By Frank Billanti | 8/23/12 12:23 PM
The Long Island Lizards (8-6) are in the playoffs, having clinched the #4 seed heading into the MLL Championship Weekend presented by Warrior on August 25 and 26. They will be facing the #1 seed Denver Outlaws (11-3) on Saturday, August 25th at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the first match of the semifinals at 1:00 ET.
Denver finished their season strong with a come-from-behind road win at Chesapeake. They have earned the #1 seed privilege over the #2 Bayhawks entering the playoffs this weekend.
The Lizards had a wild ride throughout the season which has ultimately led them to the 2012 playoffs. The team started out 0-2, with a league full of doubters voicing the opinion that Long Island does not have a chance to finish this season with a winning record.
But the team’s leadership- under a new head coach- proved to be the recipe for the team’s performance turnaround from that rough start. In Coach Joe Spallina’s first season with the Long Island Lizards, he has led the club to an 8-6 record; he was recently honored as the recipient of the Brine MLL Coach of the Year award, and most importantly he’s led the team to a playoff appearance. Spallina is grateful for the award, and is happy with his team for stepping up, responding to challenges, and performing well against the opponents they’ve faced so far this season.
“Our team dealt with a different kind of hand and dealt with adversity and guys deciding not to play or being injured, but that's a tribute to the character of guys we have,” said the Lizards Head Coach. The season’s biggest challenge for Spallina and company lies ahead of them this weekend. In order to win the cup, they’ll have to beat 2 opponents out of the 2012 MLL’s top 3 teams- in the course of two days.
Despite falling to the rival #2 Bayhawks twice this year, the Lizards have impressive wins under their belt, including a season sweep against the MLL Defending Champion #3 Boston Cannons, and a win against the #1 Denver Outlaws in their last meeting on June 23.
Winning Comes in Bunches
When you’re hot, you’re hot. And winning streaks have been no stranger to the Long Island Lizards. The Lizards have highlighted impressive 5-game and 3-game tears throughout this season, accounting for all of the teams’ 8 wins.
Coach Spallina commented last week, “We have a good group and the right mix of veterans and a very young team. A large part of our success has to do with rookies hitting the ground running.”
In many of the Lizards wins this season, the team’s rookies and young core have strongly contributed. Several times this season the Lizards have found themselves grinding through crucial points in games. The ability of the young core to step up and work smoothly under pressure with the Lizards’ veterans has given the club a chance to compete in this year’s playoffs. That young group complimented by a strong veteran leadership could be too much to handle for other elite MLL teams come this weekend.
The #4 Long Island Lizards take on the #1 Denver Outlaws in the first of two semifinals games to be played Saturday afternoon at Harvard Stadium. Catch the Lizards vs. Outlaws live on ESPN2 at 1:00 PM ET. #2 Chesapeake Bayhawks vs. #3 Boston Cannons to follow at 3 PM.
Look for Long Island to play with a vengeance as the talented club tries to capture its third Steinfeld Cup.