Long plane rides, diminutive pay checks, and little recognition is the common lifestyle for most professional lacrosse players. But, that’s what makes the sport worth watching.
This weekend, at the momentous Harvard Stadium, the best-of-the-best will step on the field to earn their spot in lacrosse history while attempting to win the 2012 MLL Championship.
The players don’t do it for the money, or the glamour that comes with being a professional athlete. They do it because they love the sport and respect the game. In turn, that love and respect for the sport enables the biggest games to not disappoint.
At 1:00 p.m., the regular season champion Denver Outlaws will square off with the Long Island Lizards. The two teams split the regular season series as the Outlaws won the first contest 19-11 while the Lizards took revenge in the second game while scoring eight-unanswered goals for the 14-8 win.
Brendan Mundorf, newly-tabbed MVP of the MLL for the 2012 season, isn’t about to let anything get in the way of his team and their goal. The Outlaws have a core of veteran leaders while also putting on display one of the most physically imposing players in the league with rookie Mark Matthews.
The Lizards are nothing to scoff at. Though the fourth seed in the playoffs, Long Island brings to the table plenty of important pieces.
Joe Spallina was named Brine Coach of the Year, Matt Gibson earned Cascade Rookie of the Year, and Drew Adams was recognized for the second straight year as Warrior Goalie of the Year. The Lizards are hoping that Brian Langtry and Max Seibald, formerly of the Denver Outlaws, will be at their peak because if they aren’t, they will have a tough time dethroning the regular season champions.
For all of the hardware the Lizards have earned and it was well-deserved, the Outlaws have been creating the perfect storm which includes a winning streak of six games and a come-from-behind victory in the last game of the season to earn the regular season crown.
Mundorf, the aforementioned MVP, headlines a cast that includes Warrior Defensive Player of the Year in Lee Zink and Warrior Most Improved Player of the Year in Jeremy Sieverts while net-minder Jesse Schwartzman is arguably one of the best in the game.
Congratulations are in order to the Lizards for getting to Boston, but, their journey ends here. Denver will not let them steal this game and the Outlaws will welcome with open arms the winner between the Chesapeake Bayhawks and Boston Cannons.
This contest is not an easy pick. On one side you have the reigning champs led by the offensive player of the year Paul Rabil, while the Bayhawks bring an assortment of talent to the table including John Grant Jr., and Kyle Dixon among others.
Starting with the host of the festivities, Boston comes into this weekend with a lot of uncertainties. Sure they have Rabil and Ryan Boyle, two incredibly gifted players, but, while the star power is alive and well, the supporting cast is non-existent.
To start the season there was not a hotter team than the Cannons, opening up 3-0 while outscoring their opponents 55-31 which included the Outlaws. However, Boston accrued a 2-5 record over the following seven games which included losses to the Bayhawks, Outlaws, and Lizards who also swept the Cannons. It took a record breaking season in terms of points for Rabil (72) and career year from Boyle who had a whopping 39 assists.
Their opponents aren’t so bad either. The Bayhawks might have the most talented roster in the MLL though that’s not what always leads to Ws.
Drew Westervelt was a big acquisition in the offseason, I mean this literally too. The 6’5 attacker has a strong presence that has allowed Dixon and Grant Jr. among others to thrive. The Bayhawks went the entire season without losing back-to-back games though they did end the season losing two out of three including a heart breaker to the Outlaws.
Chesapeake relies on a balanced attack that is led by their midfielders. Dixon, Steven Brooks and Michael Kimmel provide a potent attack and are the catalyst. In order for any team to defeat the Bayhawks, you need to shut those three down.
We all know that it’s the goals that make the highlight films and put the fans in the seats. But, it’s the defense that gets you to the winners circle.
Kip Turner has to be the most anxious for this matchup considering he was drafted by the Cannons and played four seasons with the club. During his time in Boston he was recognized as the Warrior Goalkeeper of the Year in 2010 while helping them hoist the trophy in the following season.
Turner and his horsemen need to ride high, that group consists of Brian Spallina, Nicky Polanco, and Michael Evans. These four have their work cut out for them. Rabil will shoot from anywhere, and I mean anywhere on the field while Boyle has the knack of finding the open man in any defensive alignment. The strategy for them should be simple, throw the kitchen sink at Rabil and let someone else try to beat you.
The talent that will be embedded in Boston this weekend has never been seen before. With the MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Goalie of the Year all playing for their respective teams this weekend you’ll be sure to watch the best of the best in the world fight for nothing other than the opportunity to lift the hardware over their head and justify why they do what they do.