Expect Outlaws to 'Shake Things Up'
by Corey McLaughlin | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
Denver Outlaws GM and coach Brian Reese expects changes after another playoff loss. "I'm not sure if I'll be back in the same capacity," he said this week.
In the final minutes of their 16-12 loss to the Long Island
Lizards in the Major League Lacrosse semifinals Saturday, the
members of the Denver Outlaws on the sideline stood silent, dazed
and confused -- staring at the sight of another postseason exit.
They sure know what one looks like.
And after the Outlaws failed to win a championship in their fifth straight postseason since joining MLL in 2006, Denver general manager and coach Brian Reese said significant changes to the roster and coaching staff appear needed, maybe even including for himself.
“We have to shake things up,” Reese said by phone a few days after the Outlaws lost to Long Island at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. “We can’t keep banging our head against the wall. We gotta shake up our roster. We have to look at everything. Me as GM and coach, I’m not sure if I’ll be back in the same capacity.”
Reese didn’t mention specific players who could possibly be on the move or which of his duties may be relinquished, but clearly Denver could have a new look next season. The current roster is led by veterans Brendan Mundorf and Drew Westervelt, and MVP finalist and second-year pro Max Seibald. Eric Martin, Lee Zink and Matt Bocklet are fixtures on defense and Jesse Schwartzman starts in goal for the league’s top fan-drawing franchise.
“We just haven’t had our best game,” Reese said of the playoff defeats -- three in the finals and two in the semifinals. “We have a lot of talent, but I don’t think we’ve had the performances where guys have stepped up to a higher level in the playoffs. We’re looking for that guy who can put the team on his back and get one play to kind of get us going. We have good players, and I take responsibility because I’m the coach, but we haven’t that player who puts us on our back.”
“It’s hard,” he added, “because I have a hard time believing for that the last five years we haven’t been successful. I don’t want to look at it as losing one game is our entire season.”
But the playoff losses have certainly worn on the team, the latest being particularly tough. Denver had been 7-0 against Long Island all-time.
“This is, god, what, our fifth year here?” Zink, a 2010 Defensive Player of the Year finalist, said after the semifinal loss. “And we just haven’t gotten it done.”
The sting of a semifinal defeat may not feel as sharp in Boston, but the top-seeded Cannons were still disappointed with their own early exit. FIL World Championships MVP Paul Rabil was shut out by the Chesapeake Bayhawks defense and MLL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year Matt Poskay scored only two goals in the 13-9 loss. Boston trailed 10-3 at halftime.
“We didn’t play our game,” Poskay said after accepting his MVP award during a break in Sunday’s championship game. “We took early shots when we didn’t want to and by taking bad shots, we gave them transition plays. You gotta come ready to play and we didn’t show up.”
That’s how a feel-good season ended for Poskay, the fifth-year pro and former Virginia All-American who was about one year removed from testicular cancer surgery and radiation treatments. He also switched from midfield to attack this season.
“It was just being on the field more,” Poskay said of the position switch. “My four or five shots turned into eight or nine and they doubled the goals. When you’re a high-percentage shooter inside, that’s what happens.”
Buggs’ flying away
Chesapeake veteran attackman Andrew "Buggs" Combs played his final MLL game Sunday, he said emphatically after the Bayhawks won the league title.
“I’m done. I’m retired,” he said. “I’m going out with a ring. You can’t beat that.”
Combs said he wants to spend more time with his 5-year-old daughter and family and working with his shooting school, which would take away from practice time, and that “I’m the type of guy who needs to be about practicing and shooting a lot.”
Combs played seven MLL seasons with Baltimore (2003-04), Rochester (2005), Los Angeles (2006-07) and Washington/Chesapeake (2007-10). He graduated from Maryland in 2001.