By Paul Ryan | 4/14/14 10:00 AM
Over the next two weeks, MajorLeagueLacrosse.com will preview all eight teams in the league, going from worst to best finish from last season.
2013 Record: 2-12
Key Losses: Kyle Hartzell, Diogo Godoi
Key Additions: Kyle Harrison, Peter Baum, Brian Farrell, Matt Dolente
2013 in Review:
It was another difficult year for the Ohio Machine, as the team finished with their second straight two-win year in their second year of existence. However, the Machine vastly improved over the course of the year and played much tighter after the hiring of new head coach Bear Davis. Both Logan Schuss and Steele Stanwick finished with 30+ points as the team won games in Weeks 7 and 13.
Things are looking up for the Machine, as the young team gains another year of experience and adds a solid core of veterans. The return of Kyle Harrison to the MLL is huge for the team, as he not only brings elite leadership, but also a high-end talent level to Ohio. The Machine seriously lacked in the midfield last year, but Harrison will change all of that in 2014.
Another key midfielder the Machine could be adding is No. 1 overall draft selection Tom Schreiber. Schreiber is mature beyond his years and could certainly play at the Major League level as seen by his performance at Princeton this season. If Schreiber chooses to join, he would just add to a young core that includes Schuss, Stanwick, Holman and now Baum. That’s a formidable front line.
The team also addressed a key problem from last season – faceoffs. Top FOGO Eric O’Brien won just 129 of 311 faceoffs, which translated to a league-low .415 winning percentage. So during the offseason, the Machine traded Kyle Hartzell to the Lizards for FOGO Matt Dolente, along with Kevin Cooper and the 13th pick in the collegiate draft (Rob Guida). Dolente will certainly help, as his career winning percentage of .514 would be a huge improvement on last year.
However, the Machine still are lacking in several places. Yes, they did add a stud defenseman in Brian Farrell, but the team could use another long pole along with some help in goal. Machine netminder Brian Phipps posted a .524 save percentage and 12.35 goals against, which are below the league averages. Phipps goals against has gone down every year he’s been in the league, so it’s possible he can still be the answer in net.
This team is much, much better than a year ago. A full season of Schuss and Holman, coupled with the additions of Baum, Harrison and possibly Schreiber can only lead to Ohio at least doubling their number of wins from last year. The team is moving in the right direction, but still seem to be a year away. In 2015, look out.
What the Experts Say:
Laxworm – Mike Sportini: The Ohio Machine has quietly amassed a team that should be far better than the 2-12 showing of last year. If one team benefited from the MLL/LXM parntership it was the Machine – a number one draft choice, 2 Tewaaraton Award winners, and experienced leadership in Harrison and Baum added to a guy named Schuss next to a guy named Stanwick and one of the top midfielders to ever play in college Tom Schreiber look out! The only concerns Coach Davis should have is at the X and defensively. With Kyle Hartzell now in NY there will be a void both defensively and in the transition game. All in all don’t overlook this group!!
LaxDirt.com – Tim Thomas: This team is the enigma to me. Last season I loved the roster that Ohio had put together and was very high on them heading into opening day. At the end of the season they were getting better each and every game and playing some great lacrosse. This season, I am even more bullish on the Machine roster. I think the LXM additions of Baum, Krum and Harrison will be a boost for this team on offense and defenders like Ryan Nizolek and Brian Farrell will make a world of difference on the back end. This is a team that can make that jump and be in the mix for the playoffs if they can get some semblance of play from the face-off X and get close to a 50-50 draw they should be much improved.
Check back tomorrow as we preview the New York Lizards.