On a day when fireworks are celebrated nationwide, the Ohio Machine were hoping to ride last week’s explosive win on the road against the Rochester Rattlers to another victory at home today July 4, but alas it wasn’t to be.
Despite getting a hat trick from Marcus Holman and a career-best double hat trick from rookie attackman Jimmy Bitter, the Machine failed to close out a five-goal lead after the first half and allowed the Rattlers to win this season’s rubber match in Selby Stadium, 16-15.
The loss puts the two teams tied for third in Major League Lacrosse at 6-5.
Last weekend Ohio managed to stave off a second half rally from Rochester after leading 11-5 at the end of the first half to maintain the lead and win 17-12.
This weekend was another story as the Machine allowed the Rattlers to go on a 7-3 third quarter run, watching them score the first three and last three goals of the quarter.
From there, Rochester outscored Ohio 6-4 in the fourth quarter giving them the victory.
Head coach Bear Davis said the second half efforts are something the team needs to address.
“Our third quarters really haven’t been all that great and scoring in the second half hasn’t been a strong point for us this year,” he said.
Machine goalie Brian Phipps agreed, saying it was a frustrating tale of two halves.
“The first half, we were playing the best we’ve played in a while,” he said. “And then the second half we kind of got lethargic and took our foot off the gas.”
The Machine’s lead was 8-3 after the first stanza, being led by a great first half performance from Bitter. The former North Carolina standout closed out the half with a hat trick, followed by Holman’s two-goal second quarter effort as the two traded off four straight goals to end the quarter.
But the hero of the game was Rochester’s Mark Matthews who, playing in only his second game of the year, sparked a dramatic second half comeback when he dropped in his second goal of the match a mere 29 seconds in.
A minute later the attackman got himself a hat trick, pulling the Rattlers to within three, 8-5.
Matthews finished the day leading all Rattlers with five points on four goals and one assist.
Three minutes later they struck again, this time it was midfielder Jack Near finding the net for his second goal to put the Rattlers to within two.
Ohio stretched their lead back to four, scoring the next three out of four goals thanks to two more from Bitter and one from midfielder Greg Puskuldjian who netted the first of his professional career.
Three straight goals from Rochester, though, pulled them to within one to end the third quarter, 11-10.
The Rattlers started off the final quarter strong with midfielder Jordan MacIntosh tying it up at 11’s.
After Holman’s third and final goal of the game put Ohio up 12-11, Rochester ripped off four straight to take a 15-12 lead.
But just when the home crowd thought the game was over and starting emptying the stands early, the Machine, trailing by three goals with only 26 seconds left to go, gave them a glimmer of hope when midfielder Tom Schreiber zipped in the game’s only two-point score.
But after face-off specialist Mike Poppleton won his last face-off of the day, the Rattlers played keep-away for the final seconds to secure the win.
Poppleton finished 25-33 on face-offs and led all players with eight groundballs.
Last weekend, Phipps had his best game of the season, snagging 22 saves on 34 shots-on-goal, both of which were season highs.
This weekend, he faced as many SOG’s as he did last week, managing to snare 18 saves, the third best of the season for him.
Some positives to take away from the game were the play of the rookie Bitter and the tri-captain Holman as well as shutting down Rochester’s Jordan Wolf.
Wolf came into today’s game tied for second in MLL in points (49) and goals scored (30).
The Machine defense was able to hold the Rattlers’ attackman to one goal on five shots and no assists for his lone point.
Holman had a second straight game with a hat trick, his fifth overall of the season and thanks to the Machine D, the attackman currently sits second overall in goals scored in MLL with 32.
Bitter, playing in just his fourth professional game, posted the best of his career, netting six goals on seven shots, all six of his points coming off of those goals.
For Bitter, the loss was bittersweet, though, after posting the best game of his professional career.
“Obviously being up 8-3 at the half and then losing is something you never want,” he said. “We lost a little energy in the third and fourth quarter and we can’t let that happen. But we have a great group of guys so I think we just need to rest up and get ready for next week.”
The Machine will stay home for next week’s game in a first-of-the-season matchup against the Boston Cannons on Saturday, July 11 at 6 p.m.
The Cannons currently hold a ½ game lead over the Machine and could be a full game ahead depending on the outcome of their game against the 5-5 Denver Outlaws.