2013 NLL Entry Draft prospects Rob Pannell, Logan Schuss and JoJo Marasco developed their game this summer in the MLL. (Photo: Cornell, Ohio State and Syracuse Athletics)
With the Major League Lacrosse regular season nearing an end, plenty of National Lacrosse League players, along with several high-profile NLL prospects, are finishing strong down the stretch in the outdoor summer league.
Logan Schuss, the projected first overall pick in the NLL Entry Draft this fall, had a game-high four goals and six points for the Ohio Machine (2-11) in their 16-12 upset win over the Boston Cannons (5-8), eliminating them from the postseason race, in the first of three MLL games this past Saturday. The Machine were also led by a hat trick from Minnesota Swarm transition player Kiel Matisz and two assists from Swarm teammate Greg Downing. A pair of Philadelphia Wings players contributed to the win as Kyle Hartzell had a team-high six ground balls while Chad Wiedmaier added four GBs. Wings transition player Paul Rabil, tied for second in the MLL with 49 points (33+16), was held off the scoresheet but Wings forward Kevin Buchanan managed three points (2+1) for the Cannons.
Calgary Roughnecks transition star Geoff Snider made his MLL season debut with five ground balls for the Charlotte Hounds (7-6) who earned a playoff berth with their 14-11 win over the second-place Hamilton Nationals (9-4). Wings forward Kevin Crowley, who ranks second in the MLL in both points (49) and goals (37), recorded a team-high five points (4+1) for Hamilton while Wings transition player Brodie Merrill tied for the team-lead with five ground balls in the loss. Two Rochester Knighthawks forwards chipped in for the Nationals with three points (1+2) from Joe Walters and a goal by Stephen Keogh. Jason Noble, the top-rated defensive prospect for the NLL Entry Draft out of Cornell University, dressed for Hamilton and had three ground balls.
Wings forward Drew Westervelt, who ranks fifth in the MLL with 32 goals and tied for sixth in league scoring with 42 points (32+10), posted a game-high five points (3+2) for the Chesapeake Bayhawks (8-5) in their 12-8 win over the Rochester Rattlers (5-8). Colorado Mammoth forward John Grant, Jr. had three points (1+2) while Wings transition player Jeff Reynolds added a goal for the Bayhawks. Wings forward Ned Crotty registered a team-high four points (3+1) and Wings teammate Joel White had a game-high nine ground balls for the Rattlers in the losing effort.
The Denver Outlaws (13-0) are now just one win away from a perfect regular season after they held off a scare from the New York Lizards (3-10) with a 13-10 win on Sunday. While the Outlaws got a goal from Edmonton Rush forward Zack Greer, the play of two NLL draft prospects in Rob Pannell from Cornell University and JoJo Marasco from Syracuse University stood out for the Lizards along with Swarm transition player David Earl who scored two goals. Pannell scored twice and added an assist while Marasco scored for the first time in his MLL career en route to a team-high three goals.
Pannell and Schuss have enjoyed strong rookie seasons in the MLL while Marasco, who joined Gary Gait, the Powell brothers and Knighthawks forward Cody Jamieson in wearing the famed jersey number 22 at Syracuse, may have just had his breakout game to improve his stock headed into the NLL Entry Draft. The trio joined their summer teams late after finishing their collegiate careers in the NCAA tournament.
Pannell, the NCAA's all-time leading scorer who won the 2013 Tewaaraton Award as the best player in college lacrosse, is impressively averaging four points per game with 36 points (22+14) in just nine games played, a rate that would have him in the MLL scoring lead had he played in all 13 games.
Schuss, an Ohio State University product, is eighth in the MLL in goals (27) and tied for 14th in league scoring with 33 points (27+6) in 10 games played this season. His 2.7 goals per game scoring clip is the fourth-best in the MLL.
To offer some perspective, 2013 NLL Rookie of the Year Mark Matthews recorded 28 points (19+9) in nine games played while the ROTY runner-up Matisz had nine points (8+1) in seven games during their MLL rookie seasons in 2012. Much like Matthews and Matisz, Schuss's box lacrosse success helped make him an elite NLL prospect. And although Pannell and Marasco have little indoor experience, their development in the MLL shows some tremendous potential for their NLL careers.
With just one weekend left on the MLL schedule, NLL players look to end on a high note while others will ready their clubs for the four-team MLL Championship Weekend on Aug. 24-25.