MLL Playoffs Preview
Each August, the MLL regular season winds to an end and the playoffs come in full swing. Four
out of ten teams make the playoffs each year, and this year, the Chesapeake Bayhawks were
one of the four, securing the number two seed and a home playoff game, this Saturday at Navy
Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. This year, they will take on the recently successful Denver
Outlaws, who took home the championship in 2016 and were the runners up in 2017. The next
matchup in the playoffs features the new Dallas Rattlers, who moved from Rochester last
summer against the New York Lizards, who snuck into the playoffs as the four seed with a
record of 8-6.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Before I preview the upcoming games, there are a few quick hits on the Bayhawks and the
league in general I would like to cover.
Although lacrosse is played across the world as we saw from the FIL World Championships in
July, and throughout most of the continental United States, the MLL proves to have the most
talent as the world’s biggest professional lacrosse league. Division 1 college lacrosse proves to
be the foundation for the MLL, as most players come straight from college to the MLL. And as
the college lacrosse schedule is more widely known and televised than the MLL, it comes quite
easy to recognize many of the names on the ten MLL teams. But what I suppose is more
interesting is the level of interest the MLL receives from the players themselves.
As the status of the league is still improving, many of the MLL players do not make a full time
salary playing in the MLL as well as work a full time schedule playing just lacrosse. There are
two types of players who play professional lacrosse, and their salaries are supplemented by
work on the side.
On one hand, MLL games are played mostly on Saturdays, so the players are flown to the game
location on Friday, the team goes through practice Friday night, and the team plays the game
on Saturday, and following that, many players depart the lacrosse field on the weekend and go
back to working their desk job during the week. Without the expansion of the MLL, I do not see
this trend changing anytime soon. Without more teams and more games throughout the
summer, the MLL does not need to run on a full time schedule. Most players in the MLL follow
this schedule, because marketing yourself through lacrosse is a tough task to startup on, but
several players in the past have been successful in doing so.
Older players such as Paul Rabil and Kyle Harrison, who are the best of the best in the sport of
lacrosse, have been successful in supplementing the MLL with their promotions and
endorsements through companies like Warrior and STX. But just a few MLL players are popular
enough to receive major endorsement deals through major companies such as that. In the past
couple of years, players have been taking a different path, and have received endorsement
deals with smaller successful lacrosse companies like Stringking, ECD, Legends, Epoch, and
others. These companies pay athletes to represent their brand, wear their gear, and use their
equipment in MLL games. Plenty of these younger players, however, still have to work a desk
job every Monday through Friday to supplement their schedule.
On the other hand, many players focus their lives on improving the game of lacrosse and mentoring the youth as they work towards their respective collegiate and high school seasons. Ryan Brown and Deemer Class, two MIAA rivals at Loyola and Calvert Hall, have teamed up to run clinics across the
country through their brand, RBDC Lacrosse. Matt Rambo, former Tewaaraton winner, and
National Champion travels the country and runs clinics and camps for young aspiring lacrosse
players with his brand, Rambo Lacrosse. This path is becoming more popular for recent college
graduates, who can still relate to the recruiting circuit, getting acclimated to college lacrosse,
and know the training and skills required to excel not only at the collegiate level, but also the
Stories like these are reasons why I believe the growth of the MLL will be apparent in the next
few years. It just takes a few prolific players to grow the game in ways like this, which in turn
allows the league to become more popular and successful. With that comes TV ratings and the
semifinals being on live television instead of being streamed online on Lax Sports Network.
And with that we have struck the MLL semifinals.
The New York Lizards and the Dallas Rattlers played each other one time this regular season in
a closely contested matchup at the Ford Star in Arlington, Texas. The Rattlers ran through the
regular season and secured home field and the first seed with a record of 11-3, only losing one
game at home, which was to the Lizards. They have had a tremendous first year in Dallas, and
look to keep the momentum going towards a championship birth in Charleston next weekend.
The Rattlers are led by Jordan Wolf and Ty Thompson and from the back are led by John
Galloway in goal. The Rattlers have lost their last seven matchups against new York and the
franchise has not beaten the Lizards since 2014. I do not see the Lizards dropping this one,
especially given the talent their offense has, with stars like Rob Pannell, Paul Rabil and Will
Manny. I think the Lizards will win another one at the Star, taking the one seed from the Rattlers
by a score of 15-13.
The second semifinal matchup features the Chesapeake Bayhawks against the Denver
Outlaws. These two met twice during the regular season, with the Bayhawks winning both by a
couple goals. Back in May, the Bayhawks scored 24 to beat the Outlaws by two, and in late
July, the Bayhawks won by two once again, this time 13-11. This should be more of intriguing
matchup, because it is hard to beat the same team thrice in a given season. The bayhawks
should return star guys like Lyle Thompson, Steele Stanwick and Matt Danowski for the playoff
game. The Outlaws have a much more balanced offense, and gain contributions from many
different players, including Eric Law, Matt Kavanaugh, Romar Dennis and Chris Cloutier.
Although beating a team three times is tough, I think the Bayhawks can get it done, and will
advance to Charleston by a score of 13-12.