Monthly Archives: August 2008

Major League Lacrosse Champion: Rochester Rattlers Defense Dominates Denver

Saturday’s semifinals were the best

Jack Reid and the Rattler defense held the weary Outlaws to just six goals (Vaughn Winchell)

Jack Reid and the Rattler defense held the weary Outlaws to just six goals (Vaughn Winchell)

 two games of the summer. Rochester dethroned Philadelphia in sudden-death overtime and Denver rallied to send Los Angeles its walking papers.


These games had all the aspects that make lacrosse what it is: Team defense. Snappy ball movement. Hits. Skillful ground ball play. Creative playmaking. Outstanding saves. Timely coaching.

Sunday’s final couldn’t live up to Saturday’s theatrics. When two tired teams met less than 24 hours later, the smallest advantage was parlayed into what appeared to be a rout. The Rattlers scored 10 straight goals in the second half to blow open a tight game. The heroes were Brodie Merrill, Alex Smith, John Grant Jr. and Jeff Zywicki.

Rochester boarded the team bus back to upstate New York with its first Steinfeld Cup, having closed out the summer by taking its final seven games.

The weekend started on Friday when all four teams checked into the Hyatt in Cambridge. The players represented themselves, their teams and the league in first class fashion.

The four practices on Friday were revealing. Rochester and Philadelphia were ultra loose, irreverent actually. Grant threw the ball all over the field, accumulating a dozen turnovers – part of the creative process I guess.

Later in the day, the Barrage defenders were in rare form.


They have a tradition in practice when they pick off a pass in flight. Instead of clearing the ball, they throw it out of the stadium. So there’s Kyle Sweeney launching the orange ball out and over Harvard Stadium onto a populated city street. Four times the balls disappeared over the ancient concrete stadium, drawing loud cheers from the entire team.

Los Angeles’s and Denver’s drills resembled a buttoned-up college team. Serious business. Talking to the veterans you got the sense that championships don’t grow on trees and that everyone wants to play their best on national television.

By Sunday at 2 p.m., halftime of the final, both teams were on the verge of breaking.

Rochester led 6-5. It dominated the first 30 minutes yet only led by one. The tempo was slow. Denver goalie Jesse Schwartzman was a one-man band with 11 saves. But Denver’s defense was running out of gas, trying to keep up with Rattler picks and rapid ball movement.

Rochester coach B.J. O’Hara changed goalies; Brett Queener replaced Mike Levin.

Queener danced his way onto the big stage with a 30 minute performance for the ages. He ran circles around rubber-legged field players. He brought the fans to their feet. The agile rookie from Albany made 9 saves, gave up one goal and chipped in an assist. The helper was one of the top plays of the summer. I got chills.

Face-off guru Smith won 16 of 25 with some help from his wingmen Merrill, Chris Schiller and Jordan Hall. Smith is a machine in both mindset and technique and Denver’s season slipped away a little bit with every faceoff win.

The Outlaw offense was stagnant all weekend, relying on unassisted goals. They lacked ball movement, didn’t generate a single fast break on Sunday and were held scoreless for 28 minutes of the second half. Their six goals were the lowest point total in championship game historyJack Reid did wonderful work against Brendan Mundorf. Merrill was his usual menacing self – arguably made the most important takeway of his career on Saturday in the closing moments of the the semifinal win, stripping Matt Streibel on Philly’s final possession. Sol Bliss and Kyle Guadagnolo were rough and tumble.


But more important was the sensational job that short stick defenders Pat Dutton, Andy Spack and Schiller did against Denver.

The 2008 Rochester Rattlers will be defined by their offense. They set a record for most assists in a season. They played a hybrid indoor/outdoor brand of offense. Two man games. Picks. Off-ball cuts. Great looking stuff.

Joe Walters lit up the Barrage for four goals on Saturday and then chipped in a pair on Sunday. It’s amazing how he is able to set up his left hand when everybody in Boston knows that’s the direction he’s going. His shooting stroke is the smoothest in the game.

Grant, the reigning two-time league MVP, was held to a season low one goal on just three shots in the semifinals. Philadelphia’s Brian Spallina broke four titanium shafts on Grant but Sunday was a different story. Grant was brash and swashbuckling. He hit the net early and often, finishing with 4 goals and one assist.

