Editor’s Note: Welcome Mike Synek back to LAS! Mike is telling us all about the first season of the Midwest Indoor Lacrosse Association, and how his team, the Chicago Outlaws are faring. Box lacrosse is growing in the US! Watch out, Canada.
The Midwest Indoor Lacrosse Association is a first year semi-professional box lacrosse league. Originally, it was slated as an 8 team league with two divisions. However, for various reasons there were a few teams that had to back out. The Chicago Outlaws were fortunate enough to have strong support from Oxygen Lacrosse, a company that provides lacrosse programs to the northwest suburbs of Illinois. Thanks to all the hard work and dedication from our coach/captain/teammate, Brendan Gorman, we were able to make this team work.
It began with a few “try-out” dates, which were more of “hey we have time at this sports complex, let’s see who can make it out there”. At first I was a little hesitant because the commute to the practice facility was an hour+ drive, and practice ran from 8 to 10pm at night. Nothing out of the ordinary coming from playing club ball in college, our practices would usually end around that time during the winter, but trying to juggle work and coaching obligations, I really needed to think about what I was getting myself into. I knew that if I was going to play on this team it deserved 100% commitment, and this was true not only for my teammates but for also myself.
Stepping onto that field for the first practice felt like stepping into a completely different world.
The boxla game is so unique that it takes a special understanding of the game, and dedication, to really want to learn how true boxla is played. Most of the pickup box games that are played are more of the field game transitioned into a smaller playing field. When you see the game how it is supposed to be played, it is a thing of beauty. Here’s some quick insight into the box game…
There are four different field positions in the indoor game: There are strictly defensive players who play defense and get off, there are defensive transition players who play defense and clear the ball then get off (usually called tranny’s), then there is offensive transition players who play offense but when the ball is cleared to the defensive side they stay on. The last position is the forwards. Usually a team has more righties than lefties so there are 3 right forwards on the field and 2 left forwards on the field. The game is played 6 v 6 with each team also using a goalie. So there are five positions total. Goalie is the fifth.
Photo courtesy Grand Rapids Lacrosse
The biggest difference that many players fail to understand is that box lacrosse is primarily played as a 2-man game. What this means is that you never want to be dodging against a defender straight up, you want to work with your teammates to try and set picks, and then dodge off those picks. And again, unlike field lacrosse, where the dodges primarily come from the middle of the field, box lacrosse dodges come from the bottom corners. Offense uses the term “ABC” (always be cycling) meaning that the offense is constantly moving. If you are standing around you are doing no good for your team. It is a very detailed game, and I am still learning all the aspects to become a better box lacrosse player.
This past weekend brought a true test to what type of team we were. We had dropped a tough game last week to Columbus, losing 24-21. There was an unreal amount of lead changes, something along the lines of 7-8 and at one point we were up 19-15. We knew going into this weekend that we needed to secure a win not only for self fulfillment, but the Grand Rapids Dragonfish were sitting alone at the top of the league with a record of 3-0.
We came out ready to play and even though the game went back and forth we were able to pull out a solid 23-15 victory. Our defense was a little shaky in the first half but was able to hold the Dragonfish to 1 goal in the 3rd quarter, and that is a pretty substantial feat to accomplish in a boxla game. Our offense was able to capitalize on what seemed to be every opportunity we got thanks to a phenomenal performance from Adam Hughes, who played in the MLL for the Chicago Machine. He was lights out all game finishing with 13 goals. No, that is not a typo, 13 goals, and to add to that it was his birthday too. Our other forwards Tim Holden had a diving goal which could have easily been top ten on ESPN but unfortunately we do not film any of our games.
With the box game having a lot of transition and many quick goals it is very important to be able to win face-offs. We were able to control the draws which really helped swing the momentum in our favor. Columbus was scheduled to travel to Milwaukee this past weekend as well but was unable to get enough players to travel, proving that this is a league that still has a lot of kinks to work out. Milwaukee was given the win on account of forfeit which meant we moved into second placed with a record of 3-2. Our final regular season game is this coming weekend at Grand Rapids. This game will not be taken lightly as this is a league based on if a team travels well or not. Grand Rapids will be ready and gunning for us and this game is for first place bragging rights and a number one seed going into playoffs. Shout out to Jimmy Canzolino for doing an amazing job working the doors for us this weekend. He was unable to play this weekend due to a knee injury, we hope him the best in his recovery.
Even though this league is a first year league, and it’s not perfect, it is still shaping up to be a very competitive league. It proves to the lacrosse community that we are here to stay and the opportunities are endless. If the Midwest was able to put together a semi-professional league, where lacrosse is still growing, the sky is the limit. I will leave you with this picture from the game this weekend.