New Archers team-mates comment, O’Keefe ‘has unfinished business’


New Archers team-mates comment, O’Keefe ‘has unfinished business’

Penn State Athletics Photo Courtesy

Mack O’Keefe (left) and Grant Ament (right) led Penn State to historic seasons from 2017-19.

Grant Amen and Mac O’Keefe met for the first time in 2011. He is at tryouts for the US U19 team in 2015. Amen remembers their first practice together. O’Keefe slashes at the debate, brandishing his club with his left hand. Amen conveys to him from within. O’Keefe grabs the ball with one hand before throwing it behind him for a goal.

“‘Okay, well, that works,'” he said, “and I think that’s when I realized I could throw anything at him and he’d catch it and figure out how to wear it.” at home”

They soon formed a dynamic duo at Penn State, playing together from 2017-19. All three seasons were winning seasons, including an appearance in the Final Four in 2019.

After a few years apart, O’Keefe was one of the first Premier Lacrosse League free agents to change teams, signing with the Archers after two seasons and a championship with the Chaos, and the pair reunited.

“When I got the chance to play with Grant, I thought it was great, and I’m definitely excited,” O’Keefe said, citing Ament as the reason for the decision.

O’Keefe was considered one of the league’s marquee free agents. After a stellar college career that included breaking the all-time Division 1 scoring record, O’Keefe was selected sixth overall by the Chaos in the 2021 draft. In two seasons, Chaos has helped PLL earn two trips to the championship game, winning both in 2021.

Chaos eliminated the Archers in both years, with victories in the quarter-finals in 2021 and semi-finals in 2022. After the semifinal loss, head coach Chris Batts, forward Marcus Holman and midfielder Tom Schreiber were heavy-handed at postgame press conferences. After four seasons of failing to reach the championship game — despite an explosive offense and two semifinal trips — there was a sense that change was coming.

Moving out, Bates knew the Archers didn’t have many players until a multi-year deal. He also knew O’Keefe would be a free agent and was intrigued by the idea of ​​signing a player who had hurt them in the past. O’Keefe said Bates was the first person he called when the negotiating window opened.

We knew we were going to be active or playful. [free agency] “Depending on how the season played out,” Bates said. “[Mac’s] Proven talent. He does many good things. He will add a great price to us for our transgressions. He has some pre-existing relationships with men in our group. When the opportunity arose, we jumped at it.

O’Keefe said he enjoyed his time with the Chaos, but was interested in exploring his options in free agency. He said he has interest from four teams, but one thing he’s looking for is more responsibility on the ball.

I played a sort of off-the-ball role, playing a two-man game to get involved in the midfield, but I definitely wanted to take on a bit of responsibility, maybe play in attack. “

In addition to playing with Amen, O’Keefe said playing with Schreiber and Ryan Ambler made the Archers attractive. There were also plenty of opportunities to carry the ball after free agents Will Manny and Holman left to sign with the Whipsnacks and Cannons.

O’Keefe’s deal was announced on March 7. Amen was one of the first to know.

“Once he accepted the contract,” Ament sent me a text message saying, “It’s done.”

By the time the O’Keefe signing was completed, Bates had not finished reorganizing the Archers roster.

“I think you’ll find that we’re going to add another arrow to our quiver,” he said before the team announced the signing of O’Keefe Chaos midfielder Challen Rodgers.

Free agency was just one new wrinkle to the PLL season. There were two new playoff opportunities coming in the summer of 2023: the PLL Championship Series and an exhibition game in Japan against the Japanese national team.

Amler, a midfielder, has gained the experience he has to offer all season. Not only was he selected to play against Japan – he was also on the record for the championship series.

On the way to Springfield for the championship series, Rodgers said there was some thought it might be the last time he played with Manny and Holman, but he said that was never mentioned once everyone arrived.

“When we got to D.C., it was about how we’re going to win the first game, how we’re going to win the second game, and so on, so that we can win the championship series. ,” he said. “We didn’t, but I think what I really respect for those guys was that it wasn’t a topic of conversation because we were full steam ahead about the ring and how we were going to win.”

Amler said he was disappointed the Archers couldn’t win a championship with the major teams he’s been with since the team’s inception. Not only did Manny and Holman leave in free agency, but so did goaltender Adam Gitelman. Defensive midfielder Dominic Alexander and long forward Scott Ratliff have both retired.

In Japan, Aumler played with Chaos longtime poles CJ Costabile and Jarrod Neumann, who gave O’Keeffe and Rogers rave reviews.

“Moving forward, I’m excited about the new opportunities and some of the guys we’re bringing to our team. “Obviously, they’re ball players, and they’re incredible lacrosse players,” he said. “all of them [the Chaos players] He said what great teammates those guys are and how lucky we are to have them.

The first list the Archers put together had many close ties. Bates coached Schreiber and Ambler at Princeton. Schreiber and Holman won the Major League Lacrosse Championship with the Ohio Machine. Ratliff and Gitelman co-founded the Give and Go Foundation. Not only are Holman, Manny and Gitelman close friends, but they were also assistant coaches during the team’s first season at the Division 1 level with Utah – now Cannons head coach Brian Holman, Marcus’ father.

While some of these ties remain, the new additions bring their own closeness. Rodgers plays in the National Lacrosse League with Schreiber and center fielder Latrell Harris at the ruck, and of course, there’s Amen and O’Keefe’s longtime friendship.

O’Keefe is excited to rekindle the magic they played together as Nittany Lions.

“Grant is a very competitive kid, and I think we’ve worked well off each other,” he said. “Seeing him grind as hard as he did when he was the best player on the team was a great motivation for the other guys and for me.”

In the year In 2019, Amen and O’Keefe helped Penn State earn its first trip to the NCAA Final Four in program history. Amen and O’Keefe each had nine points in the team’s quarterfinal game against Loyola.

“He scored everywhere and in every way,” said O’Keefe, who set an NCAA tournament single-game record with nine goals.

In the team’s 21-17 semifinal loss to Yale, Ament had three goals, five assists, and O’Keefe had three goals.

There was a lot of optimism about Penn State in 2020, and the team went 5-2 with a win over No. 20 Villanova and a thrilling 18-17 overtime win over No. 6 Penn. Even their losses were big efforts, with No. 3 Yale and No. 7 Cornell losing by a combined three goals. Unfortunately for Amen and O’Keefe, that season was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He offered nothing but the question.

When O’Keefe reunites with Ament on The Archers, they hope to answer that question in PLL.

“We had unfinished business,” Amen said. “To be able to give this thing another shot with such a talented team around us is really special. I think it would be fun for the two of us to fit together.


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