This year’s MLL playoffs will be held in an NCAA Final Four style where the top four teams meet to decide the Championship in just one weekend. A big difference is that in the NCAA the rosters are considerably larger (providing more fresh legs) and the games are at least spread over 3 days, with the title game being played on Monday. The MLL will keep their smaller rosters and they are playing their Championship game on Sunday. Depth and conditioning will be huge factors, no matter what the weather turns out to be.
The Cannons take on the Bayhawks in the first Semi on Saturday, and both of these teams have a legitimate shot at winning it all. Boston has skilled athletes that can run and Chesapeake prefers an up and down, higher-scoring game. Either of these styles can work and Chesapeake came from behind to beat Boston in the last game of the season by pushing the ball, starting transition and allowing their middies to initiate. They will continue to try this with guys like Kyle Dixon and Peet Poillon, creating havoc up top.
Boston prefers a more methodical approach to the game and will often initiate through sets during settled offense from both behind and up top. If Paul Rabil is really on and putting the ball away, their offense can be scary. Boston also has an excellent defense and this allows them to win games by scoring only 12-14 goals. They will need to limit transition by having O mids get in the hole and play some D, so depth is a real issue there. I expect to see guys like Mike Stone and Greg Downing to get more run early on because of this need to play at both ends of the field.
I like Boston to take this one although I think it will be a game. It could come down to the wire, but I think the Cannons will take it by 3 or 4 in the end. The battle at the face off X should be quality as Alex Smith (Bayhawks) and Chris Eck (Cannons) will give each other all they can handle and both guys have a lot of moves. They’re also both liabilities with the ball at times so the one who makes less mistakes or scores an unexpected goal or two could prove to be the difference maker.
Long Island faces a really tall order when they play Denver but the Lizards will still bring the heat. They’re a Long Island based lacrosse team, it’s really just what they do. When the playoffs arrive, the gloves come off. And with guys like Brian Spallina, Nicky Polanco and Ricky Pages throwing wood and laying the body, Denver will pay for the goals they do score. Long Island probably has the advantage at the face off X with either Pete Vlhakis or Greg Gurenlian capable of running the show. For Denver, Andrew Hennessy has been okay at best all season, and it isn’t going to get any easier for the rookie fogo.
Long Island can be anemic on O sometimes, but Zach Greer, Matt Danowski and Stephen Berger can get it done for the Lizards when they need it. Denver has had games where they have blown people out of the water, but I don’t think that will happen here. Brendan Mundorf and Max Seibald are hard-nosed and will respond well to the abuse LI is sure to dole out. Some of the other guys on this team might not do so well although I think Denver rookie midfielder Sean Delaney could have a breakout playoff run. Denver’s D and goaltending is team oriented and disciplined, which will serve them well against the Lizards.
I like Denver to win by 5 as they pull away after a close 2 or 3 quarters. Long Island just doesn’t have the depth on offense to keep up with the Outlaws and although Tim Goettleman and others will put up points, it won’t be enough. Jesse Schwartzman loves big games and I expect him to show up in rare form. Drew Adams, the LI goalie, has played really well and if he has a HUGE game, anything could happen.
If I’m right and Denver and Boston (the favorites, I might add) meet the next day, we’ll be in for a treat. They both play exciting lacrosse and feature some of the best American players out there right now in Kyle Sweeney, Rabil, Matt Poskay, Brendan Mundorf, Max Seibald and Eric Martin. And if both Boston and Denver win in the Semis, either Eric Martin (Outlaws) or Paul Rabil will have won NLL (Washington Stealth), World Championship (Team USA) and MLL titles in the same year. For Martin, a former D3 player at Salisbury, this would be a truly remarkable accomplishment. For Rabil, many almost expect it.
I would expect the Cannons to win that game but they would have to hope that Denver was a little slowed down from their Semifinal with physical LI. If that’s the case, the Cannons D could limit Denver’s O and create enough possessions to win the game. The X factor there is the knowledge that Denver goalie, Jesse Schwartzman, has of Paul Rabil as they played together at Johns Hopkins and if a goalie has a good read on a shooter, it could be a rough day for the chosen one.
The great news is that all of these games will be broadcast on TV through the magic that is ESPN2. If you’ve got something to do, cancel it. It’s the pro lacrosse playoffs. I mean, come on. Just watch these games and tell me the MLL isn’t pretty awesome. I dare you.
About the Author: Connor is a life-long lacrosse player who doesn’t know when to give up on the game. He played and coached at Wesleyan University and now plays for the Southampton LC in NYC. Connor lives with his fiance in Brooklyn and thanks her for allowing him to keep the dream alive.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.