June 18, 2009

MLL: Denver, Toronto Jostle for First Place

from press release

TORONTO - The Toronto Nationals (4-1) travel to Denver, Colorado this weekend on Saturday June 20th to face the Denver Outlaws (4-1) at INVESCO Field at Mile High Stadium. Game time is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET. The meeting will mark the battle for first place in Major League Lacrosse (MLL) as the two teams meet for the first time this season.

The Nationals swept their season series with the Washington Bayhawks last weekend on June 13th with Toronto winning 19-12 at BMO Field. The other two wins came on May 15th and June 4th in Annapolis, MD with the Nationals triumphing 17-16 and 17-15 respectively.

Defensive leader Brodie Merrill says the team is feeling pretty fortunate to have swept the series with the Bayhawks.

"We are pleased with the start, but realize that there is still much we can improve upon," Merrill said. "You can sense that the chemistry is starting to build and winning games early in the fashion that we have, has certainly contributed to that."

Merrill was named MLL Defensive Player of the Week for his last performance against the Washington Bayhawks in which he scored two goals and collected 10 ground balls.

"I was very pleased with our improvement on the offensive end in our last game against Washington," said Nationals head coach Dave Huntley. "We will need to be good there to match the output of (Denver's) offence and their aggressive defence."

"The Outlaws have a very strong team," said Merrill. "They really benefitted from the dispersal, attracting the majority of the West coast talent."

Denver defeated the Long Island Lizards this past weekend, 16-9 with the game MVP honours going to Brendan Mundorf who scored three goals and two assists in the win. Mundorf also leads the Outlaws this season with 20 points (16 goals, 4 assists). Nationals attacker Merrick Thomson with 17 points (16 goals, 1 assist) and midfielder Joe Walters who also has 17 points (14 goals, 2 two-pt goals, 1 assist) lead the offence for Toronto heading into this weekend's matchup.

Huntley acknowledges Denver as having "one of the best goalies in the sport in (Jesse) Schwartzman" and says the Nationals offence will need to shoot from good locations to test him.

"Denver looked very strong in their win against Long Island, a team that beat us at home, so it will take a big effort in all phase to match up with them," said Huntley.

"We anticipate a playoff-like atmosphere," Merrill added.

The Nationals hit the road again next week on Thursday June 25th to face the Boston Cannons before returning home on Saturday June 27th to host the Outlaws at BMO Field at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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