July 7, 2010

MLL: Losing Outlawed in the Reese Household

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Denver head coach and general manager Brian Reese's savvy drafting of players like Matt Bocklet and Andrew Hennessy -- as well as his coaching abilities harnessed alongside his wife and Maryland coach Cathy Reese -- has the Outlaws again in position for a playoff push.

Brian and Cathy Reese live 30 minutes from College Park, Md., home of the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse champion Terrapins.

In the opposite direction from their Howard County home, they are 30 minutes from Annapolis, home of the Major League Lacrosse Championship weekend Aug. 21-22.

If fate is fortunate, the first family of lacrosse might be celebrating NCAA and MLL titles in close proximity.

Brian is the coach and general manager of the Denver Outlaws, a team that has lost the MLL championship game three of the past four years. He is also a volunteer assistant on the Terps’ staff run by his wife, Maryland head coach Cathy Nelson Reese.

When he is not commuting to Denver on summer weekends or helping at College Park on spring afternoons, Brian is a stay-at-home dad to Riley, 5, Brody, 3, and Cayden, 2.

Juggling parenting hours with Cathy, and with the help of a nanny, Brian takes a break from Lego’s and dolls, making lunches and reading fairy tales, to scout college talent. Those efforts paid off when he snapped up defender Matt Bocklet in the 2009 dispersal draft.

“He has some of the best stick work of any long pole defender I’ve ever seen,’’ Reese said. “He gets ground balls in traffic.’’

A Johns Hopkins product, Bocklet scooped up five ground balls on Sunday against Chesapeake to increase his team lead to 42, tying his team-best mark from 2009 with four games remaining. Winning MLL Defensive Player of the Week honors, Bocklet also scored three goals with the long pole to lead Denver past the Bayhawks 12-10.

The game -- played pouring rain with two lengthy lightning delays -- also revealed the skills of faceoff specialist Andrew Hennessey, a player Reese scouted at Bryant University and drafted last month with the 11th overall pick.

Hennessey earned MLL Rookie of the Week honors for winning 54 percent of the draws against Alex Smith, the league’s "X" king.

“Being in person to scout is a big help,’’ said Brian, who moved with Cathy from Denver in 2007 when Cathy left the University of Denver head coaching position to return to her alma mater.

Outlaws owner Pat Bowlen and team president Mac Freeman made the move easy for Brian by allowing him to maintain his general manager job while commuting to the Mile High City.

Midway through the 2007 season, Brian added head coaching duties to his responsibilities.

At the MLL halfway point -- the MLL All-Stars take on Team USA on Thursday at Harvard Stadium -- Denver is tied with Boston atop the standings at 5-3.

Reese has molded an Outlaws squad that is feisty, gritty, risk-taking and secure. The latter is a byproduct of Brian’s experience coaching with Cathy.

While he brought aspects of the men’s game, such as a transition upgrade, to the Terps’ women when he joined the staff in 2009, he has also learned from their best practices.

“I’ve learned a lot from working with her, how she is concerned about every player and the way she makes it fun," Brian said. “The more fun they have, the better they’ll be. I love being part of both teams."

When Maryland reached the 2009 final four, Brian missed the semifinals against North Carolina to coach the Outlaws. After the Terps lost 8-7-- their only loss of the season -- the players implored Brian to be with them if they made it again.

“He means a lot to the 23 girls on this team," Cathy said. “He has a great lacrosse mind. He takes some approaches from the men’s game and applies it to the women’s game. And he is passionate."

With passions conflicting the weekend of May 29-30, Brian left the Outlaws in the capable hands of associate head coach Tom Slate and stayed with the Terps.

It was a win-win weekend. Denver downed Toronto, 15-12. And Maryland edged five-time defending champion Northwestern 13-11 for its 10th overall NCAA title, first since 2001. It was the eighth title for Cathy, who earned four as a player and three as an assistant coach with the Terps.

“She’s great,’’ Brian said. “She’s the better coach in the family."

Both former lacrosse stars put their egos aside when Cathy asked Brian to be on her staff.

“We know the challenges of recruiting and travel, so we don’t hold it against each other when one has to go on the road and the other is staying home with the kids," Brian said.

Said Cathy: “Raising three kids anyway is a challenge, so it is nice that we both understand each others’ jobs and we can work together to be the best parents possible and the best coaches possible."

The Reese offspring paint their faces for Maryland games and Riley leads the young ladies in their pre-game cheer.

