Something is so special to lacrosse fans like getting to see our beloved game on cable and the MLL ESPN2 is almost as good as it gets.
While the Boston Cannons and Connecticut Hammerheads got the day off to recover, the other four teams were back on the turf at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for an afternoon of very, very hard-hitting MLL action.
Some stars took another opportunity to prove why they’re the kings of Major League Lacrosse while a pack of newcomers started to pull their weight in round two. From Warren “Moose” Jefferey’s hulk smash in front of the crease to Shayne Jackson getting smoked by a subbing Pat Aslanian, the games ratcheted up the level of physicality for the second day.
One thing we should all be able to agree, it’s special to have lacrosse back and these athletes are putting on a show.
MLL Standings after Day 2
Big Game Alert
- Alex Spring (NY) 8 Ground balls, 2 Caused turnovers
- Tommy Wright (NY) 6 Ground balls, 2 Caused turnovers
- C.J. Costabile (CHE) 2 Two-pointers, 1 Assist, 3 Ground balls, 2/5 Face-off, 1 Caused turnover
- Lyle Thompson (CHE) 3 Goals, 2 Assists
- Kyle Pless (DEN) 2 Assists, 3 Ground balls, 4 Caused turnovers
- Dan Bucaro (DEN) 3 Goals, 1 Assist
- Shayne Jackson (PHI) 3 Goals, 2 Ground balls
- Ryan Lee (DEN) 3 Goals, 1 Assist, 3 Ground balls
Chesapeake Bayhawks 18, New York Lizards 13
There are two teams that are already dangerously organized and playing at an elevated speed: the Denver Outlaws and Chesapeake Bayhawks.
What separates the Birds from Banditos are their ability to react full speed at the drop of a dime. Their response to shot rebounds and loose ball scenarios are at a level that no other team can copy. The whole squad has been a half-step ahead on everything and still haven’t required highlight reel performances from Lyle Thompson (3g, 2a) to create success. There’s a calming nature about the way things are clicking in the Bayhawks camps.
Much of the confidence comes from the backstopping from Brian Phipps (16 saves, .552). The 10 year vet can look like he’s at practice with his Archbishop Spalding High School team, casually snagging ill-advised passes, stopping shots with instinct over reaction and turning saves into tempo-pushing fast breaks. Every step and every moment is optimized by the wily veteran and the stability let’s leaders like long stick C.J. Costabile (2 2pt, 1 a, 3 gb, 1 cto) have the freedom to roam the field. If Costabile can build on the day’s performance, he could be a sleeper pick for MLL MVP this summer.
The impact Costabile has on the entire game and attention he draws where ever he goes allows so much breathing room for every Bayhawk, moving with a never ending sprint and decision making that is elevating the team. That was no more apparent than at the end of the second quarter, right after he landed a 2-point bomb, he was set up beyond the arc for a last second shot. The play put the ball right in his stick and as he pulled up for another rocket. Costabile felt the closing defender draw in and instead of shooting, sent a rope directly to Nate Solomon (2g, 2a) with toes on the crease for a catch and release right before the horn. Chesapeake is riding high on couplings like these, combining vision only elder statesmen possess and trust in young talent like Solomon to not blow the chance to go clutch. Solomon may be new around here, but he’s not scared to but his nose straight to grindstone and take his licks to put more points on the board.
Chesapeake has been making a habit of starting sluggish and it’s giving some early hope to teams like New York. Starting the game with an early spree of goals, the Lizards looked like a much different team than the day before. The heart is there, Alex Spring (8gb, 2cto) was leading by doing, seeking out every last piece of rubber that hits the turf. Tommy Wright (6gb, 2cto) matched the effort on the ground ball battle, but aside from Dylan Molloy (3g, 4gb), offensive weaponry has kept its head down for the most part.
Molloy is having to bear a heavy load right now and while he has the skill set to do so, it’s going to wear on the big man in the sweltering heat if he has to maintain all of the attention. 13 shots, 11 on goal, is at the higher end of what any attackman is ripping off so far and while he connected for a hat trick, it was an incredibly hard-earned effort.
Too many shots were flung at Phipps that were light work for an experienced starter. Low angle forces and long launches toward the upper corners were gobbled up with ease, completely wasting the effort and energy the Lizards had to use to get the ball in the first place. Even a lefty, backhand dump from Molloy was hardly enough to catch Phipps slipping and the save was quickly forced back down the field and into the stick of Costabile for a bomb counting for two points. Mistakes at the pro level are costly enough, but the veterans of the league are earning their paycheck off capitalizing on these errors.
Unless they settle down the jitters and stay in offensive sets, this could stay a bumpy ride.
