The Denver Outlaws are coming off a 2012 campaign that saw them post a team-record 11 wins on their way to the franchise’s fourth appearance in the Major League Lacrosse title game. Led by first-year coach Jim Stagnitta and MLL Regular Season MVP Brendan Mundorf, the Outlaws finished at the top of MLL going into the playoffs.
With their leader Mundorf out due to an injury before the semi-final game, Denver used a record-setting comeback win to propel into the MLL championship and vie for the Steinfeld Cup.
“To lose the MVP of the league to an injury the day before the semi final game on Championship Weekend, and to be down by eight goals at half time and come back in the second half to win that (semi-final) game was outstanding,” General Manager Tony Seaman said.
While the Outlaws were able to make it to the MLL mountain top, they were unable to summit the peak, as the Steinfeld Cup left with the Chesapeake Bayhawks for the second time in three seasons.
”Losing the championship game is a great motivating factor as we prepare for the 2013 season,” Seaman said. “We learned a great deal as a result of that championship game about what we needed to change in order to challenge for another championship run in 2013. We believe as a staff that we have taken the necessary steps to challenge once again for that run in 2013.”
Five Outlaws made the MLL championship game, three were in the top-10 in the league in scoring and goalie Jesse Schwartzman had the second best Goals Against Average at just over 11 per match last season. However, despite having their best season in 2012, Denver found room for improvements in the offseason.
In exchange for 2011 Cascade MLL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Boltus, the Outlaws sent All-Star midfielder Peet Poillon to the Charlotte hounds. Boltus is a bigger attackman, standing at six-feet-one-inch, and brings back-to-back 30-point seasons to the Outlaws already dangerous attack. The prospect of having an attackman with more size to set-up the Outlaws’ attack made Boltus an attractive option, and ultimately was worth departing with Poillon.
“We believe that Jeremy Boltus gives us a right-handed attackman with outstanding ability to feed the ball, and at the same time have the ability to get to the goal,” said Seaman. “We hope he will be a “point guard” on the attack for us this season.”
The Outlaws also added veteran attackman Zach Greer, a versatile swingman that is expected to make an immediate impact after moving attackman Mark Matthews — who gave the Outlaws 19 goals last season.
”Zack Greer is not only expected to play, but to help us contend for the Steinfeld Cup. He is an outstanding lacrosse player that has had tremendous success in this league,” said Seaman. “He gives us a player that can score goals both at the midfield and attack positions.”
”He (Zack Greer) was in the plan when we moved Mark,” Stagnitta said.
Denver didn’t stop at adding a versatile big attackman and a savvy vet, as they bolstered their defense through the supplemental and college drafts. The Outlaws brought back two former team members in goalie Charlie Cipriano and defenseman Ken Clausen with their 10 selections in the 2012 MLL Supplemental Draft.
Clausen appeared in eight games in 2010 scooping up 16 ground balls as a rookie, but spent the 2011 season recovering from a knee injury. Cipriano returns to the mile-high city after appearing in two games last season as a backup to Schwartzman.
Three defenseman, five midfielders and one attacker were added in the collegiate draft, filling what small holes may have remained for the western powerhouse of the MLL.
”We had specific needs going (into the supplemental draft) and feel like we were able to address each of those,” Stagnitta said on the Outlaws website. “We are especially pleased with the level of experience as well as the quality of players we added to the Outlaws roster.”
By keeping the same core of players that took the MLL by storm last season — and adding a few key additions — the Outlaws are posed for another run at the Steinfeld cup. Only time will tell if Denver will finally summit the mountain top in 2013, however one thing is for certain — it’ll be another high-scoring, fast-paced campaign out west.