PHOTO BY JOE MAIORANA/PRETTY INSTANT

Ohio Machine attackman Marcus Holman (1) and midfielders Peter Baum (15) and Tom Schreiber (26) all finished in the top 10 in MLL for points and assists.

The Unselfish Ethos Behind Ohio's Well-Oiled Machine


On April 29, In the second game of the season, the Ohio Machine took on their 2012 expansion counterpart, the Charlotte Hounds.

Charlotte jumped out to a 3-0 lead in just four minutes, and while Ohio would claw back to keep the game close, the Hounds held an 8-7 edge going into halftime at Memorial Stadium.

At the break, Machine coach Bear Davis pinpointed what was holding the team back: selfish play.

“Our first half was not good,” Davis said about the Charlotte game. “We had a lot of individuals making individual-type plays. At halftime, that was the major discussion. We said it does not resemble who we are.”

Ohio outscored Charlotte 8-4 in the second half and won the game 15-12. Of the Machine’s eight second-half goals, seven were assisted, compared to only three of their seven first-half goals coming off assists.

The message to the team was clear: Unselfishness was the key to its success. It proved to be a big reason why Ohio will return to the MLL championship game Saturday in Frisco, Texas, taking on the defending champion Denver Outlaws in a rematch of their epic 2016 final.

“We talk about the culture of being unselfish,” Davis said. “Every locker room talks about it, but I don’t know if every locker room demands it. Our captains demand it. If it’s not happening, it’s addressed immediately.”


“We talk about the culture of being unselfish. Every locker room talks about it, but I don’t know if every locker room demands it.” — Ohio Machine coach Bear Davis


The Machine finished the regular season with the second-most goals in the league (194) and, according to Moneyball Lacrosse, also finished first in assisted goals (122). Four Machine players finished among the top 10 scorers in MLL, including midfielder Peter Baum, who tied for the league lead with 52 points. Five players also finished in the top 20 in assists, including Tom Schreiber, who tied for the league lead with 26.

Captain Marcus Holman credited his teammates’ lack of egos for helping to create one of the league’s top offenses.

“We love the games where we can score 18, 19, 20 goals and six or seven guys have four or five points,” he said. “Our best games are like that. Our semifinal game (an 18-13 win over the Florida Launch), that’s how the stat sheet wound up. It’s more fun playing a brand of team lacrosse. If I’m the defensive coordinator trying to defend us, I’m not sure who I’d key on. It’s that balance, and we’ve found it.”

“There’s no limit to how many points you can score. There’s no reason we can’t win a game and have four or five guys light up the scoreboard with points and assists,” Baum added. “We love playing together. There’s not an ego thing. It’s not about getting credit. It’s about playing your best. We perform well as a team. We’re happy to get hockey assists. It’s an unselfish group with a lot of motivation. Guys push themselves every week.”

Baum emerged as an MVP candidate in 2017, and he said it was his goal coming into the season to improve his passing.

“You set out every season trying to build on every season in the past,” he said. “A huge point of emphasis was to get my assist numbers up and share the ball better. I had six assists [in 2016], which is not great for a guy on the field a lot. This year, I finished in the top 10 in the league, and I’m proud of it. I’ve got teammates that can shoot the heck out of the ball. Being able to find them is a part of our success.”

While the players you would expect to have statistical success — Holman, Schreiber and Baum – did so, lesser-known players also made an impact.

With 2012 second overall pick Steele Stanwick deciding not to play this summer, the Machine needed someone to step in at the X attack spot behind the cage. Ohio drafted Kevin Cunningham in the first round of the supplemental draft. In five games, the journeyman scored 10 goals and added two assists. His 12 points were still enough for seventh on the team by the end of the season.

The Machine had traded for John Grant Jr. at the end of the 2016 season and were expecting him to suit up in 2017, but Grant decided to retire from both MLL and the National Lacrosse League after sustaining a severe concussion with the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth in January. Ohio needed a lefty attackman, and Mark Cockerton — who played the position prior to the arrival of Grant — had a career year. Cockerton set career highs in goals (35), assists (12), points (47) and ground balls (23).

“We said from day one,” Davis said, “we would make it to the championship with our 19, but [players] 20 through 25 were going to have a huge impact on us getting where we need to be.”








Another example of the unselfishness of the Ohio players was the lack of conflict that came from changes in the lineup and playing time.

Cunningham played his role when given an opportunity, but the team was able to trade up in the collegiate draft and acquire Connor Cannizzaro (Denver), who in seven regular season games scored 19 goals and added seven assists.

Goalie Scott Rodgers was an all-star in 2016, but after starting the first four games of the season, he gave way to Kyle Bernlohr. The second-year pro out of Maryland stopped 21 shots in a 19-7 victory that jumpstarted a league-best five game winning streak. Rodgers and Bernlohr finished first and third in the league in goals against average. Bernlohr was selected to the MLL All-Star Game and was named a finalist for Goalie of the Year.

“That goes back to what the guys have built with their relationships,” Davis said. “It’s a trusting relationship and atmosphere where they understand, a lot of the time, opportunities come from the work of others or the matchups.”

“Scotty has been the backup,” Davis added. “He split time with [current Chesapeake Bayhawks goalie Brian] Phipps. He was a good teammate and supported Scotty when he was on the bench, and Scotty supported him. Scotty wants to spend time with Kyle and [explain] why it’s worked for us when we support one another. Our third goalie, Will Haas, is here all the time. [Assistant coach] Daryl Delia works with all three of them, and they have a great relationship. They talk to each other. We approach it as a pitching rotation. They have different skill sets and talk about the different batters. They’re a unit, and they want each other to be successful.”




PHOTO BY JOE MAIORANA/PRETTY INSTANT

Scott Rodgers, an all-star goalie in 2016, gave way to Kyle Bernlohr after four games, embracing his role as the veteran of a Machine goalie group that coach Bear Davis likens to a pitching rotation.


With such a deep and talented roster, playing time is at a premium. Practice has become the proving ground for players to show why they deserve to be on the field come game day.

“We have to reign it in sometimes,” Holman said. “We forget we have a game the next night. It works both ways. That defensive style forces our offense to move our feet, not get lazy with our passes and share the ball. Defensively, they have to be tight off-ball, and if you’re not ready to slide with Peter Baum on the dodge, he’ll torch you on the run. Practice is fun.”

A core of the roster (Holman, Baum, Rodgers, Schreiber and Kyle Harrison) has been together for four years. In that time, the Machine have achieved a new milestone every season: making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 2014, winning the most games in franchise history in 2015, and earning a trip to the championship game for the first time in 2016.

The next step for is winning the championship, and Baum believes Ohio deserves to hoist the Steinfeld Trophy.

“It’s been a really positive season,” he said, “and very fitting we’re heading back to the championship game, because we really worked for it this year.”