Oh what a summer it was in the MLL.
We saw the emergence of a new generation of rookie superstars, a road-hogging ‘Garbage’ crew nearly make it three straight and the continued explosion of top-tier Canadians in the field game.
Of course, the Rochester Rattlers are your 2008 MLL Champions, but our man Quint Kessenich was there for the whole season from start to finish, and noted a lot more than just the wins and losses on the field. He’s here this week with a final look back at the summer that was, A-to-Z style.
A – ALL 63 on TV – Every MLL game was televised this summer as part of Commissioner David Gross’s aggressive campaign to widen exposure at the national and local levels. ESPN2 showed 11 games in Hi-Definition as part of their national game-of-the-week package. Local games were broadcast by cable networks including Cox, Comcast and Fox. The league will continue to push television in 2009, hopefully more games will be shown live on ESPN2 and not at 3:30pm on Tuesday afternoons.
B – BOSTON – New England was the host for the 2008 NB Zip Championship weekend. Attendance records were set as over 8,000 fans watched the eighth title game in league history – not a bad total considering that the Boston Cannons were not playing in the postseason. Gillette Stadium drew nearly 60,000 for the NCAA semifinals in May and will once again host the 2009 NCAA Men’s Finals.
C – CASEY POWELL – The ‘Carthage Comet’ became the MLL’s All-time points leader midway through the summer, surpassing Mark Millon. Powell was switched from attack to midfield after Rochester was 4-3 and the Rattlers won seven straight after the adjustment. Powell also scored the semifinal game winner in OT and had three assists in the championship game for Rochester.
D – DONE? – Will this be the last go round for players like John Gagliardi, Roy Colsey, Brian Kuczma, Jesse Hubbard, Sean Donnelly, Michael Watson, Ryan Curtis, Kevin Cassese, Matt Oglesby and Brian Dougherty?
E – ERIC MARTIN – The defender from Salisbury scored a hat-trick in the All-Star game and was voted an All-Pro. Martin can be spotted at Golden Boy Pizza in San Fran when he’s not surfing with Chris Rotelli.
F – FACELIFT – New Jersey, San Francisco and Chicago all changed the face of their lineup this summer, but Los Angeles dressed eight new players this summer and nearly made it back to the championship game. Coach John Tucker and General Manager GW Mix added Kyle Harrison, Brett Hughes, Jesse Hubbard, Kevin Buchanan, Kevin Huntley, Jimmy Borrell, Mike McDonald and Joey Kemp without missing a beat.
G – GRAHAM GILL – LA’s best midfielder did not play this year. He’s a Naval academy graduate who’s in the Navy serving the country in Iraq. The Riptide rallied around his cause all season.
H – HUBBARD – Jesse Hubbard we traded from NJ to LA and played with renewed vigor. The veteran from Princeton produced 26 goals and 14 assists, becoming the MLL’s career goals leader in the process.
I – INVESCO Field – The Mile High City led the MLL in attendance in 2008. The Outlaws played in front of over 65,000 fans in six home games, including over 20,000 on July 4th before their annual fireworks extravaganza. Denver was 6-0 at home in 2008 and is 11-1 over the past two years in Invesco.
J – JOHN GRANT JR – He’s the best offensive player in lacrosse, hands down. Grant puts up huge point totals and his teams have a habit of winning.
K – KEVIN HUNTLEY – The rookie from Johns Hopkins took home Rookie of the Year honors with 30 goals during the regular season, another league record.
L – THE LEVEILLE BROTHERS – Kevin and Mike put on a show all summer long in Chicago, with the younger sibling barely breaking stride after his NCAA and Tewaaraton Trophy runs in May.
M – MERRILL as in BRODIE MERRILL – Took home the Defender of the Year Award again. The Canadian born defender scored six goals and added 12 assists during the regular season. We spoke with Brodie last week and got a few interesting tidbits:
“I nearly went to Middlebury to play hockey and lacrosse…Kyle Sweeney helped me settle down at Georgetown, he taught me how to be aggressive but smart…When you’re a wingman on a faceoff don’t rush the pile too quickly…When I’m getting a ground ball all I’m focused on is getting the ball and then getting out of trouble.”
N – NEW JERSEY – The Pride re-tooled their lineup in the off-season, getting rid of Kyle Harrison, Jesse Hubbard and Brett Hughes. Coach Peter Jacobs picked up a handful of rookie talent in the draft – Matt Danowski, Stephen Peyser, Tony McDevitt, Jordan Levine, Alex Hewit, After a 0-3 start, the Pride went 6-3 the rest of the season with a win over rival Philadelphia on August 9. They will be a playoff team with the addition of a dodging midfielder and stud defender.
O – THE OC – The LA Riptide closed their season with a game against San Francisco at Orange Coast College in Orange County. The high school growth in that area of California has been skyrocketing and the crowd at the game far exceeded what LA had been drawing at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. Here’s to more games in the OC.
P – PHILADELPHIA – The homeless Barrage logged over 18,000 miles this summer on the road without a home. Philly played games at Virginia Beach (their locker room got ransacked), Dallas, St Louis, Cary, NC, Portland, Boston twice and Los Angeles.
Q – Quint’s Look Ahead to the 2009 Collegiate Draft – Next years class isn’t as deep as the Class of 2008 but there are some All-Stars in the making. I think Max Seibald, Zack Greer, Danny Gladding, Ben Hunt and Drew Adams are first round locks. The Chicago Machine are on the clock. Look for Jordan Burke, Jon Glynn, Dan Hardy, Matt Abbott, Jeff Reynolds, Ned Krotty, Brad Ross, Shane Walterhoeffer, Brandon Corp and Michael Evans to become MLL stalwarts.
R – ROCHESTER – Rattlers won their last seven games and took the Steinfeld Cup back to the Flour City. GM Jody Gage put together a roster that fits and coach BJ O’Hara got his squad to play their best games when it mattered most. Assistant coach Bill Warder deserves credit for the work he did with goalies Mike Levin and Brett Queener.
S – SAN FRANCISCO – The Dragons had moments of offensive futility, they were held to single digit goals against Chicago, New Jersey, Denver (twice) and Los Angeles. They did take a step forward beating the Riptide in the season finale.
T – TWO POINT GOALS- Kyle Dixon led the MLL in two pointers made with 5 this summer. There were 56 2-pointers in 60 regular season games, that’s less than 1 per game.
U – UNDERRATED- My Top 6 most under rated players in the MLL starts with defender Lee Zink of Denver. Zink reminds me of old schooler’s Reid Jackson and Joe Breschi. These are D-Men who are not flashy checkers but knock down passes, make all the right calls, slides and are pests. Other under rated MLL players include: Rochester’s speedy short-stick midfielder Chris Schiller, LA’s Mitch Belisle, Long Island attack-man Keith Cromwell (40 pts), Chicago’s Jake Deane, and Philadelphia’s Jed Prossner.
V – Virginia Beach – On Sunday May 18th Philadelphia beat Washington 17-12 at Virginia Beach SportsPlex in front of 3,826 fans. The field was lined incorrectly before the game and face-off was delayed briefly as a second 2 point arc was crafted. During the game the Philadelphia locker room was robbed. Not exactly a banner tryout for a potential future team home.
W – WASHINGTON – The Mid-Atlantic Bay Hawks struggled after a 3-1 start, dropping seven games in a row. Washington hasn’t won a game in the month of July since 2006.
X – X Men Dominate – Early in the summer it was Long Island face-off man Peter Vlahakis winning every face-off in sight. But by the end of August, Rochester’s Alex Smith caught fire and set a single season record for face-off wins with 249. He finished the year at 63% and won 35 of his 58 face-offs in the postseason. Vlahakis clicked at 60% and San Francisco’s Greg Gurenlian won 55% of his draws. They were the only three teams above 50% in the ten team MLL.
Y – Year of the Rookie – My top ten rookies of 2008 are: Paul Rabil, Matt Danowski, Kevin Huntley, Steven Brooks, Mike Leveille, Matt Bocklet, Stephen Peyser, Brendan Loftus, Mike Ward, and Brett Queener. Five players (Danowksi, Leveille, Brooks, Huntley and Rabil) recorded more than 30 points. They represent five of the top ten rookie scoring marks of all-time.
Z – ZUMMO – Tommy Zummo of the Boston won the New Balance Sportsman of the Year Award. It recognizes a player who demonstrated sportsmanship through tenacity, determination and fair play on and off the field over the course of the season.
Zummo became an important part of the life of a young boy from East Islip, N.Y. Christian Koehler, who has been diagnosed with cancer, and Zummo became friends during the season and Zummo became an inspiration to Koehler and his family.
At one point during the season, Zummo organized a fundraiser, which included an autographed helmet auction from each of the MLL’s ten teams. The auction raised nearly $10,000, which was donated to Koehler’s fundraiser. Zummo also served as the headliner for the event.
Zummo also hosted Koehler and his family at the Cannons’ August 2 game against the two-time defending MLL champion Philadelphia Barrage. During the season, Koehler has completed his chemotherapy treatments.