Brett Dobson, who had 18 saves.
Archers (9-2), the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, jumped out to a 4-0 lead to start the game. They were leading 4-1 when Fields, who had two of their four goals, was hit shoulder-to-shoulder by Redwoods defenseman Garrett Epple with 9:45 remaining in the second quarter.
Archers were already playing without short-stick defensive midfielder Latrell Harris, who was out with a knee injury.
Archers led 7-3 at halftime and outscored Redwoods 4-0 in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Grant Ament had three goals — one a two-pointer — and four assists for Archers. Smithtown native Rob Pannell had two goals — one a two-pointer — for Redwoods.
The second semifinal matched the No. 2 seed Cannons against the No. 3 Waterdogs. Both teams entered with 8-3 records, and Cannons had beaten Waterdogs, 12-8, in their only regular-season meeting. But after Cannons got a two-point goal by Chris Aslanian to tie the score at 3, Waterdogs went on a 12-0 run.
Cannons were hurt by two video reviews that may have affected momentum. Attackman Asher Nolting appeared to score on a fast break to cut Waterdogs’ lead to 7-4, but the goal was disallowed when video showed Nolting’s foot touched the goal crease.
With Waterdogs up 11-3 midway though the third quarter, Rockville Centre’s Matt Kavanagh fired a shot for Cannons that hit the goalpost and bounced out. Coach Brian Holman challenged the play to see if the ball had gone in, but the call on the field was confirmed.
Michael Sowers (six points) had three goals and three assists and Connor Kelly (five points) had three goals (one two-pointer) and one assist for Waterdogs. Goalie Dillon Ward had 13 saves.