By Rachel Villari | 4/17/14 10:50 AM
Over the next two weeks, MajorLeagueLacrosse.com will preview all eight teams in the league, moving from those with the worst to the best finishes last season.
2013 Record: 6-8, fifth place in the league
Key Losses: Ned Crotty (A/M), Matt Striebel (M)
Key Additions: Mark Matthews (A)
2013 in Review:
The Rochester Rattlers slowly improved defensively throughout the 2013 season, but not as much so offensively. Although they were led on attack by 10-year MLL veteran Kevin Leveille, most of the point-racking was executed by rookie midfielders Dave Lawson and John Ranagan, who were tied for second on the team with 18 goals a piece, and midfielders Matt Striebel and Ned Crotty, who have since been traded. Defense was upheld by stellar goaltender John Galloway as the backend finished the season fourth in the league with a 12.21 goals against average.
The Rattlers have high hopes for returning to the playoffs this year for the first time since their disbandment at the end of the 2008 season. They intend to do so with an already established defense, a now-seasoned midfield, and hopefully a shiny, new, reinforced offense, potentially complemented by a few top draft picks.
The silver lining for the Rattlers having a less than stellar season offensively was the growth in their defensive coverage and depth. As a unit, Rochester’s defense was ranked fourth in the League with a 12.21 goals against average, led by John Galloway in net with a personal save percentage of 0.525. Galloway was so integral to the success the Rattlers’ had that he won Warrior Defensive Player of the Week back-to-back in Weeks 5 and 6. Long Stick Midfielder Joel White also reached a hallmark of his own, leading the defensive team in collecting 63 ground balls. Hopefully, after another season of growth in skill, depth, and drive, the backend of the Rattlers will be hungrier than ever for the 2014 season and remain steadfast in their quest for the Steinfeld Trophy.
With a faceoff specialist like John Ortolani, who took all but two faceoffs last season and went 166-376 (44.2%) while collecting 61 ground balls, it’s clear that the Rattlers’ biggest offensive woes weren’t in possession, but rather capitalization. Now, it’s up to the attackmen to pull their weight with an already established, strong, defensive anchor. In 2013, the Rattlers failed to push their score into the double digits in six games, finishing sixth in the league in scoring with an average of 10.86 goals per game. Offense was led by an All-Star rookie squad featuring Lawson and Ranagan with 18 goals a piece who now hopefully, with a full season under each of their belts, will be able to perform more consistently.
In hopes of aging the offense and bringing some experience to the ranks, the team also acquired Mark Matthews (A), who will be entering his third season within the League. In his two previous seasons he has accrued a total of 30 goals and 15 assists in the 17 career games he has played. Matthews should help forge the bridge between last year’s hot-handed rookies and this year’s draftees, and more seasoned front men like Leveille.
Should the Rattlers’ first selection (No. 2 overall) from the 2014 MLL Collegiate Draft Jordan Wolf sign with the team, he may be able to help them fill some of the offensive holes the departures of Crotty and Striebel have created. With an impressive 85-point season last year with Duke (53 G, 28 A), Wolf would add a rabid scorer to the Rattlers’ attack, averaging 2.58 goals per game should he choose to join the orange and black.
Last season the Rattlers were only one win away from a playoff berth but this season, they find themselves depending an awful lot on the same offensive rookies that they did last year. It seems as if it is up to these frontrunners again this season to have grown in both skill and expertise to produce points for the team. The Rattlers must continue to depend on their seasoned backbone while hoping the likes of Lawson and Ranagan can repeat their high scoring seasons while at the same time helping newer draftees acclimate to the major leagues.
What the Experts Say:
Laxworm – Mike Sportini: Could be a long season for the Rattlers, I think they gave up too much on the off-season and were not able to match the talent lost. Leveille will have to take the offense on his shoulders this year losing Crotty and Striebel could be too much for this team to weather! A big question mark is Mark Matthews; if he can pick up the slack and work well with Leveille it could be a fairly potent duo. The defense is the Rattlers bright spot anchored by Goalie John Galloway, who I think is one of the most indurated goalies in the league. I would look to Coach Soudan and the Rattlers to use this year as a rebuilding year. I think they will have to over achieve to see the post season.
LaxDirt.com – Tim Thomas: This team is in the midst of a complete overhaul on offense. I think as a unit on defense with John Galloway, Mike Manley, Tom Montelli, Will Koshanksy, John Lade, Joel White and MJ Kiekebelt this may very well be the best in Major League Lacrosse. The offense is another animal. When you lose key players like Streibel and Crotty it leaves you with gaps in your offense, I don't know that this team has addressed those. At attack Mark Matthews is dynamic but he won't be with you until a month in to the season and hasn't meshed well in Denver or New York. At midfield if this team is going to win young guys like Rob Rotanz, John Ranagan and Dave Lawson need to take that next step in their evolution as MLL players quick and hit the ground running. I think for the third year in a row Rochester is my bubble team.
Check back next Monday as we preview the MLL's newest team, the Florida Launch.