With an abundance of talent and a losing record, the Lizards are perhaps the most enigmatic team in Major League Lacrosse.
The Lizards (3-7), a team represented by five players in last week's MLL All-Star Game, are two games out of a playoff spot with four games left. Any hope for a run toward the playoffs, however unlikely one would be, would have to start with a win Saturday in a game starting at 4 p.m. against the Charlotte Hounds (4-6), the Lizards' final road game of the season. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.
For Lizards attackman Rob Pannell, the 2013 Tewaaraton Award winner (handed to the best collegiate player of the year), losing has been especially troubling.
"I'm definitely not used to losing and I hate losing," said the lacrosse star from Smithtown. "I don't think I've ever had a stretch where I've lost six games."
Pannell jokingly added he was even on the losing side of this past All-Star game. Though he leads the Lizards in scoring despite missing the first four games of the season, it's been somewhat of a deflating beginning to Pannell's MLL career as far as team success goes. He'll have a chance Saturday, however, to have a bit of vengeance against the team that spoiled his debut on May 31.
"Yeah, I remember it, and it wasn't fun losing," said Pannell, referring to the 14-12 loss against the Hounds earlier this season.
Much like their most recent game, a 16-7 loss to the Denver Outlaws, the Lizards enjoyed an early lead against the Hounds the last time they matched up, only to get shut out during the final quarter.
"We have to play a good game of lacrosse for 60 minutes," said Pannell, "and not just for five minutes or 15 minutes or for a quarter like it has been."
Lizards to play on ESPN2
The Lizards-Hounds game Saturday afternoon is one of three regular season games to be televised on ESPN2 this season, in addition to the MLL All-Star Game, semifinal playoff game and MLL Championship.
The Boston Cannons hosted the Hounds on July 6, which was aired on the network that will also show Denver play host to Chesapeake on July 27.
Pannell, who was a fixture on ESPN2 during the NCAA lacrosse playoffs, said the league could only benefit from increased exposure.
"Leading up to the game I'll be a little nervous but definitely not while we're playing," Pannell said. "It's great for the sport because people who are unfamiliar with lacrosse have a chance to check it out."