After nine straight years of making it to the post-season, the Denver Outlaws have finally clinched the Championship Title. The Outlaws, who were playing in their fifth MLL championship, are the only team to have made the playoffs in each year of existence. Led by veteran coach BJ O’Hara and unstoppable veteran John Grant Jr., both of whom had previously won a championship with the Rochester Rattlers, the squad was finally able to take the Steinfeld Trophy home to Denver.
The Outlaws began the season on a regular season win streak that dated back to the 2012 season. The streak lasted 25 games until Denver fell in a 18-15 decision to the Charlotte Hounds on the road in Week 6. They would continue to flip flop between wins and losses for the rest of the season, suffering big injuries, including losing faceoff specialist Anthony Kelly towards the end of the regular season. However, led by a solid company of veterans, the Outlaws were able to find their rhythm just in the nick of time, beating the Lizards by one goal in the semifinals to lead them to Atlanta.
John Grant Jr. has long been one of the best players in lacrosse, and his skills became even harder to deny after his Coca Cola MVP performance during the Championship match. Junior started out the season slow, but came back with vengeance for the second half, becoming a major impact player for the Outlaws. What’s different about this Outlaws team is the range of players on their roster. They had multiple games where over 7 players scored, including the Chesapeake win when nine different Denver athletes found the back of the net. The offense wasn’t the only place their players shone through. Their depth is seen on all parts of the field, including in net when back-up goalie Charlie Cipriano won Defensive Player of the Week after stepping in for veteran net-minder, Jesse Schwartzman. It was the roster depth that made the difference at the end of the 2014 season.
The Outlaws not only have a solid defensive unit and stellar attackers, but they had one of the deepest midfield rosters in the league. Led by faceoff specialist Anthony Kelly, Denver sets the tone high for midfield play. Jeremy Sieverts and Drew Snider had especially impressive seasons for the Outlaws, Sieverts becoming the two-point weapon scoring seven in the regular season, more than any MLL team. The midfield was able to quickly move the ball through a variety of players’ sticks, making it easy for them to be a threat offensively no matter who made it down the field.
After finally passing over the championship title hump, the Outlaws are likely to be equally as successful in 2015. John Grant Jr. has proven he is one of the best and most consistent players of all time, and it will be difficult to slow him down. Denver will also be able to use the younger players on their roster to continue to grow, and will likely see even more impressive performances by their midfielders. 2015 could be another title year for this tenacious and skilled cast of athletes.