Getting a Grip On Opening Weekend in MLL

Opening weekend is in the books and it provided us some fun games and a glimpse into what the season holds.  The grippy ball is back in use and this much anticipated return makes the two point shot more achievable.  In an effort to make the ball more visible to the television audience last year, the MLL switched for the textured “grippy” ball to a smoother version that did not collect grit in the grooves.  The grooves benefited shooters by imparting a spin that caused the ball to drop in flight like a curve ball.  This proved especially true on two point shots as the range gave the ball more room to change planes.  The treacherous flight paths were harder for goalies to track, much like a shot from a defenseman.  For my part last season, I did not notice any discernible difference in the visibility, but there was a decrease in two point scoring as many shooters did not want to attempt the shot with the smoother non grippy ball.  Many players and fans, including yours truly, were vocal about the discontinued use of grippy and called for its return.  Whether it was the outcry from the players or the decrease in two point shots, the league brought it back.

MLL is the pinnacle of field lacrosse because it fields a product that consists of almost constant action and scoring due to its sixty second shot clock.  The college game has tried to incorporate this, but it still lags behind the MLL with a shot clock that is arbitrarily by the officials.  The main complaint about the college game is extended possessions.  Lengthy games of keep away and constant time outs are not fun for anyone.  Remember last year when UNC kept the ball behind the goal for over a minute with no attempt to score or Canada’s victory over the US national team in the World Game Finals the slow down keep away in the second half?  Both instances were within the rules, but neither was a shining example of competition of its best.  On the other side of the coin, one sided blow outs are no joy to watch either.  This past weekend’s games all were competitive and entertaining.

The defending champion Outlaws got peppered by a scrappy Cannons team with some two point shooting and tough defense.  Boston debuted new uniforms at Gillette Stadium and came out to fight the Outlaws for sixty minutes.  Both teams were missing players due to NLL commitments, but that did not prevent them from putting on a great game.  Max Seibald scored three goals in his Cannon debut after being traded from New York.  The Cannons defense, led by Scott Ratliff and without Brodie Merrill, played like they had something to prove against the champs.  It was possibly the best Cannons opening game ever.

New York and Ohio battled each other and were tied at halftime.  The game was much closer than the final score indicated.  The Lizard’s offense came out firing in the second half to pull away from Ohio.  Defense proved pivotal in this game as the Lizards found a way to slow down the Machine.  The rematch later on will be interesting if the Machine can get some chemistry on defense and lock down the Lizards.

The Hounds took the Rattlers to overtime but came short when the big bad Wolf blew down the house of cards.  Rochester tied the game with six seconds left and definitely got Charlotte’s best effort.  This was an important win for the Rattlers because their roster will be changing ever week with so many of their players having NLL commitments.  Rochester will only be getting better as more and more core players become available as the NLL winds concludes.  The Hounds are not going to roll over for anyone this year and are looking to get back to championship weekend.

Despite a drop off in attendance from last year, opening weekend was full of drama, good games and storylines.  Perhaps grippy ball had a roll in one or two possessions and its return will not have a major impact on the season.  The MLL keeps rolling out a quality on field product that is played by the greatest field players in the world.  The league is not afraid to experiment in an effort to keep the game fresh and fast paced.  None of those brief recaps do the opening weekend games justice, but the games were much better than a game of keep away.