Blogs | 2/7/2012 3:30:27 PM | John Gurtler
“It just goes to show you how hard it is to win in this league,” Bandits associate general manager and assistant coach Derek Graham said after the team lost consecutive games two weekends ago.
Buffalo’s 11-10 overtime loss to the Washington Stealth on Saturday night was another perfect example of the above statement by Graham. This is turning out to be the most competitive season in the 26-year history of NLL. Like the phrase from the early days of the National Football League, any team in the loop can pull out a victory “on any given Sunday.”
By halftime on Saturday night against the Stealth, you could feel another see-saw battle – take a lead, give a lead. I told my broadcast partner, Randy Mearns, that the last goal wins this one. Despite taking advantage of the little things, such as collecting loose balls, (a 95-76 differential in favor of the Bandits), battling back from a three-goal deficit with a three-goal third quarter run, and outscoring Washington in the second half 5-3, Rhys Duch found a lane in overtime and capped an eight-point night with the game-winner.
It was an exciting game on Saturday night and you, the fans, brought the decibel level back to the barn enough to knock a little hay from the loft. At the end of regulation and into the overtime faceoff, it was deafening.
But, back to reality. With all this talent on the Bandits roster comes a complex approach of game plans and systems. Every player has a job to do, creating synchronicity from one end of the floor to another. If one part of the system stretches or fails, it can unravel pretty fast, leaving the opposition to capitalize on a takeaway or goal. But this is what practice is for, honing the rudiments of the system, creating timing and refining rhythm. When every player buys into the system, this game can be a thing of beauty.
You have the most talented players of indoor and field lacrosse teaming up on a roster, many who have an uncanny gift of the game. And to play this game, you’ve got to be a team player.
From the top of the Bandits roster to the bottom, this year’s edition is loaded with great character. In some job interviews, the recruiter will ask the prospect “if you were put into battle in a field of foxholes, what type of soldier would you want with you?”
To a man, I would pick any member of the Bandits roster because of their character. Granted, I have not played a second of lacrosse, but I’ve been around enough teams to know – and this group has it.
Sure it’s frustrating to watch the Bandits lose three straight – the players and coaches are twice as frustrated. But, just look at the roster and realize this team has a lot of leadership and that they will pull through. Better to go through this now than hit the guard rail at the end of the season.
Veteran defenseman Scott Self put it succinctly.
“We’re pros, so we’re used to a little adversity,” said the 12-year pro. “We just need to get back to playing lacrosse, and our style of lacrosse – I think that always been our identity. We dictate what goes on, and we kind of got away from that, waiting for teams to take things to us, so we’re going to get back to playing our kind of lacrosse.”
A rare Sunday afternoon game this week finds the Bandits right back in the face of the Philadelphia Wings, this time at Wells Fargo Center. This will be a great matchup for these two teams, as they are both coming off losses. For the Bandits, it’s about character and how they can control the flow of the game. They definitely have the gifted talent and experience to succeed. They will.
The New York Football Giants finished the regular season 9-7 – and they found a way to win the Super Bowl. On any given Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, it goes to show you how tough it is to win.
Sunday’s radio pregame show from Philadelphia will start at 3:30 p.m. on WWKB 1520 AM and the NLL Network. Gametime is set for 4 p.m.