The Ohio Machine completed their first weekend of camp on Sunday as they begin their quest for a second straight run toward the Major League Lacrosse playoffs. Vice President and head coach Bear Davis knows that building on that recipe for success requires a certain amount of dedication. And it all starts now.
“Last year the whole goal coming into camp was to be the last team standing and we weren’t. So, you got to find areas on how to change that and it all starts with the first day,” Davis said.
In 2014, they made it into postseason play for the first time in team history but lost to the Rochester Rattlers in the semifinals. And Davis knows to expand on that winning attitude the guys need to remain focused all year-round.
“It was nice we made the playoffs but 2015 started the day we walked off the field at Rochester last year. The prep going into it for the guys was all off-season. Each guy has to do a self-evaluation.”
But doing that can be tough when the team isn’t around each other as often as they’d like to be, he said.
According to Noah Sharfman, Director of Public Relations and Operations, the team only practices twice a week, once on the day before a game and a short practice on the day of the game itself.
Even with those limitations, Davis is confident that won’t affect how the team plays.
“That’s the fun part about training camp, is re-implementing the basics and starting from scratch. You got to remember there was a big gap between when we left Rochester and now. It’s good to do a complete refresher and get the sticks hot.”
For the upcoming season one guy they’ll try to look to in heating up the field and the sticks will be former two-time honorable mention and once-awarded first team United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association All-American Brian Karalunas. The defenseman was the first big move the Machine made for this season, joining the team in early January.
“Yeah B.K. is huge, he’s a proven leader in this league,” said Davis.
Karalunas, or B.K. as his coaches and teammates have come to call him, is in his fifth year in the MLL, having spent the previous four with the New York Lizards. The past three seasons he was nominated as an All-Star. And Davis is looking for that kind of veteran leadership to help the defense grow as a unit.
“The addition of a three-time All-Star is crucial to advancing the level of play of our defense,” Davis said of Karalunas in a press release the day of the trade. “His ability to play both close defense and LSM (long stick midfielder) is perfect when building a 19-man roster and he will also add a new dynamic to our wing play on face-offs.”
Although new to the team, Karalunas said it should be a smooth transition.
“Every team has their differences and intricacies, new terminology and new defenses. But more or less my job is the same, to create havoc in the middle, get groundballs and that’s something that doesn’t change.”
The former standout from Villanova was traded from New York to the Boston Cannons then to the Machine, all in the same day. And for the New York native it was an interesting situation.
“I heard I got traded, which was a surprise to begin with. And when I thought I was going to play in Boston, I thought, ‘Boston, that’s the rival city’,” Karalunas said with a laugh.
But then a couple of hours later he got another call saying Ohio was interested in trading for him and when asked how he felt about it, he said he would love it.
“I already knew a bunch of guys on the team,” he said. “I loved the way this team played team-ball last year at the end so I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
And penciled in as one of the things he’ll look forward to at the start of the 2015 campaign? The first game of the season, of course. Against the New York Lizards.
“I’m looking forward to getting that first win of the season, against my old team,” he said, smiling. “I spent four years with those guys, so I love those guys. But you can bet that there’s going to be an extra bit of competitiveness for me wanting to go out there and win on the old home turf.”
The team has one more set of practices on March 28 and 29, as well as a scrimmage against the Midwest All-Stars starting at noon on Sunday at St. Charles Preparatory.