Currently, Ohio sits in last place with a record of 1-7. This doesnâ€™t show how hard theyâ€™ve worked this season, losing by as little as four to top teams such as Denver and Long Island. The Machine have shown signs of inconsistency at times, but are starting to find a groove.
Hamilton has had one of the more disappointing seasons thus far. Starting off in a slump as they did last year, 0-3, they had the excuse that they did not have their talented and powerful starters, which was true. When their NLL players did surface in June, they won two games in a row and things were looking up for the Nats. They lost a close game to the Bayhawks and then never recovered losing another two to Rochester and Boston. With a record of 2-6, they sit one spot higher than their opponent Ohio.
Hereâ€™s a breakdown of each team by positions.
The Machine attack unit is still molding into one of the best in the country. Chazz Woodson is the highlight reel, flying from behind the cage, Jim Connolly as the finisher and Steele Stanwick as the quarterback. Before Stanwick had joined, Woodson had all the pressure on him to be the go to guy. He would take over on offense and destroy his defender with his speed and agility. Connolly was there to assist Woodson if he drew a guy and was ready to finish the ball in the back of the net. Unfortunately, the third attackman, Buggs Combs, wasnâ€™t playing up to par. When Stanwick was added, the offense seemed to be calm and collected. They are averaging close to 16 goals a game, compared to 10 before hand. If Hamiltonâ€™s defense doesnâ€™t step up, they could be in a world of trouble against this attack unit.
The attack in Hamilton are one of the deadliest in the league. Players such as Casey Powell, Garrett Billings, Cody Jamieson and Stephen Keogh make defensemen quiver in their shoes. When the Nationals started their offense only scored 22 goals in three games. Thatâ€™s seven goals a game on average. Not something Coach Thorpe was impressed with. Come June 2nd, things were better and their offense was looking great. That was when all the NLL players were back and the Nationals were the Nationals again. It looked like a late season rally for Hamilton, just like last year. Itâ€™s not to say that their offense hasnâ€™t been getting the job done, theyâ€™ve been averaging close to 15 goals a game, which in a sense should win you games. Donâ€™t be surprised if you see Powell or the other attackmen take control of the game into their hands and slice the Ohio defense into Canadian style mince meat with ball movement and stick work.
Midifelders in Ohio are starting to connect with one another after some changes. They took attackman Connor Martin and changed him to a midfielder when Stanwick arrived and has added to the Ohio arsenal from up top. Kiel Matisz and Matt Messina have been threats on the field for Ohio, both getting points against the Outlaws. Matt Casey has finally found his flow, along with Brett Garber. The midfielders for Ohio will need to be more of a threat offensively with dodging and shooting and avoid Brodie Merrill at all costs if they want to win.
A team with some of the biggest names in lacrosse today is the Nationals. Kevin Crowley, Joe Walters, Jeremy Thompson, David Earl, and Brett Bucktooth are just a few. Earl, Crowley and Walters are the big guns for Hamilton. Kevin has his size and box lacrosse skills to be very dangerous around the net. Walters has his speed, agility and smarts to run around his defender. When Joe has the ball, Ohio will need to put Kyle Hartzell on him, because short stick d-mids will not suffice. Earl is third at the midfield in scoring, with 15 goals, making him as dangerous as both Kevin and Joe. Jeremy Thompson, Rhys Duch, and Brett Bucktooth are all box style players, like Crowley. They can move the ball in tight situations and catch the ball and score when it seems close to impossible. Dodging on the Ohio defense will not come easy, setting picks and moving the ball will help, something all these players know how to do.
Ohioâ€™s close defense, made up of Greg Bice, Brett Hughes, and Max Schmidt, have started stepping up and playing good defense. When they take on Powell, Keogh, Billings and Jamieson this weekend, they will have their hands full. Long stick midfielders Kyle Hartzell and Ray Megill will have to keep doing what theyâ€™re doing on defense, being shut down defenders, and also go play a little offense and score two-pointers. Marshall Burkahrt will be one of their d-mids. Coming out of Hopkins, Coach Garber knows this kid knows how to play defense.
At close, Steven Waldeck, Solomon Bliss and Matt Lovejoy better be ready for a show. Whoever goes against Woodson will have to strap themselves in because they will be going for a ride. As for who guards Stanwick, they will have to be in his hands the entire time. I put my money on Lovejoy going up against Stanwick, seeing as they were teammates at Virginia. Going up against Connolly will not be an easy task either, heâ€™s shifty and his defender will have to stick with him constantly, because losing track of him will not make the goalie happy. Brodie Merrill, well, thereâ€™s not much to say about him because he does everything textbook. I see him guarding Connor Martin. With Martin as quick and agile as he is, Brodie will match that with good stick skills and well played angles.
Brian Phipps and Stefan Schroder have been great I the goal for Ohio. Schroder has gotten more playing time than Phipps, and has proven he belongs in the cage for the Machine. He makes stop after stop and never quits on his team. Not to say Brian doesnâ€™t either, but Schroder has that expression in his play that tells you, Iâ€™m here to win, no matter what the score is. Brian and Stefan are both capable of having big games and will have to stand on their heads against the powerful and skillful Hamilton offense.
Scott Rodgers and Brett Queener have been splitting time over the past couple years, and it seemed as though thatâ€™s what Coach Thorpe was going to do this season as well. Unfortunately, Scott hasnâ€™t been playing his best lacrosse and Queener has been getting most of the playing time. Brett has had good and bad games, like any goalie, but never gets down. He may slap his stick against the pipes and yell at his defense, but thatâ€™s Queenerâ€™s character. Heâ€™s emotional but will never give up. If time is split, they will have to play their best lacrosse come this weekend and watch out for a flying Woodson.
Anthony Kelly is gone, and there is a big question mark at the faceoff position for the Ohio Machine. Their only possible suspect is Eric Oâ€™Brien, who, so far this season, has done well, going over .500 against Long Island and getting eleven versus Charlotte. Oâ€™Brien will have to win more than eleven if he wants to help his team get the W.
Matt Dolente is the go to faceoff guy for the Nationals. He has the skill and smarts to dominate at the X and control the tempo of the game. This is where Hamilton will need to dominate if they want to get their third win of the season.
Update: As of this afternoon, Geoff Snider has been traded to the Charlotte Hounds. Hamilton will have to do with Matt Dolente at the faceoff X. In trading Snider, the Nationals have acquired the brother of Roman Lao-Gosney, midfielder Cameron Lao-Gosney, and attackman Bryan Neufeld from Charlotte.
Game time is set for Friday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Hamilton.