Denver Outlaws 15, Philadelphia Barrage 9
Let the bodies it the floor.
At some point, there’s going to be highlight film of all the bone-crushing hits we’ve seen so far in this event and this game will be an easy one to draw from. The opposite sidelines for the teams caught one of the game’s best off guard and keeping feet moving and heads up on loose balls is a fundamental getting hammered into rookies the hard way.
The Barrage have a strong core of veteran talent that have been able to get this team close to full-speed, but having to deal with arguable the MLL’s top two teams on the first two days is a tall task for a new club. Unfortunately Tommy Palasek (2g, 1a) couldn’t solely carry the backpack for a second afternoon and a complete games still wasn’t in the cards. Philadelphia isn’t all to blame, as Denver is already flowing like a team that has been together for months.
It’s really exciting to see such a complete unit across the entire field. The Outlaws are getting strong goaltending from the tandem of Christian Knight (5 saves, .454) and Nick Washuta (4 saves, .500), who really aren’t being tested by a lot of rubber thanks to the tenacious core of long sticks.
An unexpected question mark arises at the face-off X for Denver.
Feeling in the best shape of his career, Max Adler (11-18) is one of a first victims of the intense heat of well over 100 degrees. Cramping and dehydration are two monsters that can make victims of even the most prepared athletes and as coaches run all 25 bodies available to them, any body is susceptible at any given time. Adler was ready for the task and still feeling the pain.
Offensively, the Denver Outlaws have their act together. John Grant Jr.’s (2a) ability to be a coach, field general and calming presence has brought the hodgepodge of talent together in no time. Dan Bucaro (3g, 1a) and Ryan Lee (3g, 1a, 3gb) have been dicing defensive backlines, burning their cover off the dodge and with time and room. When the attack isn’t pulling attention in every direction, the speed and push from the midfield group is wearing down their opponents before they can ever get their feet under themselves. Bucaro is picking up a label as “un-coverable” with a speed change to cause whiplash and a whole arsenal of tricks up his sleeve.
Let’s not let the early success of the Outlaws draw attention away from what the Barrage are presenting. Even after taking one of the hardest blindsides of the season so far, and there’s been a few, NLL MVP Shayne Jackson (3g) shook off the dust and continued to drive his group forward. Philadelphia, at some point, will be able to hang their hats on a hard day’s work and it’s going to be the under appreciated talents that pull it together.
Aside from not getting enough love in the first place, one thing the T.V. media crew keeps forgetting to tell the viewers is Tim Barber (2g, 1a) actually found lacrosse from a neighbor’s suggestion in Australia. While he was born in Singapore, he spent a significant chunk of his childhood down under and found the game there before moving to Central New York and joining the West Genesee program. None of that matters to the game at hand, but worth attributing to his past. What can be drawn from his past is his blue collar work ethic instilled in him at West Genny and extended at Syracuse. Scoring in the first frame, Barber went on to notch the last goal of the game, far after it mattered, was a sign that Barber is one of those start to finish types.
Because of guys like Barber, Palasek and Jackson leading by example, Philly is going to be alright once the dust settles for the playoff placement. The core has continued to build off their positives established in Atlanta and if they can get Mark Matthews to take the driver’s seat in the next few days, they could end up finding a groove come next weekend. Young talent like Mark Evanchick proved he has a lot to give, locking up Lyle Thompson on the first day, but didn’t bring the same impact this time around.
They have the pieces, but it looks like more than a solo leader needs to step up and help it all come together.
After the misery of opening day experienced by the Hammerheads, we can only hope for a more respectable performance on day three.
Although goaltending was an issue for Connecticut, the Outlaws just turned around and lit up another star in Austin Kaut too. While a goaltending change to the veteran Kris Alleye isn’t out of the cards, a chance to gain footing by either option will bring a spark to the backline. Michael Kraus will need to strap up tight and start living up to his hype because, right now, the sharks are struggling to swim. Philadelphia has to be chomping at the bit for this one. The Barrage have been able to run the full 60 minutes, but dealing with the two most complete teams back-to-back has been just a hair too much. They actually can play a full, tough game, so if Connecticut doesn’t come out with a vengeance, Philly is going to make them bleed.
Must watch alert. The marquee game of the night is Boston versus Chesapeake.
The Bayhawks are playing in a gear that the other teams have yet to hit at any point yet. Boston now has a day of rest and time to prepare for the defending MLL champs. Lyle Thompson and Mark Cockerton will be catching the majority of attention, but each team has a slew of support. Cockerton’s help from Bryce Wasserman and Randy Staats will provide the first challenge to the Bayhawks defensive group by a well-rounded attack, while the Cannons have to deal with 10 guys that can confidently do their jobs at any given time.