By Ally Annear | 5/31/12 2:00 PM
Watch & Follow: CBS Sports Network, Live Blog, MLL Radio
The Big Picture: The Charlotte Hounds will host the Hamilton Nationals this Saturday at 7 PM for the first time in MLL history. The Hounds are coming off of a 1-3 start and a tough 10-9 loss to the Long Island Lizards in Week 4.The Nationals are 0-3 on the season after losing 20-7 to the Bayhawks in their home opener in Week 4.
Charlotte Hounds: The Hounds are at home again this week after the bye weekend and according to Head Coach Mike Cerino, the week off could not have come at a better time. “We were rushing from week to week while still trying to find our niche,” he says. “The bye week helped us get over the sting of not starting out the way we wanted.” Coach Cerino has plenty of confidence in his team’s talent and can only see them continue to improve week to week, especially with the addition of Duke midfielder Justin Turri.
“While our attack has a wonderful skill set in Matt Danowski, Jeremy Boltus, and Billy Bitter, they are coming from three different systems and getting them on the same page takes a little bit of time,” says Cerino. “With Justin in the line-up this weekend, he should give us some balance.” This is the first time the Hounds franchise will face the struggling Hamilton Nationals and Cerino says that the most important thing for the team to focus on for long-term success is chemistry. According to him, the players have been very hard working and passionate about continuing to improve; they’re best lacrosse is still ahead of them.
Players to Watch: Matt Danowski is second on the team in points and is always a force to be reckoned with on attack. Stephen Berger leads the team in points and Week 3 MLL Offensive Player of the Week Josh Amidon is third in his debut season. The Hounds hope to add their college draftees, notably Justin Turri from Duke and USILA First-Team All-American Kevin Randall from Notre Damewith the conclusion of the college season last weekend.
Hamilton Nationals: The Nationals are coming into Week 5 as the only winless team in the league and Head Coach Regy Thorpe is very aware of the challenge ahead of his team. "Playoffs certainly start early for us," he says. "We need to get a win against a very good Charlotte team and it is going to be a challenge." The Nationals are a team that struggle both defensively and offensively allowing 51 goals in their first three games and only scoring 22, putting them last in the league.
Coach Thorpe is excited to add some new players this weekend with the end of both the indoor and college seasons. His approach to this weekend's game is similar to that of Coach Cerino's in that building team chemistry is crucial to the challenge they face this weekend. "We are coming in expecting a dogfight," he says. The Nationals have a lot riding on this weekend to get out of the bottom of the standings and expect help from some of their more experience players. In the Nationals' Week 4 loss to the Bayhawks, Kevin Crowley had two goals and an assist and veteran Casey Powell had a goal and an assist. Brodie Merrill scooped eight ground balls in the loss that helped him reach 540 career ground balls and an MLL record.
Players to Watch: The Nationals hope to add USILA First-Team All-American Chad Wiedmaier from Princeton and USILA Second-Team All-American Jake Bernhardt from Maryland. Defenseman Brodie Merrill broke the MLL record for career ground balls with 540, previously held by Paul Cantabene with 538, in the Nationals Week 4 loss. Also in that loss, veteran attackman Casey Powell netted his 200th career goal in MLL.
Next Match-Up: The Hounds will travel to Annapolis to face the Bayhawks on Saturday, June 9th at 7 PM. The Nationals return home to face-off against the Rochester Rattlers on Saturday, June 9th at 7 PM.