The Lizards’ social media motto heading into the nominal second half’s opening game was #AbortLaunch. But they couldn’t do enough defensively to keep the Florida Launch from soaring into orbit.
Entering the game with Major League Lacrosse’s worst record at 1-7, the Launch beat the Lizards, 20-19, on Thursday night in front of 5,022 fans at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
The Lizards (6-4) trailed 20-15 with just under five minutes left, but Paul Rabil passed to Rob Pannell for a goal with 2:34 remaining and then found Dave Lawson for an explosive two-point goal that brought the Lizards within two with 56 seconds left.
When Chris LaPierre scored 12 seconds later, the Lizards were brimming with confidence on the sideline. But the Launch won the next faceoff, called timeout and ran out the clock.
“This is a bad one,” Lizards coach Joe Spallina said. “This is one that’s going to hurt and sting for a while. We have to win games. We have to figure that out in a hurry. We have to find a lineup that works for us.”
Ronkonkoma’s Kieran McArdle was a difference-maker for Florida, tallying seven goals and three assists. He scored from in front of the net with 11:09 remaining in the third quarter and scored again nine seconds later after intercepting a pass from the Lizards’ Greg Gurenlian, who had won the faceoff, to give Florida its largest lead at 14-8.
McArdle, who played in the All-Star Game last Saturday, has 23 goals this season. “We’ve struggled as a team throughout the season so far,” he said. “This is a team game, so it reflects on everyone. We haven’t had our best season; neither have I. It just feels good to get out here and get a big win.”
Owen Blye had four goals and an assist and Lyle Thompson added four assists for the Launch.
Hopes were high for the Lizards’ final five contests after the All-Star Game. Entering Thursday night, they had been tied for the MLL’s best record with the Charlotte Hounds.
Gurenlian said Wednesday that he didn’t view it as a “trap game” despite the overwhelming difference in records. “In a league where there are only nine teams,’’ he said, “if you aren’t excited for every team, you probably shouldn’t be playing in this league.”