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Lizards confident as playoff push revs up

Max Seibald of the Lizards takes a shot

Max Seibald of the Lizards takes a shot against Matt Abbott of the Chesapeake Bayhawks during the first half of their Major League Lacrosse game at Icahn Stadium. (June 6, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Just past the midway point of the Major League Lacrosse season, the Lizards are at a crossroads.

The squad is 4-4 and in a three-way tie for third place in the eight-team league with six games left.

"We're in an OK spot," said Hewlett native Max Seibald, one of the team captains who is in his third year with the team. "There's definitely room for improvement but we have a great group of guys and we'll continue to build off of each game."

In seeking one of the league's four playoff spots, the Lizards already have had their share of close games, with six of their first eight decided by three goals or fewer. They are fifth in the league with a minus-4 goal differential.

The Lizards' playoff push will be centered on their defense, which has allowed the third-fewest goals in the league.

"Our defense has done a great job the entire season," Seibald said. Defenders Kyle Hartzell, Brian Karalunas and goalie Drew Adams will play for the United States in July's world championship and defensive midfielder Steven DeNapoli was named to the MLL All-Star team that played Team USA on Thursday.

Hartzell is fifth among MLL defenders in ground balls with 29 and Karalunas has 23.

On the offensive end, Rob Pannell is once again leading the way, and his team-leading 21 goals and 10 assists give him the fourth-most points in the league. The 2013 MLL Rookie of the Year has had three six-point games this season, including the last two.

Seibald is second on the team to Pannell in goals and assists and the two players will join attack Ned Crotty and midfielders JoJo Marasco and Greg Gurenlian to round out the Lizards' contingent on Team USA.

Gurenlian has been another catalyst, playing an instrumental role in the Lizards league-leading 59 percent success rate on faceoffs. Gurenlian's personal faceoff rate of 59.4 percent (126-for-212) is second in the league and he is also second in the league with 60 ground balls.

The Lizards bolstered their attack this week with the acquisition of midfielder Michael Kimmel from the Chesapeake Bayhawks. Kimmel, who was drafted by Chesapeake in 2010, has totaled 61 points the past three years and will make his Lizards debut Saturday at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium against Ohio.

Kimmel has a career shot-on-goal percentage of 68, which should help the Lizards, who are second-to-last in the league in that category.

Heading into the back end of the schedule, the Lizards will have the benefit of playing four of their remaining six games at home, where they are 3-0 this season. The Lizards will play three games at Shuart Stadium and one at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium.

"We're a tough team at home. That's a strength of ours," Seibald said.

Going forward, Seibald said the keys for success will be "staying healthy" and "keeping momentum going."

If the Lizards can do those things and finish the season strongly, Seibald and his teammates will find themselves in a better than "OK spot."

New York Sports