Major League Lacrosse is set to descend on Annapolis, Maryland on July 18 to kick off their 20th season in a tournament format. Pro Lacrosse Talk is covering every team and how they’ll measure up in Maryland.
The Connecticut Hammerheads are the new kids on the block (sort of, it’s the former Dallas Rattlers roster). Connecticut grabbed UVA star Michael Kraus with the second overall pick in the draft, and acquired Will Sands, building what has the potential to be a top attack line in the league. The offensive personnel is solid, the defensive personnel has question marks, but in this format, if this team can get strong faceoff play and Sean Sconone can stay in top form, they’re contenders.
The Hammerheads roster has six players listed as attackmen. Ben Martin could run at midfield, and Ryan McNamara certainly will despite being listed at attack. If Coach Warder wanted to really create matchup problems he could run Michael Kraus out of the box as well. Luke Wittenberg can be a problem out of an invert set or just playing at the attack. Kraus excelled as a dodger, shooter, feeder, alpha, off ball player, you name it, he did it at UVA—at All-American caliber. That allows for this team to send out groupings that will leave quality dodgers on short sticks to create for themselves and pressure a defense into sliding early. Add to that a feeder like Will Sands playing at X, one of the best in all of lacrosse, and you get an offense that demands exceptional off-ball defense to stop. How this team will ultimately attack might change from game to game, even with the condensed schedule, because the offensive talent is so versatile.
The defensive end is a massive question mark. Sean Sconone is one of the league’s best goalies and will have to put in some serious work backstopping this group. Last year it was Craig Chick, Eli Salama, and Jake Pulver leading the defense, but all three of those players are gone to the PLL.
The Hammerheads will likely lean on Greg Weyl to lead this unit, and look for bigger contributions from guys like Robert Mooney who played well in spots last year as well. As if that isn’t enough, you have to be able to adapt defensive schemes essentially on a daily basis given the schedule being played, so if this unit gets off to a rough start, adjusting may be a real challenge. The more faceoffs Noah Rak and Justin Schwenk can win to keep the ball with the offense, the better.
Most Intriguing Matchup
Hammerheads vs Lizards, July 22
I may be biased as a native of CT, but the classic matchups of Connecticut and Long Island schools, from youth lacrosse up through high school, are some of the best in the nation. Various iterations of the “War on the Shore” or something similar have been being played for decades, and a CT team and Long Island team being able to play those out at the pro level is a great.
As if the history weren’t enough, the personnel actually works out well too. The Hammerheads have some CT natives on the roster, and there is no shortage of Long Islanders on the Lizards. In terms of the nitty gritty of the matchup itself, it’ll be a suspect Hammerheads defense trying to stop Dylan Molloy, Andrew Pettit, Colin Burke, and others who will be leading the offense. The Lizards lost their faceoff specialist to the PLL, and if they can’t get consistent play to bring the ball back to the offense, the Hammerheads attack will overwhelm them for sure. If they can, they’ll have a chance to do the same. If you are looking for a game that could swing on faceoff and goalie play, this is the one to watch.
Player to Watch
Bradley Voigt emerged as a quality finisher and scorer last season, notching 17 goals in just 10 games, and shooting 36%. The Hammerheads made a trade this offseason, acquiring Will Sands for Bryce Wasserman. Wasserman is a dodge first player who excels at getting his own shot, and notched 36 goals to just 12 assists last year. You can pretty much reverse those numbers for Sands. Why does this matter? Well Voigt can benefit from playing with Sands in a way similar to Mark Cockerton. Cockerton was able to get to dangerous spots on the field where Sands could find him, and piled up 43 goals doing it. When this deal was made, Head Coach Bill Warder specifically mentioned this relationship as something that he could see working between Voigt and Sands. If Voigt can find the synergy with Sands, and Kraus as well, this attack ground has the makings of a special unit.