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Lizards' Paul Rabil faces former team in MLL semifinals

Paul Rabil #99 of the New York Lizards

Paul Rabil #99 of the New York Lizards handles the ball against Scott Ratliff #2 of the Boston Cannons at James M. Shuart Stadium on May 8, 2015 in Hempstead. Credit: Getty Images / Mike Stobe

Paul Rabil is looking forward to this weekend's MLL semifinal game.

In his first season with the Lizards, New York's star midfielder is set to take on the Boston Cannons, his former team. The Lizards hosts the Cannons at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.

"It's an exciting time," said Rabil, who spent seven seasons with the Cannons before being traded to the Lizards last offseason. "I'm more excited about taking this team back to the championship game."

New York (10-4), which dropped four of its last six games, including a 15-14 overtime loss to Denver in the regular-season finale, seeks its first championship since 2003.

Rabil said the Lizards will keep their gameplan simple as New York hosts its first home playoff game since 2010.

The Lizards beat the Cannons twice during the season and are 6-1 at Shuart Stadium. Another home win would send the Lizards to the the MLL championship game on Aug. 8 at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

"We've had great support all season," said Rabil, who is second on the Lizards to Rob Pannell (38 goals, 30 assists) with 29 goals and 20 assists. "It's very important to us to have home field advantage right now. It's one of the reasons you work hard during the regular season, so that you have this advantage."

The Cannons are led by Will Manny's 28 goals and 15 assists and David Emala's 33 goals and five assists. The key, Rabil said, is to slow down the Cannons' attack.

"They're a great organization with a great coaching staff," Rabil said of Boston. "Their biggest asset is their transition game. We've got to do a good job of slowing that down."

With defender Kyle Hartzell and midfielders Kevin Unterstein, Chris LaPierre and Steve DeNapoli on board, Rabil is confident the Lizards can get it done.

"Those guys do a really good job of going from defense to offense," Rabil said. "We're just looking to see how well we respond to adversity. It's about keeping your cool and staying the course. Winning a faceoff, getting a defensive stop and getting a quality shot on the offensive end."

Rabil, who won a championship with Boston in 2011, said this year's Lizards are poised to make a run.

"We set out to win one as a goal during the preseason," Rabil said. "We can do that."

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