May 13, 2011

Crowley, Walters Give Charge to Nats' Midfield

by Corey McLaughlin |

Rookie Kevin Crowley, the top overall pick in the preseason MLL draft, will join Joe Walters -- back after playing on the LXM Pro Tour last season -- for a dynamic Hamilton midfield.

© Greg Shemitz

Major League Lacrosse turned the rookie draft on its head this year, holding it not only for the first time before the start of the MLL season, but also before the start of the spring college season.

In January, MLL's six teams drafted college seniors whose eligibility would run out at end of this college season. Those players still had a year to play, so general managers and coaches hoped players stayed healthy and watched this spring with intrigue. With the MLL season beginning Saturday for all six teams, draftees will soon join the pro league if their college seasons are already over, or will get set to join teams once they end.

Here's a look at the Hamilton Nationals for the 2011 MLL season — with a rookie emphasis.

Hamilton Nationals

Head coach:
Regy Thorpe
Top pick
: M Kevin Crowley, Stony Brook, No. 1 overall

The impact

The Nationals had the worst offense in the league last season, averaging 11 goals per game. With the right-handed Crowley in the midfield along with lefty Joe Walters, back after playing LXM last season, Hamilton general manager Jody Gage said the unit should improve.

"You have to be able to create out of the midfield," Gage said. "Crowley, like Joey, has goal-scoring ability and also has great vision. To be able to attack from either side, one's lefty, one's righty, I think is huge."

He joins

M Joe Walters, D Brodie Merrill, A John Grant, A Cody Jamieson, G Scott Rodgers, G Brett Queener

Other draft picks (in order selected)

M Jeremy Thompson, Syracuse; D Ryan Flanagan, North Carolina; M David Earl, Notre Dame; D Kevin Ridgway, Notre Dame; M Dan Burns, Maryland; A Stephen Keogh, Syracuse; D Bill Henderson, Army; A Jeremy Boltus, Army

Key storyline

The Nationals moved from Toronto to Hamilton, about an hour's drive southwest of their former home. Home games are still in Ontario. But they don't want to be known as a strictly Canadian team.

"Yeah, we believe in a lot of Canadians and how well they're doing down there," Gage said, "but we want be known as the Hamilton Nationals, and not where guys come from. That's why in the draft we took who we thought could help us, and didn't concentrate on if they were Canadians or Americans."

"You have to be able to create out of the midfield," general manager Jody Gage said.

Just look at the defense. Brodie Merrill still leads the group, but there will be competition among Steven Waldeck, Sid Smith, Flanagan, Ridgway, Henderson, Michael Jarvis and Solomon Bliss for spots. Many are Americans, including all of the defensive rookies.

Hamilton last year (as Toronto Nationals): 3-9, missed playoffs

2011 Schedule (Game times local to Ontario)

Home games at Ron Joyce Stadium at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont.

May 14 at Denver Outlaws, 7 p.m.
May 19 vs. Chesapeake Bayhawks, 7:30 p.m.
June 10 at Rochester Rattlers, 7:30 p.m.
June 18 vs. Denver Outlaws, 7 p.m.
June 24 at Rochester Rattlers, 7:30 p.m.
June 25 vs. Rochester Rattlers, 7 p.m.
July 1 vs. Long Island Lizards, 7 p.m.
July 16 vs. Chesapeake Bayhawks, 7 p.m.
July 23 at Boston Cannons, 7 p.m.
July 30 at Chesapeake Bayhawks, 7 p.m.
Aug. 6 vs. Boston Cannons, 7 p.m.
Aug. 12 at Long Island Lizards, 7 p.m.

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