In the Premier Lacrosse League’s (PLL) third season, Waterdogs Lacrosse Club took home the CashApp Championship Trophy on Sunday, Sept. 18, becoming the first expansion team to finish at the top.
The Waterdogs, the PLL’s very first expansion team in 2020, struggled in their inaugural season. The season only lasted five games due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst the situation, the Waterdogs were only able to scrape away with a sole win, losing their four other games to be eliminated from the playoffs.
With a full slate in their second season, according to statscrew.com, the Waterdogs came out of the gate slowly but eventually won their final four games to skyrocket them to the top of the league’s standings.
Even with their standout season, they still lost in the semifinal round to Whipsnakes LC, who in the two years prior won the league championship. The Whipsnakes went to the championship for the third year in a row after beating the Waterdogs in 2021, but would eventually lose to Chaos LC.
The 2022 playoff bracket appeared to be an uphill battle for the Waterdogs, who were the fifth seed this year. They first faced the #4 Atlas LC, sweeping past them in a 19-14 victory, according to the PLL’s official playoff bracket.
They then took on the #1-seeded Whipsnakes LC in a 2021 semifinal rematch. According to the game’s official stat sheet, the game was tied at seven entering the final frame of play, but the Waterdogs were able to edge out the Whipsnakes with four goals in the fourth quarter compared to the three scored by their opponent to take revenge.
The season’s finale, hosted in Philadelphia, Pa., was a contest between the fifth-seeded Waterdogs and seventh-seeded Chaos, who continued strong through the playoffs despite barely securing a spot in the playoffs.
The game was virtually toe-to-toe, with the Chaos opening the first quarter with four goals compared to the Waterdogs’ two scores. They held the Chaos to just one, three and one goals through each quarter respectively, whereas the Waterdogs continued their dominance with three, four and two goals to seal the championship win by a final score of 11-9.
Andy Copelan, the head coach of the Waterdogs, was the former head coach of the Fairfield University men’s lacrosse team. Copelan was tasked with assembling his team via an expansion draft before the 2020 season, which pulled players from different teams around the league.
One of those players from the expansion draft who showed up in a big way was Kieran McArdle, who was formerly a member of Atlas LC.
According to his official stats, McArdle boasted the second-highest amount of points over the 2022 season behind Cannons LC star Lyle Thompson, who outshined McArdle in goals but came up short in the assists department. McArdle had the most assists of any attackman in the league with 23.
Connor Kelly, the Waterdogs’ main man at midfield, was stolen from the Whipsnakes in the expansion draft back in 2020. Kelley came in second in points for midfielders on the season but scored the most two-point goals in the league with four. He scored twelve goals that were worth one point, which comes to a total of twenty goals and six assists in the 2022 season.
Michael Sowers, a Princeton University graduate in 2020 and a Duke University graduate in 2021, was selected with the second overall pick in the 2021 College Draft according to his profile on premierlacrosseleague.com. Sowers has been a key addition to the Waterdogs’ attack core, scoring twenty-one one-point goals over the course of nine games this season.
With twelve points in postseason play which includes a three-point performance in the championship game, Sowers took home the championship MVP trophy for his outstanding effort throughout the playoffs.
With the mix of experiences among the roster, the PLL’s Waterdogs will return again next June with a championship under their belt.