Rochester switched Casey Powell to midfield when they were 4-3. Seven wins later they’re the champs. Powell drew the long pole most of the weekend. He showed patience and restraint, netted the game winner on Saturday in OT and chipped in three assists on Sunday afternoon. He’s ageless and as quick as ever.

The Rattlers ball movement benefited Zywicki. He took nine shots in the finals, sending six past Schwartzman from point blank range. The ‘Nibbler’s’ production is a barometer for Rochester offensive flow.

I hoped you enjoyed Championship weekend. I did. It was a fitting close to my collegiate and professional lacrosse year. I’ve never felt more confident about the lacrosse product that Major League Lacrosse puts on the field.

I want to thank the fans for their boisterous support, feedback and passion – it’s always great to meet a face behind an email. I’m energized by your enthusiasm.

Quint welcomes your email at He’ll be in Orlando, Florida this weekend covering college football (the MEAC-SWAC Challenge) for ESPN2.

Major League Lacrosse: Philadelphia Barrage Going For Three-Peat

Kyle Sweeney and the Barrage endured a season-long road trip to stay in the running for a third straight MLL title

Kyle Sweeney and the Barrage endured a season-long road trip to stay in the running for a third straight MLL title

The life of a professional lacrosse has little in common with that of other professional athletes.

 Sure, there’s the sharp uniforms, the equipment deals and the adulation of the fans when you’re on the field, but for the average MLL player, the part-time job may take up an awful lot of your free time between travel and games. But, after the 2008 MLL season, it’s pretty fair to say that if any group ever complains about the travel in the league, there are a few guys with ‘Philadelphia’ on their jerseys that may have a bone to pick with them.

The Philadelphia Barrage were, in fact, not based in the city of brotherly love at all, travelling instead to a series of markets that the league considered potentials for expansion in the future after the team ownership nearly folded the franchise after its second straight MLL title. Though they had ‘home’ events in places like Carey, North Carolina, St. Louis, Dallas and Portland, Oregon, the veteran heavy Barrage focused on not letting it distract them, putting to together a seven win season to make the playoffs despite a laundry list of woes from their journey.

“The first weekend we came in after we beat Washington and some guys had stuff stolen out of their wallets, their lockers, an ipod, some stuff like that,” defenseman Kyle Sweeney said, indicating that the incident was just the ‘tip of the iceburg’ as far as Philly’s woes. “It was pretty funny because we didn’t realize what was gonna come but you almost have to just laugh at it all.”

It is hard enough for the players to make it to all their other away games, yet alone a home away game. Justin Smith remembered trying to get to their game in Boston where he was stuck on a plane for seven hours and never made it to the game. Smith’s teammates from Long Island ended up having to rent a car to drive to the game.

Even with all of the distractions and hardships that the Barrage dealt with, an amazing thing happened. The Barrage showed that they had the ability to push through their difficulties and still have success. “It dawned on me toward the end of the season that the guys never said anything of [the travel situation],” head coach Tony Resch said. “The players, the other coaches, none of them ever said anything about it. The guys never blamed a bad performance or a disappointing loss on the fact that we were always traveling.”


Now, instead of letting the road wear them down, the ‘Garbage’ are two wins away from a third straight MLL championship, a feat which is unmatched in the league’s history. “It feels good, obviously, any time you can get back [to championship weekend],” Sweeney said. “Winning the championship in this league is quite hard but, repeating is essentially impossible and trying to do what we’re trying to do is something most people wouldn’t even think is worth talking about.”

“I think this is really a testament to their maturity as players,” Resch added. “Although I don’t know if the players missed it, it was hard this season because we only had three real practices, which was very frustrating for me. That was one reason why the roster didn’t change that much this year. It would have been hard to plug in a bunch of new guys without practicing. We just kept working at it though.”

Girls Lacrosse On The Big Screen: “Wild Child” Starring Emma Roberts

Emma Roberts stars as Poppy in Wild Child. Picture courtesy Giles Clark

Emma Roberts stars as Poppy in Wild Child. Picture courtesy Giles Clark



by Ami Holt

Hours of running around a muddy sports field have led to a debut on the big screen for five youngsters from Kent.

