By the time you finally stop writing “2012” on everything, lacrosse season will be here in one form or another, depending on your league of choice. In no particular order, here are some of the top stories to keep an eye on this year in college, the pro game, and beyond.
- Rob Panell Rises – After only two games (and 16 points) in 2012, Rob Panell broke a bone in his foot, bringing his senior season to an end. Since then he’s been walking the Earth like Caine from Kung Fu: first winning tourney championships in Vail and Hawaii, then spending some time in Uganda, where he coached lacrosse and helped build a school. Now he’s back with the Big Red, only 45 points removed from Cornell’s scoring title, and has one more shot at the very few things remaining from his resume, namely an NCAA championship and the Tewaaraton Trophy. Of course, that last one might come down to him and…
- Peter Baum – Sure, he scored 49 points and earned Honorable Mention AA honors the year before, but to the more casual fan, Baum jumped onto the scene in 2012, racking up 97 points, the Tewaaraton trophy, an anonymous twitter-based street team and an NCAA tournament win (the first in Colgate history) over previously undefeated UMASS. With his school scoring title only 25 points away, what else does Baum have in store for his final season? Will he become the first men’s player to win back-to-back Tewaaratons? And what about the summer after that? That MLL draft’s only about a week away…
- New NCAA Rules – The motorcycle grip was spared, but there are still quite a few changes in store for the upcoming NCAA season, from expanding the substitution box to eliminating a grace period for goalies running back in cage after shots. Will the new stringing rules have a huge impact on offensive production? Maybe, maybe not. Will coaches and fans complain about other teams getting more time before their 30-second shot clock begins? Oh yes, most definitely. Will any teams put 11 balls on an endline instead of the maximum 10 allowed by the NCAA? Don’t you dare. Don’t. You. Dare.
- The North American Lacrosse League – Yeah, they were on the 2012 list too, but I really mean it this time. A few old franchises are left from the original NALL, new ones like the Rhode Island Kingfish and Baltimore Bombers joined, and NALL version 2.0 is finally getting it’s official launch. After last year’s difficulties (and a chance to see what the PLL did right/wrong this fall), the NALL seems to be in a much better position to put a solid product on the floor this time around. And by the way, Chazz Woodson just signed with the Kentucky Stickhorses, who also list MLL All-Stars Anthony Kelly and Greg Bice on their roster. Take a look around the league – some legit names are getting involved.
- Lacrosse in Turkey – My 2012 “Stories to watch” list was called out (and rightfully so) for lacking any foreign representation, so I reached out to Connor Wilson, who told me about a great group to look out for in 2013. Lacrosse in Turkey is taking some major steps this year: holding try-outs for their first national team in June, playing Israel in a friendly in July, and hosting the Turkey Lacrosse Open (featuring 16 men’s and 10 women’s teams) in September. With names like Jordan Hall, Kyle Sweeney and John Christmas now on board with the Turkey Lacrosse Association to help, these guys are making huge strides in a very short period of time. Thailand is also a country to watch, as they play more off-year FIL international lacrosse than anyone else…
- Rochester looks to Repeat – We haven’t seen a back-to-back NLL champion since the Toronto Rock beat the Rochester Knighthawks back in 2003. This year Rochester comes into the season wearing the belt, and they’ve added former league MVPs Dan Dawson and Casey Powell (who, if he wins the Champion’s Cup, will become only the fourth person in history to win NLL, MLL, World Championship and NCAA Div.1 titles) to the squad. Of course, putting more superstars on your roster doesn’t always guarantee success (ask Kobe how that’s working out), but this team sure looks good on paper. Rochester began play this past Saturday night against the Washington Stealth; where they lost. Go figure. Check it out on the Lacrosse Network.
- Salisbury looks to Threepeat – The Salisbury Sea Gulls have played for the Division III title in nine of the past 10 seasons, and are currently back-to-back champs. Winning it all again isn’t going to be easy, because they’ll need to figure out how to replace the 506 points their seniors accounted for last season. With over 3/4 of last year’s offense gone, and only two of their top ten scorers returning, will they reload like they’ve done for the past 20 years, or finally be forced to rebuild? Will it even matter? Some people say Stevenson could be the team to beat this year.
- Pro League Expansion – Almost two years ago today, Major League Lacrosse announced their 2012 expansion to Charlotte and Ohio. There’s been talk of expanding again in 2014, and if it’s going to happen, we’ll probably find out early this year. A Southern expansion seems most likely since the 2012 All-Star game was held in Boca Raton, Florida, but we’ll have to wait and see exactly which cities (if any) join the league. And the MLL isn’t the only league talking about expansion; the NALL is looking at Rochester, NY as a possible location for a 2014 franchise. Is there enough interest in Rochester to support two professional lacrosse teams?
New stories will come along, and others that seem big now may end up not mattering at all, but at least some of these eight could be huge in 2013. Honorable Mention shoutouts go to box lacrosse in Germany, new D1 teams at High Point University & Marquette, Major League Lacrosse opening up their sponsorship opportunities to all brands, and whatever mess all this NCAA conference realignment gets us into.