The Ohio Machine control their own playoff destiny at the midpoint of the season.
Yes, you heard me right!
A huge turnaround from last years’ two-win season, the Machine have been riding on newfound momentum, overall balance, and young energy to establish a solid base and building ground with the midpoint of the season quickly passing. The club sits in a cluster of four (out of eight total) MLL clubs with a 3-4 record (Boston, New York, Charlotte) with fourth place, the last playoff spot, up for control. Luckily, the surging Machine will get a chance to start their potential journey into playoff position this week with a win at Boston in one of two essential tiebreakers. New York hosts Charlotte in what is, as well, a pivotal matchup for the Machine’s path to the playoffs. In the occurrence that New York defeats Charlotte this week and Ohio beats Boston, Ohio must defeat the Lizards of New York in next week’s matchup to keep control of its playoff position. Though, if Charlotte beats New York this week and Ohio defeats Boston, then the Machine will hold 4th place outright and have a stronger grip on its playoff destiny heading into week 9, since Ohio beat Charlotte, which would be the only remaining team at 4-4, in week one of this season.
Confusing? Probably. Understand this, though — the Machine need to take it one game at a time.
In the occurrence that the Machine loses to Boston in this weeks’ matchup, the chances of the club being able to gain the coveted 4th place, playoff position will fall out of its control. Though not impossible, the team would need help in the form of other, leading clubs losing later in the season to make for a possibility of a Machine playoff birth. In the position the club is sitting in, they would be guaranteed to make the playoffs if they won the rest of their games this season. A nerve-racking aspect, the Machine has a hypothetical load on its shoulders to ensure a playoff position at the end of the year.
Luckily for Machine fans, head coach Bear Davis personally hates scoreboard watching. Starting with him and trickling down, the overall persona of the team is one of focus and continuous improvement. In his mindset, all the team needs to truly break out and subconsciously defeat the personally unseen monster task ahead of them is just a little bit more work. All of the Machine losses this season have come by two goals or less, including the 17-16 defeat against Boston earlier in the year, and the way Davis sees it, a positive, historical result this week and throughout the rest of the season isn’t a monumental feat to overcome by any means.
“They’ve got everything head to toe, so for us it’s just a matter of maybe taking a couple of matchups. We’re talking about a one-goal game and there’s not a whole lot that you’re going to have to change. It’s just maybe play a little harder, getting another ground ball. It’s those little details that you’ve got to find an area to get one more possession, get one more shot, one more goal.”
The Machine will have to deliver on that state of mind this Saturday, when the team will travel to play the Boston Cannons, a team that dissected Ohio’s defense two weeks ago. In a fire-powered, edge-of-your-seat affair, the Machine defense gave up 17 goals to Boston while only scoring 16 themselves. A team that has always had the Machine’s number, the Cannons showcase the third best scoring offense in the MLL, led, in part, by attackman Will Manny, who simply was dominant against the Machine in their last meeting, scoring four goals and contributing three assists. On the season, Manny is the third-best goal scorer on the team with twelve goals. He also ranks second on the team in assists and shots on goal with 11 and 31, respectively.
“I just felt like he did a great job of reading slides, getting into a dangerous space and finishing. He’s very dangerous like that, but sometimes the other five guys on the field just do an incredible job of setting up one guy, and I think that was the case in that game,” explained Machine Coach Bear Davis.
Though, the Machine have a little offensive firepower of their own. Scoring 92 goals on the season, leading the MLL, the Machine offense is firing on all cylinders. A well-rounded group, no one player leads the team in more than one (meaningful) area. Peter Baum leads the team with 19 goals, while Steele Stanwick has contributed a whopping 19 assists on the year. Marcus Hollman leads the club with a jaw-dropping .471 shooting percentage, scoring 16 goals on 34 total shots, while Eric O’Brien has a club-best 47% face-off conversion percentage (43-91).
Everyone has contributed well, but not just on the offensive side of the field. Defensively, the Machine has been no slouch, allowing 82 goals on the season, the fourth best in the MLL. The defense will have a big job on its hands in controlling an offensive that lit them up with 17 goals just two weeks ago. Even in the first half last week against Rochester, the defense seemed slow and out of place, and it showed when Rochester finished the half with 9 points on the scoreboard. In the second half, though, it changed. The defense went on a tear, and as Coach Davis constantly reiterates, they did the little things right. Protecting the middle of the field, staying between each players’ man and the goal on man-to-man looks, and just simply working with more passion, the defense will look to continue its momentum against Boston.
WHO TO WATCH FOR:
THE Ohio State University Alumni — Listen for the names Greg Bice, Eric O’Brien, and Logan Schuss in any recap or coverage of tomorrow’s matchup. Major impact players for the Machine, each player massively contributes to his respective area on the team. Bice is a captain of not only the team but the defense, leading the charge to the tune of only four goals scored in the second half of last week’s game against Rochester. Additionally, O’Brien dominates weekly in the face-off circle, and Logan Schuss is fourth on the team with 20 points on the season. Together, these players have the chance to make a substantial impact in Saturday’s game. What makes it better, though, is that these players not only have a personal stake in the team, but also a personal stake in the state of Ohio and the community represented by the Ohio Machine, as each of them played lacrosse and graduated from the Ohio State University. Look for that passion and personal stake to bleed through against Boston.
Paul Rabil — Look for the home crowd in Boston to propel Rabil to heights that weren’t seen against Ohio two weeks ago. Even though Rabil didn’t make an impact in the teams’ last matchup against Ohio, he is one of the faces of the Boston Cannons, and is due for a big game. He leads the Cannons with a standout 31 points on the season.
IN COACH’S WORDS
“We’re on this continuous search for balance, trying to make sure we’re complementing each other in every aspect, on offense, defense, special teams. I think last weekend, especially the second half, probably showed, or at least scratched, the most potential that we’ve had yet, as far as finding that balance.” –Machine Head Coach Bear Davis
The Machine play at Boston on Saturday, June 21st, at 8:00 p.m.. The game can be watched live on YouTube.com on the MLL Network channel.