Meet the MILA: Southern Ohio Box Lacrosse

The Southern Ohio Box Lacrosse picked up a big win over Detroit this week, and I talked with coach/player/owner Sean Murphy about the team, and his vision for it.

1. Who are some key players on the roster this season?
Our roster features a wide range of box lacrosse experience.  Most players are converts from field lacrosse.  These guys are excellent LACROSSE players, but are still learning the finer points of box lacrosse.  Consequently, many of our key players are those with some previous box lacrosse experience.
I look forward to Kentucky Stickhorse defender Devin Clifford joining us for the 2012 season.  His experience will be invaluable in helping to develop our newer box players. Our offense should develop quickly behind experienced left-hand anchor Mike Cotsonas.  And I pity the goalies having to face incredible shooting of Ian Carter.  Ian is the only player to ever leave a scorch mark on my helmet from a shot- no joke.
On the right-hand side, Alex Young will initiate a lot of our offense.  Alex made an impressive showing at the Kentucky Stickhorses tryout weekend past year before suffering a season-ending injury in the intra-squad scrimmage.  He’ll be aided by his friend and big scorer Phil Hardy.  The younger clones of these 20-somethings are a pair of recent high school graduates, Devon Askin and Nate Rothchild.  Devon is a fast, wiry phenom who’s been playing up in our local adult box leagues for years.  Nate is a big, hard-shooting attacker who puts fear in the hearts of local goalies.
Where I think we’ll have a decisive edge in our MILA play this year is in goal.  While many MILA teams struggle to find 1 or 2 solid box lacrosse goalies, we’re blessed with 3.  We’re delighted to have Ricky McGarr, a goaltender with the Kitchener Kodiaks in Major Series Lacrosse joining us this year.  By his own request, Ricky will probably also play some transition for us this year, but then we can draw on backup goaltender Andy Routt.  Routt is an assistant coach at Defiance College in Ohio and was a excellent goaltender in our local box leagues this past year.  And if we’re without both Ricky & Andy, the goaltending falls to me and the experience I gained as a backup goaltender for Ireland’s national indoor team.  Having THREE solid goaltenders will be a big asset against some of the high-powered offenses we’re likely to face this year.

The last key “players” to mention are excellent people involved behind the scenes.  Anne Murphy is the co-owner of Uncaged Lacrosse, our first team sponsor, and is involved with Southern Ohio Box Lacrosse as a team manager.  Anne brings her experience as a local women’s lacrosse head coach and as a stat keeper for the Kentucky Stickhorses to her role as the manager of our bench officials (timers & stat keepers).  Anne was also invaluable in helping with several administrative tasks in advance of our first game.  And in a pinch, she is also our emergency 4th goalkeeper!
2. How big is the lacrosse market in Ohio?
Lacrosse in Ohio has been growing explosively in Ohio over the past 15 years, especially in our southwestern Ohio area.  Most lacrosse in Ohio is focused around the Columbus, Cleveland, & Cincinnati areas with Columbus being the most developed area, but Dayton has also seen impressive growth in just the past 5 years.
The still-limited size of our lacrosse culture is reflected in part by the fact that our team draws from a wide geographic area including Cincinnati, Dayton, and Wilmington, Ohio as well as down into Kentucky.  My long-term hope is to generate enough excitement & interest in box lacrosse that we can help spin off new teams in Dayton and Kentucky.
3. After being in NALL, how are the two leagues different?
The 2 leagues differ mainly in their management, organization, & financial resources.  While both the MILA & NALL have excellent, well-organized management at the league level, MILA teams have a much wider range of organization at the local team level.  Some, such as Chicago, are incredible models for club and semi-pro teams not only for lacrosse but for many other sports!  Other teams are facing some struggles to get going, often because they are being spearheaded by 1 or 2 conscientious player-managers with limited resources.  In the case of Southern Ohio Box Lacrosse, I currently run the entire organization, but have a short-term plan increase organization by establishing a board by the start of 2013.  We already have several excellent, interested guys who will be able to step in on our board & help us do a lot more going into the 2013 season.
4. What can we look forward to this season?
My expectations for this season are conservative, with the primary goal being to establish a team with solid long-term viability.  As we’re coming into a league with established teams and many excellent players, I’ll be satisfied if we win more than 25% of our games this year.  But where we’ll be working very hard and judging ourselves is in putting a competitive team with healthy numbers on the floor for all games, including all road games.  Success in a league such as this usually comes down to how well or poorly a team travels.  As long as we can establish a viable organization this year, we’ll be in position to make a big competitive push in 2013.
5. What is your favorite part of the MILA?
The administrative support from league management in setting schedules, assigning referees, and recruiting teams has been wonderful.  Knowing that those aspects are taken care of is a big load off of the shoulders of team managers such as myself.
Otherwise, the playing opportunities for a wide range of player talent is great.  Experienced box players can hit the floor with players new to box lacrosse and everybody understands.  In all but the most hotly contested games, I expect that this will keep tempers in check & allow everyone involved to have a great, fun time.
6. As a player as well on the team, tell us about yourself as a player.
As has been the story with my lacrosse career, I am whatever kind of player that our team needs.  My most significant box lacrosse experience was a member of the 2011 Ireland National Indoor Lacrosse Team at the World Indoor Championships in Prague.  During that tournament, I played defense during the first half of the tournament, then due to an injury, I dressed as Ireland’s backup goaltender & saw very limited time in goal during our final 2 games.  To the best knowledge of anyone I have talked to, this makes me the first player to play in a World Indoor Lacrosse Championships as both a goalie and a floor player.
On defense, my style is best described as “scrappy”.  I credit Ireland head coach Jeff Dowling for conveying many valuable lessons about box lacrosse tactics that can help to compensate for limited experience and when the competition gets increasingly younger each year.  And while I’m far from an expert in box lacrosse goaltending, many years of coaching and analysis as a field lacrosse goaltender have helped me analyse box lacrosse goaltending and develop a solid, if not spectacular, style during several years of running local box leagues.
The experience with Team Ireland led to the wonderful invitation from the Kentucky Stickhorses to serve as an assistant coach for the team during their inaugural season this year.  The extra insights I picked up during that first season give me good hope for being able to coach and form a respectable team this year and a very competitive team in the years to come.
7. Closing thoughts on the 2012 season?
It’s been difficult to be a box lacrosse fan in the midwest during the past 15 years.  Chances to see it played well at a high level have been few & far between, and chances to play almost as rare.  It was also sad to hear many field lacrosse coaches over the years disparage box lacrosse, largely out of unfortunate ignorance.  2011 was a fantastic year for spreading respect for box lacrosse through vehicles such as the World Indoor Championships, the NALL, and the MILA in the Midwest.  I was very disappointed that I was not able to form a team to participate in the MILA last year, so I am very excited to not just play but to see box lacrosse spread even more in our region.  I hope that 2012 will be the start of fun box lacrosse for our players and the start of spreading appreciation of box lacrosse to more players & coaches throughout southern Ohio.