April 23, 2014

MLL 2014 Preview: No. 6 New York Lizards

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

A mix of veterans like Ned Crotty and Matt Striebel along with talented youngsters lik JoJo Marasco and Rob Pannell should make the Lizards dangerous once again. (Peyton Williams)

2013 Record: 4-10
Coach: Joe Spallina, 3rd season

After a surprising playoff appearance in 2012, the Lizards made headlines heading into 2013 thanks to their acquisitions of big-name players like Mark Matthews, David Earl, Jack Reid and bringing back All-Star Stephen Berger.

But winning the off-season doesn't always translate to winning the season. The Lizards won only four games and had plenty of chemistry issues as several players tried to figure out how to play without the ball, something many of them were not accustomed.

The Lizards were just as aggressive this off-season in an attempt to rectify the situation, acquiring All-Stars Ned Crotty, Matt Striebel, Kyle Hartzell and Steve DeNapoli.

So what makes this season any different than last year?

"We were able to really improve our talent level not only on the field but off the field," Lizards head coach Joe Spallina said. "You start winning games off the field because of the lack of practice time. We wanted players to make our locker room better. We feel that's something we addressed in a big way."

While Crotty and Striebel can dodge and score, both also move well off ball and should help the movement and spacing of the offense.

The newcomers also have familiarity and experience playing with each other. Crotty, Striebel, Hartzell, Rob Pannell, first-round draft pick Joe Fletcher, Max Seibald, Brian Karalunas, JoJo Marasco and goalie Drew Adams all trained and played together during the recent Team USA tryouts.

For teams that only practice once a week, any extra time the players spend playing together outside the team is an added bonus.

"Anytime you get an opportunity to play with guys its helpful," Adams said. "Playing the last few months with USA with guys on the Lizards, it helped us spend more time together."

Spallina is confident adding new blood will give the team a better attitude which will help in competing for a spot in the playoffs.

"You're going to see a lot more fire. A lot more urgency," he said. "It was a little embarrassing from top to bottom." — P.S.

MVP Candidate

This article originally appears in the May 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Start your subscription by joining US Lacrosse today!

A Ned Crotty

Rob Pannell will get a lot of the media attention but Crotty will be most valuable to the team as a whole, and Pannell. Crotty is one of the most unselfish players in the league, can get his own shots, and is versatile enough to play either behind the goal or out of the box as a middie, and will potentially draw the opposition's second pole. His leadership will help the team improve and take pressure off Pannell. "I think Ned is going to be the key," Spallina said. "He'll help [Pannell] handle a lot responsibility and not feel like he has to win the game himself."

Next Best

G Drew Adams, M David Earl, D Joe Fletcher, FO Greg Gurenlian, D Kyle Hartzell, D Brian Karalunas, M JoJo Marasco, A Rob Pannell, M Max Seibald

New Arrivals

M Shamel Bratton, A Ned Crotty, D Luke Duprey, D Joe Fletcher, D Kyle Hartzell, M Matt Striebel

Duprey is a monster of a man and plays the game in the same physical manner that Spallina likes, but Duprey tore his ACL this college season with Duke and is out for the year. Fletcher and Hartzell vastly improve the talent level of the group. Bratton has never played in the league before, coming over from LXM, but he could draw the shorties depending on who he is in with, which could cause even more matchup problems.

Behind Enemy Lines

Opposing coach thoughts on the Lizards

"Ultra talented. Joe's done a phenomenal job in the draft and picking up free agents. They're poised to become a great team with Rob Pannell leading the way. ... I thought last year they made fantasy football moves. This year they made their team better. ... They win faceoffs. I don't know if people really know the value of possession of the ball. ... Defensively they got the Fletcher kid, but until he comes they'll be in the same boat. That's why they didn't close out some closer games last year."

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