Tonight the players of the North American Lacrosse League step back onto the turf of a professional game for the first time since the Pro Invitational Season. If you think players are not extremely excited, you’re wrong.
“I expect it to be a very intense, fast paced, up and down game,” says Anthony Kelly, who was with the team last season. “Expect to see a lot of pushed breaks in transition and some hard hits!”
Kelly played with the Denver Outlaws and Ohio Machine in MLL this summer, and he is one of the most important players on the Kentucky roster as a stout faceoff and transition man for the team.
He leads a transition unit that includes studs such as Greg Bice, Mike Unterstein, Eric O’Brien, Ryan Maciaszek and Dave McCarthy who were all core players last season.
Bice played MLL this season with Ohio, while McCarthy was in the QSLL with the Vermont Voyageurs who went to the QSLL finals. Maciaszek played this fall with the Reading Rockets.
There will also be a strong offense in Kentucky this season, and we should see some interesting new faces in this game, including Travis Bland.
“I’m just going to go out, play my game and work hard, and try and earn a spot on the team, do what I’m told and help build some chemistry for this upcoming season,” he says. Bland played with Reading as well and also played in the Canadian Lacrosse League last winter.
Bland is one of a few new faces with Kentucky. Mike McClellan also joins the team from the expansion draft, creating a nice group of offensive talent along with Brandon Dube and Joel Zalesky from last season. Zalesky led the team in scoring, and he played MLL with Ohio this season. Dube was a member of Vermont.
Vonzel LeGall will be a strong addition on the floor as a fast paced transition man with an emphasis on offense. The Stony Brook product will raise some eyebrows this winter.
“MANY great names are coming in for tryout looks.” says team owner Anthony Chase. “We have a large number of last years team returning as well.”
Chase helped the Stickhorses get a season on the floor amidst turmoil last season, and expects to see a stronger turnout in 2013. “We believe that attendance will show an uptick from last year. Averaging about 1800 a game (with the exception of the Friday with all the tornadoes, where we still had almost 800), we believe this year we will average over 2200 a game. We are on a long range plan to reach 5000 a game.”
Another strong area for the Stickhorses is goaltending, who have one of the strongest goalkeeping units in the league. Led by last season’s starter Patrick Crosby, who had a strong season along with a good summer season in the CanAm League with the Rochester Greywolves. Also joining the team is goalie Spencer Lyons who played with the Jacksonville Bullies.
“I am excited about having a full season in the NALL.” says Chase. “As you know, last year became an Invitational Season with all the turmoil at the beginning. This year we have four great teams ready to play a full calendar of games. The season will culminate in the first ever NALL Playoffs, hosted here in Kentucky. The teams appear to have a lot of parity and the games should be action packed and exciting.”
Tonight the Stickhorses begin preparing on the floor for the season. Players think that it is important to mesh as a unit before the season begins.
“There’s only a couple runs and a scrimmage to get to know the guys, before our season opener in January. We have to make every minute count on and off the floor. It’s important to know the system.” says Bland.
“It’s very important to get some actual game play in before the first game of the year.” Kelly agrees. “A lot of players are new to the indoor game, and there are some new members on the team this year, so it’s very important that everyone can get on the floor and work with one another in a true game setting.”
Kelly says he is working on his transition game tonight as he works back from the outdoor game this summer. “I am hoping to work on my transition game from D to O and make good decisions with the ball on offense. Really just looking to find my groove again on the floor coming off the outdoor season.”
The North American Lacrosse League season is inching closer, and that will be even more evident tonight as the Stickhorses take the floor.