Rob Pannell's response to recently being named an MLL All-Star was comparable to what he said last month when the Lizards' rookie attackman ended his college career by becoming the NCAA's all-time leading scorer in a loss.
The reactions to the achievements are similar because the Lizards have five losses after eight games despite the spectacular play of the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 draft.
"First on my priority list is winning games," Pannell said. "My focus is on bringing a championship to New York, and doing the best job I can in order to make that happen. Since I've been on the Lizards, we've lost quite a bit of games, and that's something that I don't want to happen much longer. I'm honored to be an All-Star, but I'm really thinking about the game against Rochester on Sunday."
Likewise, after Cornell lost to eventual national champion Duke in a NCAA Tournament semifinal a month ago, Pannell said he would have given up everything he accomplished individually if it meant Cornell would have had a chance to play for a title. Pannell had five goals and two assists to set the NCAA career scoring record at 354 points during his final game that day. He was also named the Tewaaraton Trophy winner as college's best player in 2013.
The Smithtown West graduate made his professional debut on May 31, and through four games he has totaled seven goals and nine assists. The only rookie All-Star is also the Lizards' second-leading scorer this season.
Yet the Lizards have won just once in Pannell's four games. That 1-3 record can be attributed to an influx of new players taking time getting comfortable with one another's style, coach Joe Spallina said.
"What's happening is that instead of playing our way out of it as a team, because of a lack of familiarity, we're trying to all dodge our way out of it or shoot our way of it," Spallina said.
Veteran midfielder Greg Gurenlian, who's also an all-star along with teammates Drew Adams and Brian Karalunas, said he has encouraged the rookie to take the next steps in becoming one of the best in the league by taking charge in leading the offense.
"He plays confident and plays strong," Gurenlian said, "but I'd like him to be more vocal. He's been going about things the right way and it's endearing to teammates but I'd like him to demand the ball more. I played against the best and I think Rob can be the best."
For Pannell to do that, he said he needs to improve his shooting. After 35 shots, Pannell's shot percentage is .200. Comparatively, Lizards attack Tommy Palasek has a .400 mark after taking the same amount of shots. Pannell said he'd be less concerned about his shooting percentage if the Lizards' winning percentage was better.
"There are expectations," Pannell said, "and I'm trying my best to exceed those."