Over the last few weeks, Justin Guterding’s car has started to resemble a portable gym.
There’s a lacrosse net in the back. Balls roll around every time he drives to an open Long Island field for a workout. The former Garden City and Duke standout even bought equipment he can use at home to stay game ready.
And ready he is.
With last month’s announcement that the Premier Lacrosse League would be holding a Championship Series for all seven of its teams at Zions Bank Stadium, outside of Salt Lake City, Guterding called it “a really exciting time,” giving him and his fellow players the chance to shine a spotlight on the game they love.
The Series will run from July 25 through Aug. 9, beginning with a 14-game group play to determine seeding for the following week’s single-elimination tournament. Games will air on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold, as well as being streamed online.
“I think it’s going to be the best lacrosse anybody’s ever seen,” said Guterding, who racked up 43 points for the Chrome Lacrosse Club last season. “Guys have been figuring out a way to get ready for this thing.”
But while players are excited to get back on the field, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re also taking precautions to stay safe. The league’s health protocols include testing prior to arrival in Utah, as well as on-site testing and strict guidelines for facemasks, gloves and living arrangements.
“Guys are really impressed with the way the league’s handled it,” Guterding said. “They’ve been working tirelessly on these calls every day with doctors and all these people to make sure that it’s effective and make sure that this actually can happen.”
The league will be on site for about three weeks, with players participating in a training camp camp prior to the official start of games. There won’t be fans, but Sachem East grad Connor Farrell, who was also a two-sport athlete at LIU Post, said he’s “beyond excited to be able to get out on the field and play.”
“Being in the bubble is actually going to be pretty cool because we’re going to be 24-7 lacrosse,” added Farrell, a faceoff specialist for the Chrome. “I’m going to be cautious of what I’m doing while I’m there, but once it’s game time I’m ready to go.”
St. Anthony’s grad Tom Schreiber, a midfielder for the Archers LC who also works for the PLL as a general analyst, serving as a liaison between the league and players, called the last few weeks “rewarding,” watching the return come to fruition.
“From somebody on the league side, I’m happy we’ve reached something we can do safely and as a player, I’m super excited to go play lacrosse and compete with my team,” Schreiber said.
Now, players are ready to prove all their work has paid off, anxious to play and, they hope, bring the sport to a wider audience than ever.
Said Schreiber: “The opportunity to go somewhere and basically go to lacrosse camp for three weeks and compete at a really high level with having more TV coverage than we’ve ever had . . . given the circumstances, I don’t think you could ask for much more.”