The Swarm; Another Team On The Rise?

Minnesota Swarm
Marty O'NeillIn our next chat on the fast approaching 2008 NLL season we speak with the General Manager of the Minnesota Swarm, Marty O’Neill.   Marty has been with the Minnesota organization since they joined the league in 2004.

Minnesota is another team looking to improve on what you could say was a “good” season in 2007. With a number of young, and returning players this could just be the season that the Swarm break out and become a top notch contender. In an area where lacrosse is really gaining momentum, Minnesota will certainly be a team to watch this season.

GM: Minnesota finished a respectable 9-7 in the East last season. What does the Swarm need to do to take the next step in 2008?

MO: Well Gary, I guess we need to continue on the path we have set for ourselves, and see if our youth can withstand the rigors of playing and competing in the East division. Other teams are getting older, especially in the marquee player category, we are very young.

Remarkably we lost 5 starters down the stretch last spring, entering the playoff game in Buffalo minus Mike Hominuck, Andrew Biers, Riley Kemp, Mark Miyashita and Brock Boyle. No one is safe from injuries.

Offensively Hominuck was a key for us last year once he arrived from Portland, he seemed to really get us on track.
We’ve added Craig Point and Andy Secore, which gives us a little more beef, but losing Scott Stewart’s big goals in important games will be of concern. Defensively Kemp will still be out for a year and Biers and Miyashita are question marks.

GM: Although not new to Coaching in the NLL, you have a new bench boss in Duane Jacobs. What do you feel Duane brings to the Minnesota Swarm organization?

MO: Dewey brings the experiences that encompass this league, playing in the MILL, NLL, OLA and WLA. He has seen the landscape of where we have come with the game and more importantly, where we want to go. Both of us share this background, and I believe it helps us understand what we are seeing in front of us.

What Dewey brings is the character to excel in his past as a player and an offensive mind to bring the best out of our developing offensive players. His background coaching in Buffalo has also lent itself to some defensive systems we implemented last year, which were well suited to our athletic back end.

GM: Minnesota recently signed a number of returning players. Who do you see as a possible breakout candidate at any spot on the floor?

MO: We’ve prided ourselves on being a team with no “superstar” and everyone plays a team game. Breakout players? We have a team full of developing players, and obvious go to guys like Ryan Ward, Ryan Cousins and Ryan Sharp.

Sean Pollock has been a model of consistency over three years with the Swarm, and Dean Hill put up big numbers last year in his first pro season.

The biggest difference is that goaltender Nick Patterson is firmly in the role of number one, and expected to do his magic and carry this team. Back to back 2nd All-Star selections over the last two seasons indicate he has broken out.

GM: You made some moves on draft day to acquire Craig Point. Speak if you can about Craig’s strengths as a lacrosse player.

MO: We went after Craig to open the floor up for our offense. He will create a need to be checked, and that will allow others to have more operating room in 08. Craig is good with or without the ball, and moves very well, so I’m looking forward to having him give our offense a new look, not to mention his power play ability with his bomb of a shot!

GM: For those not in the Minnesota area, how has the community support been for the team?

MO: Last season we closed with some strong attendance for our last two home games. The locals have really started to identify with the players and we are creating our own brand of fans. We have an entertaining young team, and they have captured the attention of a strong core of season ticket holders and we continue to grow in exposure and popularity. This is our fourth year, and it is looking very promising for setting a new standard for ourselves with attendance and in wins and losses.

GM: What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the team in 2008?

MO: Our biggest challenge is to stay strong in all 16 games, so to be consistent. We had too many up and down points in our season last year, which left us scratching our heads too often. You can put that down to youth, but I don’t see that as the problem. I feel with more regular practice which we missed all of last season, our guys should be better prepared throughout the year. We will have a few more rookies on the team this year, but our core players are the guys we will be looking to for the consistency and the results.

GM: I would be remiss if I did not ask about a player from my hometown, Marc Jackson. What did you see in Marc that caused you to draft him?

MO: Marc is from the Whitby Jr. A system, which prepares juniors well for the next level. I have drafted Scott Campbell and Nate Andres in the past as well, as the system they come from is a transition style that allows them to be well rounded as players and in their case, defensive, transition guys. Marc has good size, speed and skill, and is the type of player we lost through injury down the stretch last season, so we went after depth picking him!

GM: Marty, I thank you for the time and wish you and the team best of  luck in 2008.

MO: Thank You.

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