Offense-First Format? Chrome Lean on Goalie Sean Sconone to Win Title


Sean Sconone made 15 saves in the PLL Championship Series final.

At halftime of Sunday’s Premier Lacrosse League Championship Series final, young fans in attendance participated in a musical chairs race during which they had to get up, pick up a ground ball, shoot and score before getting back to their seat.

In the first round, one player shot and missed and had to shoot again, putting an almost immediate end to his opportunity to win. Social media star Scotty Royster was the emcee for the event, and he commented, “You can’t miss the net here!”

That statement was true for the professional players in the title game, too. To be fair, hitting the net wasn’t a guarantee, either — because Atlas goalie Jack Concannon and Chrome goalie Sean Sconone were on their A-games.

Every score mattered as the Chrome defeated the Atlas in the PLL Championship Series final 24-23, and while the talk heading into the event was the offensive stars and the scoring, it was the goalies that made the biggest difference.

“It was huge,” Chrome’s acting head coach Jacques Monte said. “[Sconone] is incredible, right? Guys that played in front of him were incredible. We basically said, ‘These are the types of shots we want to see because we know he is a stopper,’ and I think every goalie that could steal shots — that’s what it was, balls are going to go in the net but stealing shots and some goals — that’s how you win games, and he’s the best at it.”

Sconone made 15 saves (45.5 percent) compared to Concannon, who had 10 saves (32.3 percent). The 23 goals were the lowest total of the five-game tournament for the Atlas, who had put 30 on the scoreboard twice and 29 on two other occasions.

A big reason for the success on defense was the ability to tire out Romar Dennis, who won the Golden Stick Award for the most scoring points (34). Dennis scored 15 two-point goals, underscoring the Atlas’ reliance (and overall success) on shooting from deep.

The Chrome picked Dennis up early and faceguarded him, mimicking a full-court press in basketball. Dennis was held to one one-point goal throughout the first three quarters of the game and finished with five points (he tacked on two two-point goals) on 27.3-percent shooting, his lowest total in the five games he played.

“I think they stole a little bit of that full-court press from the Whipsnakes’ last game,” Dennis said. “Credit to [Whipsnakes midfielders Roman] Puglise and Ty Warner; I think Ty is one of the best d-middies in the world. Stepping into this game, Smith, all those guys stepped up, and it’s tiring.

“Shooting on the run, with my weight, is really tiring. I’m worn down. They tired me out, and Sconone is an unbelievable goalie. This tournament style is so not fair to goalies. Seeing him make saves and the way he plays, I will say, Jack is my favorite goalie, and I think he’s the best goalie in the league, but Sconone I’ve never seen rattled.”

The Atlas, a dominant offensive team throughout the tournament, came out fast. In just over three minutes, Bryan Costabile scored two two-point goals while his team took a quick 7-2 lead. The Atlas had a three-goal advantage at the end of the first quarter and a one-goal lead at halftime.

PLL co-founder and president Paul Rabil noted a team’s ability to not let goals allowed affect them as a key component for success in this format.

“When we play field lacrosse, 10-on-10, when someone scores, you get together and decide, ‘How the hell did that happen?’” he said. “Same thing in hockey. Same thing in soccer. Different in basketball, you just know you’re going to get scored on, so how are you playing with that dynamic, strategically? How are you understanding eight-minute quarters, 30-second shot clock, a team that has range in this version of Sixes versus someone who doesn’t?

“What we saw Chrome do was have an incredible goaltender, and every possession, use the clock.”

Starting the fourth quarter, Dennis finally broke through with two two-pointers — sandwiched around a Dylan Molloy two-point goal for the Chrome — as the Atlas took a three-point lead. Dennis jumped at midfield and pumped his fist in the air after the second of his two-bombs.

While it seemed like a turning point, the Chrome scored the next five tallies (including one two-pointer) to take a three-point lead of their own. Molloy had seven points and did much of his damage in the second half, further boosting the Chrome’s chances.

Jake Carraway had three scoring points on two goals, tying the game at 23 with 1:43 remaining, but a goal by Justin Anderson 10 seconds later proved to be the game-winner.

Atlas had opportunities to tie it, but Dox Aitken missed a two-point attempt with 1:01 left, and Chris Gray’s missed shot with 15 seconds remaining gave possession back to the Chrome, who played keep-away to seal the win.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to shoot your shot,” Atlas interim head coach Steven Brooks said. “I said, ‘If the two-pointer is there, go for it. Go for the win. Why not?’ In a championship game, you can’t be thinking tight and try to look for a one. See what you got. Trust in your players that they’re going to make the right decision, and we got a great opportunity, two great opportunities, to tie it up and a great opportunity to shoot a two as well. But it’s a game of inches. It’s unfortunate, but going outside that huddle I said, ‘Hey, if you see the two, shoot it. Let’s win this dang thing. But if you have a single, and you can’t get the two, let’s try and tie it up, get down on defense and let’s take this thing to overtime.”

Sconone had been looking forward to the Championship Series since the Chrome lost in the first round of the 2022 playoffs. The two-time Major League Lacrosse Goalie of the Year and 2022 PLL All-Star had been looking for his first professional championship and first title since a CAA championship with UMass in 2017.

While it took some time for the Chrome to find their footing, not winning their first game until the third contest of the round-robin on Friday, he applauded his teammates for their ability to keep their composure and finish strong.

“I knew it was going to be fast,” Sconone said. “I knew there were going to be a lot of shots. But actually being there, getting all the shots, getting the up and down, was fast. Coach Monte put this thing together. Our guys bought in. A goal goes in, try to push [things] the other way, almost like give our guys another chance. Our guys did an unbelievable job offensively, but defensively as well.”


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