May 30, 2013

MLL Week 5: Pannell to Make Lizards Debut

by Phil Shore |

2012 No. 1 overall pick Rob Pannell will make his long-awaited Major League Lacrosse debut Friday night at home with the New York Lizards.
© John Strohsacker/

The anticipation on Long Island has been building for a year and five months.

Fans and head coach Joe Spallina alike have been waiting for the day 2012 No. 1 collegiate draft pick Rob Pannell puts on a Lizards uniform.

It will finally occur on Friday as Pannell will be in the lineup when the New York Lizards host the Charlotte Hounds.

"Who's going to the @LizardsLacrosse game this Friday night?! Can't wait to suit up in the black and green! #MLL #NYvCHA" the former Cornell attackman tweeted at 11:49 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The Lizards and head coach Joe Spallina both confirmed the news.

"We've had communication with all of our draftees," Spallina said. "Rob Pannell will be in the lineup this weekend. ... He'll be wearing No. 3."

Pannell was supposed to have made his MLL debut last season, but he broke a bone in his left foot early in the 2012 NCAA season and was granted a medical waiver, allowing him to return to Cornell for an extra season.

In 2013, Pannell picked up where he left off, scoring 47 goals and tallying 55 assists in 18 games. He is a Tewaaraton Award finalist — the winner will be announced Thursday night — and he helped lead the Big Red to the final four.

Despite all the major moves the Lizards made in the past two seasons — adding the likes of Matt Gibson, Jack Reid, David Earl, Mark Matthews and more — and despite it being Pannell's rookie season, Spallina sees the Long Island-native as the final piece to the puzzle.

"He's going to add something that we didn't have. We didn't have a true quarterback leading our offense," Spallina said. "You try to get these guys acclimated to each other. Now we get to bring in the guy that will bring everything together."

Spallina expects to see Pannell contribute right away, despite Friday being his first professional game.

"We're throwing him right in. He's mature. You watched him at the USA tryouts and he excelled at that level," he said. "I wouldn't expect to see him on the sidelines ... We want him to start building chemistry."

Friday's Lizards-Hounds game will get a lot of attention because of Pannell's long-awaited arrival. The rookie will be center stage, but will someone else steal the show?

MLL rosters to see a major upgrade

All the NLL players have ended their seasons. All the draftees have finished their college careers. All the MLL players that are NCAA coaches have finished their responsibilities for their colleges.

It's now all hands on deck in Major League Lacrosse and it will make the race for the 2013 MLL Championship an interesting one.

It will be an interesting task, getting so many new faces working together. But it's a challenge all the coaches are ready to take on.

"I tell them all, 'You don't have to be the best player out there. Just do what you do best, do it in a team concept and have fun,'" Machine head coach Ted Garber said.

While new players become available, the number of roster spots remains the same, thus breeding an increased amount of competition which would hopefully lead to an increase in the quality of play.

"It makes guys understand that their spots are in jeopardy," Rattlers head coach Tim Soudan said.

MLL Week 5 Preview

Coming off the heels of the ever-popular NCAA tournament and ready to showcase the talent that comes with the influx of talent and full rosters, the MLL is looking to keep the lacrosse momentum going.

Three of the four games played this weekend will be available to watch on national television, which will be a big opportunity for the league.

Charlotte Hounds (1-3) at New York Lizards (2-2), 7:30 p.m. Friday
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

While the Lizards are excited to get one player into the fold, the Hounds will welcome (or welcome back) a whole host of important players.

The team has activated four rookies — attackman Matt White, midfielder John Haus and long-pole midfielders Mason Poli and Michael McCormack. Matt Danowski and Joe Cinosky return to action after helping lead Duke to an NCAA championship as assistant coaches, and Ryan Young and Ryan Flanagan will also both return to action after missing last week's game.

"This week I feel like we'll be playing with more of a full deck," Hounds head coach Mike Cerino said. "This week and next week will go a long way in how the Hounds will look [this season]."

Boston Cannons (1-3) at Denver Outlaws (4-0), 9 p.m. Friday

After a very slow start to the season, the Cannons defeated the previously undefeated Chesapeake Bayhawks in overtime in their last game.

They will face another undefeated team this weekend, going to Denver. Outlaws head coach Jim Stagnitta says his team won't take the Cannons lightly despite their record.

"Someone told me yesterday we've never beaten Boston in Denver," he said. "Our guys understand the quality of this team."

The Cannons are glad to have gotten into the win column, but the team's last game and Stagnitta's stat won't make Boston overconfident.

"We recognize Denver as the best team in the league," Cannons head coach Steve Duffy said.

Will the Cannons become the slayer of the unbeatens, or will the Outlaws continue their dominance of the league?

Hamilton Nationals (4-0) at Chesapeake Bayhawks (3-1), 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

The anticipation for Pannell, the 2012 No. 1 MLL collegiate draft pick, to make his debut is high, but the 2011 No. 1 pick has been playing and he's made a huge impact this season.

Crowley leads the league in points (20) and his 12 goals include one game-winner. He's a big reason the Nationals have gotten off to the best start in franchise history.

But Bayhawks head coach Dave Cottle understands that his game plan will have to include more than just stopping Crowley.

"Hamilton, when you watch them on field, they're very impressive to me. They share the ball," he said. "It presents a great opportunity to play an undefeated Hamilton."

Ohio Machine (0-4) at Rochester Rattlers (1-3), 5 p.m. Sunday
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

The Rattlers and Machine are the bottom two in all of MLL in scoring (the Rattlers are actually tied for the penultimate spot with the New York Lizards). Both teams have similar issues on offense: they have very talented individual players, but they have all yet to come together as a unit.

"They have some talented individuals and they're playing very similar to us; a lot of guys are dodging to shoot first instead of dodging to create offense and get guys sliding," Rattlers coach Tim Soudan said.

The number of players both teams have as well as the new rookies the teams plan on bringing into the fold means both teams will have a lot of options on how to assemble their offense. This week will be big in creating some stability moving forward.

"We're going to see what combination of the three works best," Soudan said, speaking of his attack rotation that features Ned Crotty, Mark Millon, Steven Boyle and Mike and Kevin Leveille. "We're going to try to start sticking with something this week."

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