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Behind the Scenes with ESPN Production Leaders: NCAA Lacrosse to Premier Lacrosse League Transition

As the NCAA lacrosse season wraps up this weekend and transitions to the Premier Lacrosse League next weekend, Front Row caught up with ESPN lacrosse production leaders Ericka Galbraith and John Kettering.

Do you approach production for NCAA lacrosse any differently than Premier Lacrosse League production? If so, how? Any technologies used in one but not the other?

JK: At its core, we approach all our lacrosse broadcasts the same, regardless of level or gender. The game is played on a large surface with a relatively small ball, making it a challenge. We strive to cover the game so the viewer can clearly see it play out on a wider scope schematically, while at the same time bringing them as close to the action as possible to see the sheer skill and physicality the sport requires. There’s a fine line between being too close and too far, which we are always mindful of. It’s always great when we reach the time of year when we can boost our complement with aerial and goal cams, providing many more viewing angles to enhance the viewer’s experience.

Equally important, we want to create a rooting interest for the viewers by shedding light on who these athletes are as people, beyond the playing field. The college game features many of the best players, while the PLL showcases the best players in the world.

UNC Celebrates winning the 2022 NCAA Division I Lacrosse Championship (Allen Kee/ESPN Images)
The University of Virginia Cavaliers after winning the 2021 Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship. (Kelly Anne Backus / ESPN Images)

How do you weave storylines between the NCAA and PLL, especially at season's end when many NCAA players have been drafted by PLL teams?

JK: With a robust TV schedule featuring the best teams in the country week in and week out, we are fortunate to have the best players as well. This makes weaving the storylines between the college and pro game seamless and easy. The PLL draft also comes at an opportune time, with five of the eight first-round picks playing on our air that weekend. The first three picks (Brennan O’Neill – Duke, Connor Shellenberger – UVA, and Ajax Zappitello – MD) were all featured prominently in our telecasts and won their first-round games. Shellenberger and Zappitello will face off on Saturday in the NCAA Semifinal at 2:30 p.m. ET in what should be an epic matchup. Tewaaraton Award finalists and first-round picks Pat Kavanagh and Liam Entenmann from Notre Dame will also be playing this weekend in what should be a great matchup with Denver. What makes it really cool is that you can watch these same college stars play professionally the next weekend.

University of Virginia vs Maryland during the 2021 Division I Men's Lacrosse championship game. (Kelly Anne Backus / ESPN Images)
PLL's Philadelphia Waterdogs vs. California Redwoods (Premier Lacrosse League)
PLL Head Coaches on set during the 2023 Premier Lacrosse League College Draft. (Kelly Anne Backus / ESPN Images)

What are you most looking forward to this PLL season?

EG: I’m excited about the PLL’s pivotal shift to a geo-based model. Tying cities to teams will hopefully expand affinity for star players and integrate community engagement. Fans follow “their” teams, so hopefully this is the next step in developing fan attachment to the league and specific teams.

PLL's Carolina Chaos vs. Maryland Whipsnakes (Premier Lacrosse League)
PLL's Philadelphia Waterdogs vs. New York Atlas (Premier Lacrosse League)

Paul Carcaterra, ESPN Lacrosse Analyst & Reporter, weighs in on the season transition from NCAA Lacrosse to Premier Lacrosse League from an on-air perspective.

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