By Steven Lienert
PHILADELPHIA—Following their first loss of the season at Connecticut on May 5th, the Philadelphia Spinners limped aboard the team bus for a long ride home.
It wasn’t just the outcome of the game that made the eight-hour trip seem like an eternity. Greg Owens and Leon Chou, two of the Spinners’ top defensive players, went down with significant injuries. While Chou returned to play against the Rhode Island Rampage the day before Mother’s Day, Owens was out for the game after undergoing surgery to put a pin in his fractured carpal navicular bone.
The Rampage, who like to attack with deep hucks, might have been licking their chops waiting for a rematch with the Spinners minus Owens. What they got instead was an introduction to Sean Murray.
Murray scored five goals but, perhaps more importantly, he led the Spinners with seven D’s as Philadelphia forced 18 of Rhode Island’s 33 turnovers en route to a 24-18 win at Northeast High School’s Charlie Martin Stadium last Saturday afternoon.
Matt Glazer added four goals and four assists and Jake Rainwater also scored four times while dishing out two assists to help Philadelphia improve to 4-1 heading into a bye week.
“Not having Greg (Owens), obviously that’s a big loss,” Spinners captain Nick Hirannet said. “But I’m glad we made the point that (if) we’re missing our best defensive player, some other guys have to step up and guys like Sean Murray stepped up big.”
In what has become a common theme, the Spinners came out of the gate a tad sluggish and Rhode Island capitalized by earning an early break to establish a 2-0 lead. Unfazed, Philadelphia answered with four consecutive goals to take a lead it never relinquished.
The Rampage temporarily interrupted the Spinners’ offensive onslaught with an unwind goal to pull within 4-3, but goal by David Baer, Glazer and Rainwater opened a 7-3 Philadelphia advantage.
Once again the Spinners started a little lethargic, but once they got rolling they were difficult to contain.
“I don’t know what it is, but for some reason we start out a little bit slow,” Hirannet said. “But it gets us in gear so we come out on fire after going down a few points. We just never look back. Once we get momentum, we just try to keep doing our thing.”
One of their things against the Rampage was coming down in zone defense and then switching to man-to-man. This helped slow down Rhode Island’s run plays that it sets up when receiving the pull.
That usually involved a deep shot, preferably by Rampage handler Brandon “Muffin” Malecek. Enter Murray, whose deep defense was a big reason the Spinners’ extended their advantage to 14-8 at halftime.
“It was a little bit windy. We knew they like to jack it; Muffin is their big thrower, so we after playing them once before, we had a good idea of what they wanted to do,” Hirannet said. “Basically, we were able to come down with a lot more D’s this time off their deep throws.”
That lead ballooned to 16-8 early in the second half but a 4-1 run by the Rampage cut the Spinners’ lead down to 17-12 to start the fourth quarter. After the teams traded points, Glazer’s lay out grab and assist to Arthur Shull midway through the frame gave the Spinners a 21-14 lead en route to the win.
Despite the seemingly easy victory, however, Philadelphia was guilty of committing 31 turnovers of its own. Turnovers are turning out to be the Spinners’ Achilles heel.
“I still don’t know what’s causing us to have a high number of turnovers,” Spinners’ cutter Mike Panna said. “Our No. 1 goal is to cut down on those turnovers. We’re trying hard to just play a smart offense and get the right kind of flow going. I think we are making better decisions sometimes, but I guess we’re still not executing properly.”
The Spinners came into the game wondering who was going to fill the void left by Owens. At least for one game, that player was Murray.
“He’s been a great player for a long time now,” Hirannet said. “He’s a tall guy that’s extremely athletic. He stepped up. We obviously loved having Greg out there, but it’s nice to know that when Greg’s not out there, a few other guys needs to step up and Sean is one of those guys. He plays amazing D. He played a great game.”
The Spinners have a week off before returning to the friendly confines of Franklin Field on May 27th to host the Columbus Cranes (3-2) of the AUDL’s Western Division starting at 5:15 p.m.