During the condensed Major League Lacrosse schedule that was played entirely at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis last week, Calverton School and Towson University graduate John Mazza made his professional debut for the Philadelphia Barrage.
Last week as temperatures soared to nearly 100 degrees several days and heat indexes exceeded the triple-digit barrier repeatedly, Mazza got his first taste of playing professional lacrosse for the Barrage. Although the compact season did not go as planned for Philadelphia (2-3), Mazza got a genuine taste of what professional lacrosse is all about.
“The whole week was a blast,” said Mazza, who scored six goals and added three assists in five games for the Barrage. “It was the best week of my life. We had the chance to play each team in the league. The experience was great. I think it all started before the season when several of us stayed at an AirBnB.”
Mazza had earned high marks from Barrage head coach and general manager Spencer Ford when he drafted him in May.
“Mazza was awesome,” Ford said. “He was everything we thought he would be. He was a genuine triple threat — dodger, shooter, passer — who got better and better as the games went on. I am looking forward to seeing him compete and grow over the next few seasons.”
Mazza also admitted that he is already eager to see how well he and his teammates will perform next summer in a more normal setting where each team gets to host eight games and play under far more ideal climes.
“I’m already looking forward to next season,” said Mazza, who hones shooting skills at Calverton several days each week. “We only had a week or so together this season. Some of those days were so hot. I think our second game [against Denver] was probably the hottest game that I’ve ever played in.”
Philadelphia opened the season by facing the 2019 MLL champion Chesapeake Bayhawks and suffered a 16-11 setback. All the regular season and playoff games in the abbreviated MLL season were played at Navy and not amid ideal conditions. In addition to following COVID-19 protocol, the teams also battled excessive heat throughout the week.
“The players never strayed from their willingness to compete for one another,” Ford said. “We had no egos. They played as a team and took care of one another. We played games on four straight days, three straight at 4 p.m. in 120-degree plus weather. That, in itself, could push a man to quit. But my guys didn’t quit — in fact, they played harder and harder through injury.”
While Philadelphia did not earn a berth in the playoffs, two other teams that were slated to compete in the MLL semifinals last Saturday had their seasons terminated prematurely by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the defending champion Chesapeake Bayhawks and New York Lizards had their seasons cut short by a player positive test.
“The most important priority is the health and wellness of our players,” said MLL Commissioner Alexander (Sandy) Brown. “We have been prepared, thorough and measured in our response and have followed league protocol.”