The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) Championship Series has concluded its four group play games, and one former Virginia player has emerged as a bonafide star. Zed Williams leads the league in goals with 14, averaging 3.5 goals per game in his first season in the PLL.
Williams, who played at Virginia from 2014-17, was picked up by the Whipsnakes in March after the PLL held its Entry Draft. He has played some form-or-fashion of professional lacrosse, including indoor with the Georgia Swarm 2018-20 and with the Boston Cannons of the MLL in 2018-19, but has thrived in the PLL bubble.
The Whipsnakes, which won the inaugural PLL Championship in 2019, was already a dominant squad before adding the versatile attackman. In his final season at Virginia in 2017, Williams was the only non-faceoff specialist in the country to notch 50 points and pick up 50 ground balls. Now, he’s bulked up to 230 pounds on his 6-2 frame while maintaining the tricky stick skills that make life miserable for whichever defender is tasked with slowing him down.
Kyle Devitte of Inside Lacrosse called Williams one of his breakout players from group play, saying:
When Zed Williams was selected by the Whipsnakes in the Entry draft, it seemed more like a necessary positional grab than a purposeful choice. Part of that is because Williams didn’t have the best season with the Cannons last summer, and part of it is just that he played in Boston last summer. Williams has made the most of his chance in the PLL, though as he has amassed 17 points in four games playing well within a system that lets him still be himself. Zed will try crazy stuff and he clearly sees lanes that other players would just dismiss as wild probabilities. That’s what makes him exciting. The chemistry that Zed has developed with Matt Rambo is also remarkable given the short amount of time that they have been playing together. Zedzilla, Zeddy Ballgame, whatever — we’re all better off Zed.
“Zeddy Ballgame” has scored at least three goals in every PLL game he’s appeared in, and they’re almost all highlight reel worthy.
Williams earned himself a spot at No. 6 on the July 26 SportsCenter Top 10 countdown after just one game in his new league:
Zed Williams is already making @SportsCenter after 1 game in the PLL. pic.twitter.com/ZWvXKBLcRI— Premier Lacrosse League (@PremierLacrosse) July 26, 2020
If you give him even the smallest amount of time, Williams will make defenders or goalies — or both — look ridiculous. The movement on this shot is unreal:
It’s so beautiful. pic.twitter.com/LGl4by9wGF— IROQUOIS NATIONALS LACROSSE (@IRQ_Nationals) July 31, 2020
With the ball, Williams is adept at using his size and stick skills to lull defenders into a false sense of security, or just absolutely confuse the daylights out of them. Here, Zed gets his defender to actually spin all the way around while he casually continues to cage for the score:
Zed Williams drives to the middle, rocks back, and continues moving to the middle for a goal.@PLLWhipsnakes pic.twitter.com/quUbs7gsJZ— PLL Highlights (@PLLHighlight) July 26, 2020
Throughout his time at Virginia and now in the professional leagues, Williams has been one to follow Teddy Roosevelt’s ideology of “speak softly and carry a big stick.” He has a low-key personality and will always deflect praise to his teammates or coaches. Off the field that is.
On the field, it’s another story. “He’s really playing an initiator role for the Whipsnakes and he’s playing a role that would seem to suggest just the opposite (of who he is),” Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany told Josh Schafer of the PLL. “It’s sort of a cocksure, swagger give me the ball and get out of my way dodging style he has, which just completely isn’t his personality.”
Teammate Matt Rambo, who leads the league in points with six goals and 15 assists, is a nice balance for Williams on the field. You can’t leave Rambo, who was the PLL MVP in 2019 and scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals for the Whipsnakes in the title game, to double Williams, because Rambo will score on you. But you can’t double Rambo for the same reason. It has worked out well for the Whipsnakes, who are +24 in goal differential over the four-game group play.
Next up, the No. 1-seeded Whipsnakes will face the Redwoods — who have former Hoo Pat Harbeson on the roster — in the semifinals on Thursday night (August 6) at 10:30pm (ET) on NBC Sports. The Redwoods gave the Whipsnakes their biggest test of group play, but Zed’s three goals helped lead his team to a 13-9 win.