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Spalding boys lacrosse coach Brian Phipps ‘ecstatic’ about being claimed by Whipsnakes of Premier Lacrosse League

Chesapeake goalkeeper Brian Phipps makes a save in the first quarter. The Chesapeake Bayhawks played the visiting Florida Launch in Major League Lacrosse Saturday evening at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Chesapeake goalkeeper Brian Phipps makes a save in the first quarter. The Chesapeake Bayhawks played the visiting Florida Launch in Major League Lacrosse Saturday evening at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. (By Paul W. Gillespie / Capital Gazette)

Ecstatic!

That was the word Brian Phipps used to describe his reaction to being claimed by the Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club.

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Phipps has been in Premier Lacrosse League purgatory so far this season, on the roster of Redwoods but inactive for all three games.

Because the Annapolis resident did not dress for three weekends, he was eligible to be claimed off the Redwoods roster by any of the other seven PLL squads. He will be in uniform as the backup to Kyle Bernlohr this Sunday when the Whipsnakes meet the Archers at James M. Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

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“I’m already getting an opportunity to dress with Whipsnakes, so this is definitely a great move for me,” said Phipps, who joins a team loaded with former University of Maryland players such as himself.

There are 10 former Terrapins on the Whipsnakes roster with the majority playing on the defensive end. Bryce Young, Nick Grill, Tim Muller and Matt Dunn are four of five close defensemen. Michael Ehrhardt is the top long stick defensive midfielder, while Jake Bernhardt is one of four short stick defensive midfielders.

Coach Jim Stagnitta employs a defensive system similar to what all those players were accustomed while in College Park.

“There are a lot of Maryland guys on the defensive end. I feel comfortable with them, and they feel comfortable with me,” Phipps said. “If I had to play this weekend, we’re all already on the same page in terms of terminology and defensive schemes.”

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Phipps spent nine seasons in Major League Lacrosse with the Ohio Machine and Chesapeake Bayhawks. The Severn School product was originally selected by the Bayhawks with the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 MLL Collegiate Draft and started 10 games as a rookie. He was claimed by the Machine in the 2012 MLL Expansion Draft and spent four seasons as the starter with that franchise.

Chesapeake reacquired Phipps from the Machine in an exchange for a second-round draft pick and he replaced fellow Maryland graduate Niko Amato as the starting goalie midway through the 2019 season. Strong, consistent play between the pipes by Phipps was a big reason why the Bayhawks captured their sixth MLL championship in 2019.

Phipps remained the Chesapeake starter for the MLL Tournament that lasted a week last summer. The Bayhawks were forced to forfeit a semifinal game after multiple players tested positive for coronavirus.

During the offseason, the PLL and MLL announced a merger that effectively ended the 20-year run of the latter league. It also meant a significant reduction in total roster spots available in professional lacrosse.

Phipps was not selected in the PLL Expansion Draft in March but subsequently signed a free agent contract with the Redwoods. He emerged from training camp third on the depth chart behind starter Tim Troutner Jr. (St. Mary’s High, High Point) and backup Jack Kelly.

The Whipsnakes decided to add another goalie after backup Reed Junkin struggled in relief of Bernlohr during last weekend’s loss to Chrome. The Whipsnakes, who have captured the only two championships in PLL history, had gone 672 days without tasting defeat.

Stagnitta said the Whipsnakes have dealt with numerous injuries over the last couple weeks and management thought adding a veteran goalie with championship experience would be wise.

“Brian became available, and we just felt it would make sense to have an experienced goalie in case something happened to Kyle,” Stagnitta said. “Brian Phipps is a proven player with an impressive pedigree. His resume and accomplishments speak for themselves.”

Archbishop Spalding coach Brian Phipps, pictured during a game in 2020, will be in uniform as the backup goaltender to Kyle Bernlohr this Sunday when the Whipsnakes meet the Archers at James M. Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
Archbishop Spalding coach Brian Phipps, pictured during a game in 2020, will be in uniform as the backup goaltender to Kyle Bernlohr this Sunday when the Whipsnakes meet the Archers at James M. Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. (Doug Kapustin/Capital Gazette)

Phipps just completed his sixth season as head coach of the Archbishop Spalding boys’ lacrosse team. He led the Cavaliers to a 10-3 record and runner-up finish in the MIAA A Conference.

Phipps and Troutner are among six Anne Arundel County natives playing in the Premier Lacrosse League this season. Midfielder Mark McNeill (St. Mary’s High, North Carolina) is with the Archers, while attackman Jake Carraway (St. Mary’s, Georgetown) and long stick defensive midfielder Craig Chick (South River, Lehigh) are with Atlas. Former DeMatha Catholic standouts Pat Harbeson (Annapolis resident, Virginia) and Johnny Surdick (Odenton resident, Army) are with Chaos and Redwoods, respectively.

Kent Island High graduate Zach Goodrich is a short stick defensive midfielder for Cannons Lacrosse Club. Meanwhile, former Naval Academy All-American defenseman Matt Rees is with Chaos.

Members of the 2019 Chesapeake Bayhawks championship team now playing in the Premier Lacrosse League include attackmen Lyle Thompson (Cannons) and Colin Heacock (Chrome), short stick defensive midfielders Isaiah Davis-Allen (Redwoods) and Matt Abbott (Whipsnakes), long stick defensive midfielder C.J. Costabile (Chaos) as well as close defensemen Jesse Bernhardt (Chrome) and Warren Jeffrey (Archers).

Sunday’s Whipsnakes versus Archers game will be broadcast live on NBC Sports at 12:30 p.m.

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