The five students, from Cranbrook Lacrosse Club, appear in teen romcom Wild Child – which hit cinemas this week.

To film some of the scenes a group of lacrosse-playing extras was needed, so players were recruited from a variety of clubs, including Cranbrook.

Emily Ahlers, Daisy Henderson, Hannah Mahon, Emily Steel and Francesca Whiffin, together with Cranbrook lacrosse club coach Kate Steel, spent four days on set helping teach the actors the basics of the game – and then played their roles as opposition teams.

Big screen debut for Kent lacrosse girls

Big screen debut for Kent lacrosse girls

Kate said: “We thought someone was winding us up when we first got the call but after they explained what was needed we were happy to get a group of players together to go and help out.”

The film stars Emma Roberts, who plays 16-year-old Poppy, an American who lives a pampered life in Los Angeles but is shipped off to an English boarding school by her father.

Finding herself in a foreign world of early curfews, stern matrons and mandatory lacrosse, the American finally meets her match: a school of British girls who won’t tolerate her spoilt ways.

Palos Verdes’ Nolan Semel To Play At Bryant University

Nolan Semel , Midfield (Palos Verdes Estates CA/Palos Verdes High)
Nolan hales from Palos Verdes, CA where he earned 2008 California-LA County High School All-American, Nolan has been a 3-time All-Bay League Selection and was the leading scorer for the 16-3 Sea Kings. Nolan will add great size, skill and athleticism to the Bryant midfield.

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Bryant University head men’s lacrosse coach Mike Pressler is pleased to announce the men’s lacrosse class of 2012.  This year’s class of 17 newcomers include three transfers and one graduate student who will enroll this fall at Bryant University and compete in men’s lacrosse in 2009.  Highlighting this year’s class is the addition of Zack Greer, a three-time All-American and the NCAA’s all-time career goals leader, to the Bryant University men’s lacrosse program.  

“It is with great pleasure to formally announce the Bryant University men’s lacrosse class of 2012,” said Pressler. “We welcome 13 talented freshman, three outstanding transfers and one very distinguished grad student to Smithfield, RI.”

A native of Whitby, Ontario, Greer led Duke University to a pair of national championship appearances. “It is with great pleasure to formally announce the Bryant University men’s lacrosse class of 2012,” said Pressler. “We welcome 13 talented freshman, three outstanding transfers and one very distinguished grad student to Smithfield, RI.”

A native of Whitby, Ontario, Greer led Duke University to a pair of national championship appearances. He will enroll in Bryant University’s Graduate School of Business and will participate in lacrosse during the 2009 season. Greer is eligible for an additional collegiate year as part of the NCAA’s decision to grant an extra year for members of the 2006 Duke men’s lacrosse team. Greer played for coach Pressler at Duke for two seasons (2005-06). 

With an NCAA record 206 career goals, Greer was a finalist for the 2008 Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the nation’s player of the year in men’s lacrosse.  The 6-foot-2 attackman led the nation in scoring in each of the last three seasons with 57 in 2005, 67 in 2007 and scoring 65 this past spring.  The 67 goals scored in 2007 was the fifth-best all-time for goals in a season in NCAA history; his 57 in ’05 set an NCAA record for goals by a freshman.

Greer’s career high of 11 points (six goals, five assists) against Ohio State in last year’s tournament quarterfinals fell just one point shy of the NCAA tournament record of 12 points held by Maryland’s Ed Mullen and Syracuse’s Gary Gait.

Bryant University will begin its first year competing in Division I in 2008-09.  The Bulldogs posted a school-record 14 wins during Pressler’s second season with the Bulldogs this past spring, guiding Bryant to its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.  Bryant will not be eligible for postseason play for two years during the school’s reclassificationPressler’s recruiting class include seven defenders, six midfielders, three attackmen, and one goalie. The three transfers coming to Bryant include defender Erik Elmquist (Bainbridge, MA / Northfield Mount Herman) who attended Savannah College of Art & Design; defender Rob Maiorano (Easton, CT / Fairfield Prep/Salisbury School) who comes to Bryant from Navy; and 6-foor-5 defender Harrison Tull (Annapolis, MD/Annapolis) who joins the Bulldogs after two seasons playing at Colgate. 

