With just one game remaining on the regular season schedule, it’s win and in for the Ohio Machine.
The Machine sits in sole possession of fourth place in the Major League Lacrosse standings as it looks to beat the Florida Launch Saturday, Aug. 9, at Selby Stadium on Fan Appreciation Night. Face-off will be at 7 p.m.
While there is still a bit of work to be done to clinch that playoff berth, Machine Head Coach Bear Davis said his team has already had a postseason mindset for a few weeks.
“For us, we’ve been in the playoffs for the past two, three weeks in our mind,” Davis said. “I mean we just really don’t have much choice.”
Ohio has a club-best four-game winning streak, along with a playoff berth, in the balance against the Launch. According to Davis, this game will be about making sure to just come out at the Machine’s best after falling in Florida earlier this year.
“We just have to make sure that, this time around, we’re a little bit more prepared and ready,” he said. “I’m sure that they’re a different team as well going into this game.”
The Machine faced the Launch in week three of the MLL season. That week-three loss came on the road, but this time around the Machine gets its chance in front of the Selby Stadium crowd. Ohio has won its last four home games, and Davis said his team, and the fans, will be ready for the Launch to pay a visit to Delaware, Ohio.
“We’re at home; I think our home fans are excited,” he said. “They’re ready to see their team get after it.”
Heading into the game, the Machine boasts the best scoring offense in the league, as well as two players tied for the individual league lead in goals scored in Peter Baum and Marcus Holman. The Launch roster features the league’s total points leader in Casey Powell, as well as MLL’s top scoring rookie in Kieran McArdle.
In 2014 the Machine has set it’s team scoring record three different times, and it currently stands at 23. The club has won four straight games by two goals or less, while two of those went to overtime.
With the prospect of another high scoring, tightly-fought affair potentially on the books, Davis said his team’s experience in such matchups will be key.
“I think that advantage is huge as far as guys’ experience,” he said. “Every play is just magnified in those games.”
The Machine roster features a plethora of young talent, who some might expect to fold under the pressure of a playoff push. That has not been the case for Ohio as it closes out the season playing the best lacrosse in club history.
Mixed in with the young guns are a handful of experienced veterans like defenseman Greg Bice, goalie Brian Phipps and attackman Steele Stanwick. While each of that trio do their part, Davis said midfielder Kyle Harrison might be the most important key to keeping his team together.
“He kind of protects the panic button,” Davis said of Harrison. “He stands by it and doesn’t let anyone push it.”
Davis said Harrison always makes sure the entire team is on the same page, and can be looked to for confidence form each player around him.
“He just looks the guys in the eyes and says, ‘we’re fine,’ and they all buy in,” Davis said.
While a win is the only thing on the minds of the Machine and its faithful following, a loss does not necessarily spell the end of the line. Regardless of the outcome of the Machine’s matchup with the Launch, a Boston Cannons loss to the Rochester Rattlers would still ensure a playoff spot for Ohio.
The first round of the 2014 MLL Playoffs is scheduled to take place on Saturday, August 16. The two semifinal games are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Locations will be decided based on final league standings after the conclusion of the regular season. The MLL Championship Game is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 23 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga.