A rookie scored the first three goals of his career. A budding star re-entered the game after being injured and scored twice. And an all-star goalie made 21 saves against what's perhaps the best team in Major League Lacrosse history.
Yet all of that added together still was not enough for the Lizards (3-10) to beat the impeccable Denver Outlaws on Sunday at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium. With one game remaining, Denver (13-0) increased its league record of consecutive wins to start a season with a 13-10 victory over the Lizards.
The score was tied at 9 after the third quarter, but the Outlaws connected on transition goals early in the fourth and never looked back, spoiling what was initially a very well rounded game for the Lizards.
"They're a real tough team to defend in transition for 60 minutes, but I thought we were there," Lizards coach Joe Spallina said. "But it's obviously not enough. There's no such thing as a moral victory in this league and this is just as bad as any other."
Spallina added that there were many positives to take away from the game, yet expressed disappointment nonetheless because despite all the good, the Lizards found a way to lose for the sixth consecutive time.
The Outlaws, a team that averaged 17 goals a game heading into Sunday, were kept relatively in check because of the play of Lizards goalie Drew Adams. Several of the goals scored by Denver came in transition, which was expected. The Outlaws lead the MLL in goals scored (218), and are first in point differential. Chris Bocklet, who leads the league in goals, had a game-high six points with three goals and three assists.
"They're undefeated for so many reasons," Spallina said.
Another reason has been the play at the faceoff "X" by Anthony Kelly. Yet to further add to Spallina's idea that it was a game his team should have won, all-star Greg Gurenlian won the faceoff battle for the Lizards, winning 16 of 27.
The Lizards played an outstanding first half, limiting turnovers and passing with the precision that has eluded them the past several weeks. The highlight came at the very end of the half when midfielder David Earl connected for a goal with six seconds left to tie the score at 6. Earl was previously forced to lay down on the sidelines after taking a hit right above his nose, which Spallina said will require stitches.
Earl, who has impressed since being named the top midfielder two weeks ago, had two goals on two shots. Because of the many injuries the Lizards have encountered, midfielder Jojo Morasco has recently found himself featured more than usual, as well.
Despite the loss, Morasco said he will always remember his first. He'll likely always recall his second and third, as well. The rookie from Syracuse University scored a hat trick, the first goals of his MLL career.
"I'm feeling like I'm back at my days at 'Cuse. I'm fitting in with the team and the coaches are giving me opportunities," said Morasco, who played in his seventh game. "For the past three games, coach has given me some opportunities to go to the cage, and I'm starting to get real comfortable with the league. I just feel comfortable out there now and got a few chances to shoot the ball and it went well."
Spallina said he was pleased with the effort many of his players gave, especially Morasco.
The positives, even added together, don't outweigh a win, however.
"I'm not an excuse guy, I'm a find a way guy," Spallina said. "We played good enough to win the game. Teams learn how to win, and I think right now we have to find out how to win again because the last three or four games we've been in position to win games but then it gets to a certain part of the game and we start to forget about things."