David Earl's start as the Lizards' top midfielder on Saturday didn't help end the team's four-game losing skid, yet the third-year pro from the University of Notre Dame scored three goals and had an assist.
Though it's an unfamiliar role for Earl, who had just 11 points in nine games prior to the 13-12 loss at home against the Rattlers, Lizards coach Joe Spallina has exuded nothing but confidence.
"When we got him, we felt he could be a number one midfielder in the league and I don't think he was ever really given that opportunity before," Spallina said.
The chance may not have come for Earl had all-star midfielder Max Seibald not been placed on the injured-reserve list earlier this month. Seibald, who played in six games after recovering from a broken foot, will be out for the remainder of the season because of a hamstring injury. Seibald's absence, coupled with the team's 3-9 record, led to Spallina juggling the team's starting lineup and inserting Earl as his number one midfielder.
Earl, 25, was acquired by the Lizards during the offseason for the fifth overall pick of this year's collegiate draft. He was a Major League Lacrosse All-Star for the Hamilton Nationals in 2012 and played in the league championship game during his rookie season.
The Lizards have yet to see Earl perform at a high level on a consistent basis, but Spallina believes he has all the physical tools necessary to excel. Getting acclimated in a new role with relatively new teammates is the present obstacle.
"It's almost a lack of belief that he can do it," Spallina added. "He defers to some guys and Saturday he took a little more initiative. It's all going to come down to him getting more comfortable in that role."
Earl, who lives in Stamford, Conn., said he's beginning to feel right at home.
"All of the guys have been great with accepting me and working me into the system," Earl said. "So far it's been fun, yet it's also been disappointing, obviously, with the wins and losses. But we have a talented team for the future."
And Earl is expected to be an essential part of it.
"We're going to use him as our number one midfielder for the remainder of the season," Spallina said. "We feel his upside is tremendous. His speed is electric. We're going to use him as a building block going forward."