April 23, 2014

MLL 2014 Preview: No. 5 Florida Launch

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Reigning league MVP Kevin Crowley is a holdover from the Nationals, but many familar faces from the team's former identity aren't making the trip to Florida. (Kevin P. Tucker)

2013 Record: 9-5 (semifinalist, as Hamilton Nationals)
Coach: Stan Ross, 1st season

After hosting several out-of-market regular season MLL games and an MLL All-Star game, the state of Florida has its first professional outdoor lacrosse franchise.

The Launch will join the league in 2014 and will play at FAU Stadium in Palm Beach County.

"It's great for Florida lacrosse," said Florida resident Casey Powell, who will play for the team this season. "All the efforts of the coaches and players in Florida, it's a great reward to have the MLL in its backyard."

MLL expanded in 2012 to Ohio and Charlotte and both teams are doing well in attendance and with fan support. The same is expected from the Launch this season.

"Right now we're doing pretty well with ticket sales," head coach Stan Ross said. "We're at every tournament down here. We're at youth games and high school games. ... We're pounding the pavement trying to get people excited about it."

Florida has an advantage over previous expansion teams. Instead of creating a roster from scratch, Florida will be comprised of the roster that made up the Hamilton Nationals, a team that was a semifinalist last season and had key players from its run to the finals in 2011. That includes the 2013 MLL MVP Kevin Crowley.

Playing in Canada since 2009, the team does have a roster with a number of Canadian players, such as Crowley, Stephen Keogh and Jordan Hall. Florida is a long way away from Hamilton, and there is concern over which players will stay with the team; longtime Nationals defender and Canadian Brodie Merrill was traded this offseason. Ross doesn't view that as a concern, however.

"It's probably easier for a lot of these guys to get to Florida than Hamilton," he said. "If you don't live there you have to fly to Buffalo and get on a bus and cross the border. You have Crowley who lives in Philadelphia, Hall who lives in Baltimore, and Keogh was in Florida last year doing some stuff with Casey Powell. Some of these players it's going to be easier getting to Florida than it was for Hamilton."

MVP Candidate

This article originally appears in the May 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse to start your subscription today!

M Kevin Crowley

Crowley scored 38 goals and added 14 assists last season to help Hamilton start the season 5-0. He could be the first repeat MLL MVP since John Grant Jr. in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. "Kevin is smooth from up top," Powell said. "I hope I get to be on the same line with him. He'll make things a lot easier."

Next Best

A Kevin Cunningham, D Tucker Durkin, A Cody Jamieson, A Stephen Keogh, M Casey Powell, G Brett Queener, A Garrett Thul

New Arrivals

M Chris LaPierre, A Kieran McArdle, D Joe Meurer, M Casey Powell, D PT Ricci, M Chazz Woodson

Not only is Powell one of the best lacrosse players to ever play the game, he's also been living and working in Florida in recent years and is committed to growing the game in the state. He said he plans to play the whole season once his NLL commitment ends, unlike previous seasons when he joined the Nationals and Bayhawks for the tail end of the year. LaPierre was the No. 2 pick in last year's collegiate draft but stayed an extra year at Virginia after suffering an injury in the third game of the season.

Behind Enemy Lines

Opposing coaches thoughts on the Launch

"I think the transition is going to be tough on them. That Hamilton group had such an identity. It was such a great team to play against. They knew the way they wanted to play. ... They traded away Brodie Merrill but got Casey Powell. He's one of the very best to ever play and he's going to bring a lot to their roster. ... It will be interesting to see how they do early in the season. ... They move from [Dave] Huntley to Stan Ross. That's a big difference in coaching styles. It's just different. I have no idea how that's going to affect them."

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