“They have their sticks and they always want to go on the field and play," Brian said. “It’s hard when they can’t go on the field, but they help sometimes at practice. They roll the balls. They’re really into it."

Due to the distance, the Reese children have been limited to one Outlaws games this season, a 20-16 win at Chesapeake on June 19.

Imagine lacrosse’s first family in the thick of the MLL final four next month in Annapolis. Is this the year the Outlaws finally close the deal?

Cathy is a firm believer. “It is Brian’s turn," she said.


This week’s action begins Thursday with the MLL All-Star Game. The regular season games continue Saturday. The Denver Outlaws travel to the Toronto Nationals, the Boston Cannons go to Annapolis, Md., to play the Chesapeake Bayhawks, and the Chicago Machine and Long Island Lizards meet in Columbus, Ohio.

OT Repeat:  Chicago at Long Island’s Week 8 final score looks a lot like Long Island at Chicago’s Week 5 final score. Both games were forced into overtime and on both occasions the Lizards pulled away with 13-12 wins. In Week 5, Long Island’s Tim Goettelmann tied the game 12-12 with 11 seconds left in the game while last weekend Chicago’s Chris Rotelli forced overtime with four seconds remaining on the clock. The overtime appearances ended with less than two minutes expiring to give the Lizards two wins over the Machine. The two teams meet again this week.

Week 8 Award Winners:  Long Island attackman Zack Greer was named the MLL's Offensive Player of the Week for contributing five goals to the Lizards' 13-12 win over the Chicago Machine. The Defensive Player of the Week nod went to Denver’s Matt Bocklet for his part in holding the Bayhawks to 10 goals. Bocklet excelled on both ends of the field, scooping five ground balls and scoring three goals in the Outlaws' 12-10 win. Rookie of the Week Andrew Hennessey also contributed to the Outlaws' win over the Bayhawks. Denver’s rookie won 14-of-26 faceoff attempts against the best in the league, Alex Smith.

Long Stick Hat Trick:  Denver’s Matt Bocklet tallied a hat trick to lead the Outlaws to victory over the Bayhawks on July 4. The long pole scored the first goal of the game with just 53 seconds on the clock and added his second before the end of the first quarter. In the second half, Bocklet waited just 12 seconds to break the 6-6 halftime tie and the Outlaws never looked back. Bocklet has four goals on the season and eight for his career.

Independence Day Record:  Not only did the Denver Outlaws defeat the Chesapeake Bayhawks, but they also set a new MLL attendance record. Last season, the Outlaws set a league record of 21,952 fans in attendance on July 4; this year they smashed that record and replaced it with 23,433 despite wet weather.

Toronto Inches Ahead:  The Toronto Nationals posted their first win at home and stretched their winning streak to three games with a win over the league-leading Boston Cannons. The Nationals pulled ahead with 12:22 remaining in the competition and held the Cannons scoreless in the fourth quarter to end the game 15-13. To top it off, Toronto defeated the Cannons on Canada Day.  After starting the season 0-5, the Nationals suddenly find themselves just a game out of a playoff spot.

All Tied Up:  With four games left in regular season play, it’s still anyone’s guess who will be playing in the 2010 MLL Championship Weekend, presented by Warrior. After Week 8’s action, Boston and Denver (5-3) are tied for first, Chesapeake and the Machine (4-4) for third with Long Island and Toronto (3-5) tied for fifth.

MLL All-Star Game:  The 2010 MLL All-Star Game is Thursday at 7 p.m. at Harvard Stadium in Boston, Massachusetts and will be broadcast live on ESPN2. This year’s game features the MLL All-Stars taking on Team USA. It will be Team USA’s last chance to tune up before heading to England to play in the 2010 FIL World Championships.

Former Buckeyes Head Home:  On Saturday night, when the Machine and Lizards take the field at Crew Stadium, four former Ohio State stars will play on their old turf. Machine defenseman Greg Bice and midfielder Anthony Kelly will take on fellow Buckeyes defenseman Ricky Pages and attackman Joel Dalgarno of Long Island.

Bayhawks Look To Stop Slide:  A month ago, the Chesapeake Bayhawks were atop the MLL standings with a 4-1 record.  Since then they have lost three in row and are a game out of first.  They look to stop their losing streak Saturday against Boston. The Bayhawks defeated the Cannons earlier this season 17-14.  In that game, Cannons’ midfielder Paul Rabil was ejected just seven minutes into the game for throwing a punch at Chesapeake defenseman Michael Evans.

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