The Premier Lacrosse League brought its playoff show to Gillette Stadium. A Boston-based team could be next.

Sports

Co-founder Paul Rabil, who started his professional career with the Boston Cannons, always cherishes his time in the New England area.

Redwoods goalie Jack Kelly, wearing a green uniform, saves a ball from going in the net.
Redwoods goalie Jack Kelly comes up with one of his 20 saves against Chaos during second half action of the Premier Lacrosse League quarterfinal tripleheader Monday at Gillette Stadium. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — As Premier Lacrosse League continues to expand in year five, co-founder Paul Rabil views Massachusetts as a crucial and constant driver in helping his vision perennially come to life.

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Rabil, who started his professional career with the Boston Cannons, always cherishes his time in the area. He was present Monday as loyal lacrosse fans united once again for an all-day extravaganza that featured three PLL quarterfinal clashes.

“There’s so much connectivity to this game in the greater New England area,” Rabil said. “It’s really exciting to be back here for this.”

Redwoods, Waterdogs, and Cannons advanced to the semifinals, where Archers await as the top seed. The semifinals — featuring No. 1 Archers vs. No. 4 Redwoods, and No. 2 Cannons vs. No. 3 Waterdogs — are set for Sept. 10 on Long Island. The championship is Sept. 24 in Philadelphia.

The league currently operates in a touring model (think Formula 1 or PGA Tour), but it recently announced that teams will be assigned to home cities starting in 2024. Rabil neither confirmed nor denied that Boston will have its own team again, but he acknowledged it’s “safe to assume” it’s in the running.

Rabil pointed out that the Krafts are investors in the league, which held its first-ever game at Gillette Stadium in 2019 and has returned several times since. The tour attracts north of 10,000 people whenever it comes to Foxborough, Rabil said.

The league’s presence at Gillette is a microcosm of its growth around the nation. PLL continues to spearhead a variety of initiatives, including Street Lacrosse to promote the sport for all, with NBA star Kevin Durant and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, as investors.

Rabil said the league has record-setting numbers this season, with broadcast totals up almost 60 percent thanks to a partnership with ESPN. He said the demographic is nearly 50 percent women. Tickets are up, sponsorship is up, and merchandise is up.

It showed Monday, as fans filled a section of Gillette and spread throughout the lower bowl. The day featured a blend of sincere, touching moments and lighthearted, goofy ones.

Players and fans united to share “I Stand For” signs with names on them to support those who have battled cancer.

They also showed off their air guitar skills with their lacrosse sticks and danced throughout the bleachers during timeouts. It was a lengthy day, with three games spanning from 11:45 a.m. to 7 p.m., but enthusiasm never wavered despite the unusual early-September heat.

“It felt like playoff lacrosse,” Waterdogs coach Andy Copelan said.

In the opener of the triple-header, Redwoods (7-4) cruised to a 15-9 win over No. 5 Chaos (5-6). Wes Berg erupted for a game-high seven goals against his former team — including six in a spectacular first half — as Redwoods bolted out to a commanding 13-3 edge before the break. Chaos tried to claw back, but the deficit was too big to overcome.

Brown University product Jack Kelly made 20 saves (71.4 percent) for Redwoods. He set the tone early and caught fire in the second quarter. As Berg torched Chaos on one end, Kelly did so on the other.

“Jack Kelly played outstanding,” Redwoods defender Garrett Epple said. “I told him after the game that it was the best game I’d ever seen him play. Some of the saves were just ridiculous.”

Josh Byrne paced Chaos with four goals. Massachusetts products Jarrod Neumann (Northampton), Will Bowen (Cohasset), and Zach Geddes (Winchester) all contributed.

In the middle game, defending champion Waterdogs (8-3) outlasted 2019 and 2020 champion Whipsnakes (4-7), 15-12, in a back-and-forth battle.

“I think you got exactly what you were expecting out of Waterdogs-Whipsnakes in a playoff game,” Waterdogs captain Kieran McArdle said. “Two veteran teams that have a lot of experience in the playoffs.”

McArdle poured in six goals and Michael Sowers five for Waterdogs, and Zach Currier finished 9-for-14 (64.3 percent) at the face-off X. Tucker Dordevic led Whipsnakes with three goals, and Petey LaSalla was 20-of-29 (69 percent) at the X and added 20 ground balls.

UMass product Will Manny delivered for Whipsnakes with four seconds left in the half to slice the Waterdogs’ lead to 10-9. Whipsnakes stayed within striking distance, but Waterdogs wouldn’t relent, allowing just three goals in the second half.

“Today was kind of a mirror image of what our season was like,” Whipsnakes coach Jim Stagnitta said. “Just not enough, and not enough consistency.”

In the finale, Cannons (8-3) pulled away for a convincing and comfortable 20-11 victory over No. 7 Atlas (2-9). Atlas hung around early, trailing 5-3 after one, but Cannons pushed the margin to 12-8 at halftime and 16-9 through three.

Asher Nolting paced Cannons with seven points (three goals, four assists). Xander Dickson led Atlas with five goals.

After finishing last in 2022, Cannons are two wins away from their first PLL title.

“I’m just proud, grateful, and very humbled to be somewhere that nobody in their right minds would have ever thought,” Cannons coach Brian Holman said.


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