“This group will be the foundation as we move forward with the Division I model,” added Pressler.  “We believe all these young men are individuals of high character and strong moral fiber. For a few years as we make the transition to Division I the Bulldog lacrosse program will certainly face some tough times and adversity on the field. Over the course of time we expect this group of newcomers along with our present rising sophomores to lead the way into a new and very exciting era of Bryant Bulldog lacrosse.” 

Bryant is coming off a record-breaking season this past spring.  The Bulldogs won 14 games in Pressler’s second season and the program’s first NCAA playoff berth.

West Coast Starz Teams Dominate on East Coast Trip To Yale and UMass

West Coast Starz again impressed college coaches back east as players from the club have committed to schools like Duke, Syracuse, Lehigh, Vermont, among others over the course of the last month.  Opening the week with two days at Yale University for the Bull Dog Elite event, the West Coast Starz boys were extremely successful as all teams went undefeated at the event. 


A short bus trip to UMASS on Friday evening and the WCS were ready to compete with some of the top club teams in the country at the Mid Summer Classic.  West Coast Starz teams combined for a 17 – 3 record over the course of the weekend establishing themselves as the premiere club at the tournament.  Numerous college coaches again commented on the team play, respect for the game and their opponents that the boys displayed.  The WCS team directors and coaches were all proud of how the teams carried themselves on and off the field.  The club will reunite back at the University of Maryland for the Fall National Invitational again.  

Interview With G.W. Mix: General Manager of L.A. Riptide Lacrosse

G.W. Mix, a Newport Coast resident, is general manager of the Major League Lacrosse L.A. Riptide. His team plays in the New Balance Zip Major League Lacrosse semifinals against the Denver Outlaws. Mix, who also heads up a local youth program, the Newport Beach Dawgs, is the general manager of the Riptide. They’ll be playing at Harvard Stadium in Boston. The winner will play in the championship game the next day. Sunday’s championship game will air live on ESPN2.

Question: How much has lacrosse interest grown recently?

Answer: I have a youth program called Newport Beach Surf Dawgs. We started it five years ago. It started second through fourth grade then picked up to sixth, seventh and eighth.

It’s been amazing to watch the girls in this area. We got things going about five years ago. We had about less than 30 for the first year and now we have more than 200 playing. High-school wise, I think, there are more than 24 CIF teams in Orange County, two years ago there were none. That gives you an idea.

It’s been played in San Diego for awhile, and in Los Angeles, too. But Orange County has taken over both those counties combined.

Q: Why do you think the game has grown?

A: It’s just an exciting sport. It’s something new. The kids see it and they love it. We have rarely had a kid try it and not come back. It has the excitement of soccer and basketball and football. These kids, they love to be entertained.

[Lacrosse is] overtaking a lot of sports. It’s not a sport that you stand around a lot. I grew up playing it back east. You play a lot of it over there, even before Little League. I spent a number of years coaching it collegiately.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I grew up outside of Baltimore. I went to Gillman High, a traditional power in lacrosse. I was an assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania for five years, and I was the head coach of Franklin and Marshall College and then head coach at Penn for four years.

Q: When was your last season of coaching?

A: My last season coaching was 1994. It was time to figure out how I was going to feed my family. Back then the salaries weren’t what they are now. I went to work for ESPN in Charlotte, N.C. I was the director of their events division and the director of marketing. I still do some work for them. I help manage the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl every year.

Q: How much do these pro lacrosse players make?

A: The highest paid player makes $18,000 for the summer, a 12-game season. The lowest paid player gets $6,700 for the summer. It’s somewhat like the old NFL. We’ve got guys who work on Wall Street and get to practice. We’ve got school teachers. One of our star players is in the Navy. He’s a pilot who’s been deployed for Iraq. His name is Graham Gill. He’s from New Jersey. He will not be with us for the season. He was a first-team All-MLL player last year. Terrifiic player. It’s just amazing the guys we have in this league. The unique thing about the league is that these guys play on the weekends because they love the sport. They play every weekend. After the game they stick around and talk with the fans or just hang out. It’s a very unique atmosphere, as far as pro sports go.

Q: Who is the favorite to win the MLL championship?

