The calendar has flipped to April, and that means it’s time for one of the most exciting times in professional sports. You guessed it, MLL Training Camp.
For those of you that first thought “The Masters” or “NBA/NHL Playoffs,” I’ll let that slide. Those are hallmark events on the sports calendar, but, despite Spieth’s best efforts, neither are as exciting as the best-of-the-best getting ready to line up and play lacrosse all summer.
Training camp got underway this past weekend for a few teams, so I figured now is a good time to take a close look at the squads as they prepare for their 2018 campaigns.
We will start with the defending champions, the Ohio Machine.
As I mentioned, the Machine came out on top and took home the Steinfeld Trophy for the first time in franchise history. The championship game was held in the great state of Texas, and in a rematch of last year’s championship game, the Machine bested Denver to take home the hardware.
Ohio finished with a record of 9-5 and had, what some would call, a roller coaster year until the playoffs. The team got out to a 2-2 start, but found their stride in the middle of the season when they won 5 straight. This included two, back-to-back, overtime wins against Boston. However, the team would stumble to a 2-3 record over their next 5, but recovered nicely for two consecutive wins to end the season.
The final two games of the regular season proved to be a sneak-peek of what was to come in the playoffs. They turned into a…wait for it…well oiled….wait…for…..it….machine. (If you’re still reading after that, thank you.) The team would put up 35 goals in two games to absolutely cruise into the playoffs and, eventually, take home the ‘ship.
We’ll start at the face-off dot with Andew Bracy. The Machine added this guy after he impressed at an open tryout in the City of Brotherly Love (and greased telephone poles).
While the name probably won’t resonate with you guys (and girls, maybe? Hopefully?), this kid can win your team possessions. His senior year at Norwich University in 2015, Bracy led all Division III FOGOs nationally, boasting a .743 winning percentage over 15 games (168-of-226). With Trevor Baptiste soon to enter the MLL, teams will have to make FOGOs more of a priority, so this is big for the Machine.
This next player, I will admit, is included here because there is a touch of MCLA bias/love from yours truly. The player is goalkeeper Parker Fairey (that had to have been a tough last name to grow up with) out of MCLA Division II Montana State. Always love seeing a fellow MCLA-er crack an MLL roster. To be honest, I don’t know much about this player, but you can rest assured Scotty Rodgers just got put on notice. Does Ohio have a goalie controversy?? We’ll soon find out.
(They 100% do not.)
What makes this team so scary for the 2018 campaign is there is no one to put in this section. They are returning all of their key pieces from a championship team with a tremendously high-powered offense. Some thought this team wouldn’t be able to recover from losing John Grant Jr. prior to last season, but those people were fools (hand up, I was one of them).
So, Ohio is poised to make another run, which is not ideal for the rest of the MLL.
Player To Watch:
This dude is GOOD. If he comes back as even half the player he was last season, this team will be nasty. Last season, he averaged 2.0 GPG (goals per game) and was unquestionably the driving force behind their offensive surge. The Princeton product looks to lead his team once again this season. Watching him on the field is special because no matter where he is in relation to the goal, he can make something happen.
I remember watching him two seasons ago when he played in Boston against my beloved Cannons, and just disrespected their entire defense. Based on the kind of passes #26 was making and goals he was scoring it would have been more respectful if he took each Cannons’ defenseman’s mother out to a nice seafood dinner and never called them again.
NEW UNIFORM ALERT! I REPEAT, NEW UNIFORM ALERT!
We have another team jumping on the new uni train. (Word to every other MLL team: do the same. Be like the Machine. They’re champions for a reason).
Unlike how I felt about the Dallas Rattlers new uniforms, I am all in on these bad boys. They didn’t stray from their current colors or style, but made the uniform so much cleaner. Also, the team name is now visible front and center which I am always a fan of. Ultimately, it’s a sleek look and don’t be surprised to see the Machine average about 2-3 more GPG wearing these.
Final Grade: A
10-4 record, first round playoff exit.
I see the Machine rolling through the regular season behind a lethal offense, but ultimately slipping up in the first round of the playoffs. Do I have anything to support that they will slip up? No, no I do not. And, with the way my predictions have gone lately (filled out 4 March Madness brackets, none of which won me any money. Thanks, Kansas), I will probably have an egg on my face as they raise their second Steinfeld Trophy in as many years…
…However, I’m sticking with my gut and saying they do not repeat, but still have a tremendous season behind guys like Holman, Schreiber, Bernhardt, and Harrison.
Preview #1 is in the books. As always, thanks for reading. There will be more previews coming later, both this week and next, as we approach the start of the 2018 MLL Season (insert generic excitement gif). Also, feel free to follow me on twitter [dot] com @k_orourke15 and criticize me there if, for whatever reason, my campus box is full.