Before this summer, a couple of former Penn State lacrosse players had never experienced anything like a two-week, 20-game schedule on an isolated campus.
That changed, though, when former Nittany Lion stars Grant Ament and Chris Sabia traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, in late July for the start of the 2020 Premier Lacrosse League Championship Series.
In just two weeks, the seven-team league played a combined 20 games to crown a champion in the truncated season — eventually resulting in a title for Whipsnakes LC.
Now Archers and Waterdogs players, respectively, Ament and Sabia had to quarantine for a full day in their temporary homes before taking the practice field to prepare for group play.
“I’ve never quarantined in a hotel room for 24 hours — thank God I had a good roommate,” Sabia said.
The arrival quarantine period was put in place to limit the potential spread of the coronavirus had one of the players or coaches been carriers of the virus.
Spending a lot of time in the hotel when he wasn’t playing or practicing lacrosse, Ament and his Archers teammates partook in a sport of a different nature while taking their minds off of the job.
“We played a lot of hotel golf. Adam Ghitelman and Will Manny brought their clubs because they live out there, and there was probably a group of us every other night,” Ament said. “It was just a lot of fun and I think for anyone who was in the bubble, having that distraction away from lacrosse was helpful.”
During some of his downtime in the hotel with the rest of the Waterdogs team, Sabia did what he does best on the lacrosse field — anchoring his squad on the sticks in the digital world.
“We played so much Call of Duty,” Sabia said. “Not to say I carried my Warzone squad, but I did.”
Throughout the past few months, questionable food deliveries while athletes were quarantined for sports seasons across the country have sparked uproar on social media.
Sabia didn’t have a problem with the PLL bubble’s food, however.
“The food was good, and they took pretty good care of us,” Sabia said. “It was tough when we got back really late at night, but we had certain places we could order from and my roommate Ryland [Rees] and I brought a ton of snacks.”
When Sabia and his expansion-team Waterdogs took the field, the defenseman was reminded of a past experience after playing a few games.
“It felt like a Penn State spring break just playing lacrosse, except a little more stringent with the rules,” Sabia said.
Sabia played for coach Jeff Tambroni from 2016 to 2019 and was an integral piece on the defensive side of the ball in the Nittany Lions’ 2019 Final Four run.
Ament, who finished fourth in the PLL in points scored, had high praise for everyone who made the Championship Series possible.
“Everyone from the field maintenance staff all the way through CEO Mike Rabil — they were locked in for three weeks,” Ament said.
“They ran such a well-oiled machine and they were ready for anything,” Ament continued. “It was a lot of work for them, and it was also a lot of work for us because we had to completely change our training.”
While Ament appreciates the PLL for making his rookie season possible, he had a fair share of gripes with playing so many games in such a short time period.
“People have told me ‘Oh this tournament style is great,’ but it’s not,” Ament said. “You’re not putting the best product on the field every game whether you think you are or not. Guys need some downtime both physically and mentally.”
Ament bolted out in his first shot at professional action, scoring a combined eight points in his first two games before slowing down in the playoffs.
Sabia, who played five games before getting knocked out in the first round, believes it was an experience that he would happily participate in again if needed.
“I would definitely do it again but it was interesting,” Sabia said. “Obviously none of us have ever done anything like that before.”
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