A: Philadelphia has won a few in a row. But I don’t know if there is any clear-cut favorite. We would certainly like to have Graham back. But we’re not going to have him. We’ve had some guys step up and they keep stepping up. Last year, the championship was a three-goal game. I think this game will be every bit as exciting.

Interview conducted by STEVE VIRGEN of the Daily Pilot. He may be reached at (714) 966-4616 or by e-mail at

Pacific Ridge School In Carlsbad Building State-of-the-Art Lacrosse/Athletic Complex


Pacific Ridge athletic director Darren Lawlor stands by a soccer goal frame on an empty lot that will eventually become the school’s soccer and lacrosse field. Angela Cesere | Union-Tribune

Pacific Ridge athletic director Darren Lawlor stands by a soccer goal frame on an empty lot that will eventually become the school’s soccer and lacrosse field. Angela Cesere | Union-Tribune

It may look like a giant expanse of weeds and thickets, but to Darren Lawlor, it’s a blank canvas.

In eight months, crews will break ground, transforming the desolate field off Palomar Airport Road into a state-of-the-art athletic center, complete with a basketball auditorium and outdoor soccer/lacrosse field.

This is just another step in Lawlor’s plan to build an athletic program from scratch at the new Pacific Ridge School, an independent, nonprofit school in Carlsbad.

“It’s been a challenge to put together all the moving parts,” said Lawlor, who was hired as the fledgling school’s athletic director in June 2007 before its first year of instruction. “We’re very blessed to have all this land in North County.”

Lawlor, who was part of the 1983 NCAA-champion Syracuse lacrosse team and who coached at Harvard, first heard about the alternative 7-12 school from a brochure in the mail.

The former coach, whose son was in fifth grade at the time, did some research online and decided to attend a seminar, where principal Eileen Mullady outlined the school’s mission and curriculum.

“I said to myself, ‘Wow, this woman hit the nail on the head of what education is all about,” Lawlor said. “I was amazed with what she had to say about the school.”

After the seminar, Lawlor approached Mullady, asking her about plans for the athletic department.

“I said, ‘By the way, what are you doing for athletics?” Lawlor said.

Several months later, Lawlor left his job at Callaway Golf to become the architect of the Firebird athletic department.

Because of Lawlor’s background in lacrosse, a sport which is gaining popularity in California, it was one of the first teams added to the program, along with soccer, volleyball, cross country and tennis.

The Connecticut native hopes to add basketball and baseball in the next few years.

“Eventually we’ll have a full gamut of CIF sports,” Lawlor said.

Pacific Ridge will go into its second year of existence with more than 200 students — doubling its enrollment from last year when the school enrolled only seventh- and ninth-graders.

By 2010, Lawlor expects the school’s enrollment to be around 550 students. He said athletics are central to the institution’s growth.

“Some kids wouldn’t consider coming to a school without an athletic program,” Lawlor said. “I think it’s a viable piece. Colleges aren’t just looking for kids who spend all of their time in the classroom.”

The Firebirds’ young program has already experienced some success. Freshman cross country runner David Hines won the Frontier League championship in his first year of competition.

All Pacific Ridge’s high school teams compete in the Frontier League, which consists of six Division V schools, while the middle schooler athletes compete against private schools from all over San Diego County.

Unlike conventional schools, Pacific Ridge students have a say in what sports the athletic department will adopt.

“We do a survey to get a pulse of what (the students) want to do,” Lawlor said. “We want to get an idea of what the interest level is.”

Much of the school’s methodology differs greatly from that of traditional schools.

First of all, you won’t find a traditional student desk at Pacific Ridge. Classes, which consist of no more than 15 students, are conducted at large oval-shaped tables.

This kind of set-up, Lawlor said, promotes participation from everyone in the classroom.

Pacific Ridge also teaches environmental awareness, which is glaringly absent from most school curriculums.

Perhaps most impressively, the entire student body was taught Mandarin Chinese in 2007. The school year was capped off with a trip to China, which Lawlor attended.

“I wish I had an opportunity to go to a school like this,” he said.

The next generation will have that opportunity, as Lawlor’s son will start the seventh grade at Pacific Ridge in 2009.

Reach reporter Matt Crosson at (760) 752-6744