By Natalie Johnson | 8/7/14 10:45 AM
Some of the most important plays in the MLL never show up on a stat sheet, yet can influence an entire game. Defensive players usually don’t have the eye-popping statistics like those of their offensive counterparts, but no team can be successful without a shutdown defense. Before the annual league awards are handed out next week, here’s a breakdown of who might be in the running for the 2014 Warrior Defensive Player of the Year award.
Tucker Durkin— Florida Launch
In just his second season, Durkin has become one of the toughest defenders in the MLL, proving to be a centerpiece for the new team’s defensive unit. When matched up against potent scorers, he consistently plays at an exceptional level, rarely allowing opposing offenses to do much damage. Like many other MLL defensemen, Durkin represented his country at the FIL World Lacrosse Championships, helping Team USA make it all the way to the gold medal game. After the Championships, Durkin was one of ten players named to the All-World team, and even more impressively, he was chosen as the Outstanding Defenseman among all players in the tournament.
Mike Manley— Rochester Rattlers
The Rochester Rattlers have the best defense in the league, having allowed only 153 goals all season, and Manley is a huge part of that. He is one of only two players to be named Warrior Defensive Player of the Week twice this season; he was given the honor in Week 2, and again in Week 5. He also appeared in his second consecutive All-Star Game, and helped hold Team USA to just 10 goals. This season, Manley’s success has been multifaceted— not only has he smothered opponents all year, but he has also netted a career-high six goals, including two 2-pointers. Manley was fifth in last year’s voting for this award, but this season could see him finishing much higher.
Brodie Merrill— Boston Cannons
If anyone knows what it takes to win this award, it’s Merrill. The veteran defenseman has won the annual honor six times, taking it every year between 2006 and 2011. Although he joined a new team this year, Merrill didn’t miss a beat with the Cannons. His 58 ground balls this year are second on the team, and further supplemented his position as the league’s all-time leading ground ball collector. He made his ninth All-Star Game appearance this year, tying the all-time record for most selections. Merrill also won gold with Team Canada in the FIL World Lacrosse Championships this summer, and was named to the All-World team at the conclusion of the tournament.
Lee Zink— Denver Outlaws
Obviously, it would be remiss to overlook the player who won the award in question in 2012 and 2013. Zink has been one of MLL’s best defenders for several years, something that is made evident by the impressive list of accolades he has accumulated since joining the league in 2004. This season, Zink has led a Denver Outlaws defense that allows just 12.62 goals per game, which is a major reason the team will be making their ninth consecutive playoff appearance in just a few weeks. For his individual efforts, Zink was named Warrior Defensive Player of the Week in Week 7 following his impressive performance in Denver’s 15-11 win over New York.