Lizards Rebuilding Roster After Hyped Season Fizzles

A lot went right in head coach Joe Spallina’s first year leading the (then) Long Island Lizards. A lot went wrong in his second year with the New York Lizards. Still, the roster (on paper) is littered with MLL All-Stars and difference makers. Another busy off-season of impactful moves saw management address questions at the midfield, bring in another threat on attack, and add some veteran leadership. Here is a unit by unit breakdown of the Lizards roster:


The Rob Pannell-Mark Matthews experiment never panned out during the summer. Both are players that need the ball in their stick to kick start their games. Enter Ned Crotty, the 2011 MLL Rookie of the Year, and one of the more dynamic attackmen in the league. Matthews, meanwhile, was traded to the Rattlers days after the exchange. Pannell & Crotty are similar players, but their ability to share the ball could be more cohesive than the pass and finish combo with Matthews.

Next are the Lizards finishers. The lethal Tommy Palasek is back and should benefit from a second playmaker down low. The Syracuse alum has shown he can create his own opportunities one-on-one against some of the best defenders. Steve Mock will provide a netmouth pressense along with the chemistry he shares with Pannell.

The X-Factor in all of this might be Matt Gibson. He was hampered last season due to injuries, most notably a concussion early in the summer. Losing him hurt New York’s ability to effectively move the ball between the attack and midfield. He can play both positions, but he works best when he is around the goal line extended. His role, like the team, will depend if the roster can become cohesiveness together. If they fall back to isolation offense like last year, then the offense, and the team overall, will struggle to compete.


It was a difficult season for New York’s midfield. Part of the issues stemmed from the lack of a creative middie from up top. Max Seibald was never 100% due to a broken foot suffered in the NLL season followed by a hamstring injury later in the year. Stephen Berger’s second act on Strong Island did not go as planned. Stephen Peyser made his contributions but not enough to cover the loss of Seibald. JoJo Marasco figured out how to play in the pros as New York’s playoff hopes faded. David Earl was the only consistent threat all year, finishing third on the team with 14 goals and five assists.

Twins Kevin and Mike Unterstein were troopers between the lines, sometimes playing without a sub.  Both combined for seven goals and 67 ground balls.

But now the midfield has undergone another shake up in the off-season. Gone are Berger and Peyser. Welcome Matt Streibel, John Austin, and Steve DeNapoli.

Streibel has been a concement veteran throughout his time in the pros. He can still provide solid numbers when counted upon, but his leadership could be the best attribute he brings to this young team. Austin, along with Albert Maione, can provide the needed secondary scoring teams are looking for. Chesapeake has shown a deep midfield is a key ingredient for a championship run. Along with a healthy Seibald, and Marasco carries over his strong play from the end of last year, New York should have a stronger offensive presence from up top. It won’t matter though unless the middies can take better care of the ball. While no turnover statistics are kept, New York usually coughed up the ball a lot due to giveaways or shot clock violations.

Meanwhile, Steve DeNapoli’s acquisition could prove to be an underrated move. The Long Island native has quickly emerged as a difference maker at the short stick position. Not only does New York have depth at SSDM, but another speedster that can hastily initiate transition. He joins his Hofstra companions as one of the best rope units in the country.

Greg Gurenlian (three goals, 232-362, 64%) will look to continue his dominance from the face-off dot.


While the offense’s issues did not help the defense, the unit had their own issues they hope to sow up.

LSM Tim Henderson missed 2013 due to his military obligations. His absence impacted the Lizards ability to shutdown opposing midfielders. It also took away depth and toughness from the backfield. The fact that Henderson was on the protected 23-man roster is a good sign he may return this summer. Steve Waldeck bounced back and forth from long stick middie to close defense. He was a hard worker all over the field and even contributed two 2pt-goals. CJ Costabille gave the Lizards a shot in the arm when he jumped into the offense. His four goals and two assists led all long poles in scoring.

It seemed there might have been chemistry issues on defense. Part of that was due to a true #3 defenseman. By seasons’ end, they went through four different players at that position.

Jack Reid may have been one of the bigger disappointments for New York. He never seemed to fit in with the unit. The snarky, tough play he was supposed to bring never stuck with the players. He was not protected on the roster. It is unknown if he will be reacquired.

If there was a bright spot, it was Brian Karalunas. His stellar season earned him a spot in the MLL All-Star Game. He finished with two assists, 33 ground balls, and plenty of caused turnovers. Able to pester the opposition with an active stick, he has developed into a reliable ground ball grabber that can start the transition.

Mike Skudin remains on the roster, but a curious decision to hold onto Dan Hostetler who did not suit up for New York in 2013.

Another factor to New York’s struggles was the mediocre season by goaltender Drew Adams. He had flashes of brilliance but did not have that same flare that we have seen in the past. It did not help he faced so many quality shots inside the arc. His final stat line: 12.34 GAA (seven 2pt goals against) and a .549 save percentage. For New York to bounce back, it all starts in goal with Adams.