MLL Players Agree League Did a 'Great Job' Handling Season's Obstacles

Sean Sconone walked off the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium Friday evening, and he was fired up. One day after recording 22 saves in a win against the Boston Cannons, he helped the Connecticut Hammerheads defeat the defending champion Chesapeake Bayhawks 14-9. It was the team’s third consecutive victory and helped clinch the second seed in the playoffs.

The captain joined his teammates on the league-provided transportation back to the Westin Annapolis, and he and fellow second-year player Bradley Voigt (who scored four goals against the Bayhawks) hung out together.

“We go back to the hotel, we got something to eat, we were fired up,” he said. “We watched the Boston and Denver game at the hotel.”

In the second game of the evening, the Cannons outlasted the Outlaws 10-8. Despite the outcome, both teams were locked into their playoff seeds: Denver was first, and Boston was fourth. The two squads were to meet the following day in the semifinals.

“I was sleeping,” Denver faceoff specialist Max Adler said regarding what he did when he got back to the hotel after the game. “We had that early semifinal game.”

Not everyone was as relaxed as Sconone and Adler heading into Saturday, however.

“This virus became real, and the impact it has and how it spreads and the impact on everybody ... We had to control what we could control and take it one step at a time.” — Tom Mariano

An announcement from the league on Saturday said that a player came off the field Friday and went to his team’s medical staff with potential COVID-19 symptoms.

“We immediately had him tested,” MLL commissioner Alexander “Sandy” Brown said in a press conference following the championship game. “We had about an hour turnaround.”

Brown said the player’s test came back positive, and the league front office notified coaches that all players and staff were to come downstairs from their rooms at 7 a.m. for testing.

Sconone said he received a text Friday night from Hammerheads head coach Bill Warder saying there would be a team meeting at 7 a.m., and Sconone said that because team meetings were held daily, he thought nothing of the message.

Bayhawks midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen said they were told Friday night about the positive test and that everyone would be tested the following morning. Bayhawks head coach Tom Mariano shared how the news of the positive test affected him.

“I think it just became real,” Mariano said. “This virus became real, and the impact it has and how it spreads and the impact on everybody. Obviously, everyone was aware of what’s going on. We’re getting tested Saturday morning. We’ve got to take it from there. We had to control what we could control and take it one step at a time.”

There were rumors of players leaving the MLL bubble at The Westin Annapolis, however no players interviewed for this story knew for sure if those rumors were accurate.

“Guys were given rules. Guys followed them,” Davis-Allen said. “I don’t know anything about people breaking the bubble.”

“I can only speak in regard to our team. Everyone followed the rules. I know that for a fact,” Cannons goalie Nick Marrocco said. “No one left the bubble. We had transportation from the hotel to the stadium and back. That’s how we got there. We had plenty of stuff to do at the hotel anyway. Everyone was good about that. There was no need to break the rules.”

On Saturday, the league initially changed the start times for the semifinal games, pushing them back to later in the evening.

As tests were administered and players awaited results, they had to grapple with the ambiguity of the situation.

“We’re like, we’re at the finish line here and hitting a roadblock,” Sconone said. “The emotion was definitely uncertainty. Guys were just like, ‘What’s going on?’ We’re looking around at each other like, ‘We have two days left here. It’s hitting us late here.’ We were rolling as a team. We were fired up to play, and we kind of just hit the pause button.”

Brown said the league tested 160 individuals in the span of a little over an hour, and the tests were “turned around just after midday.” He said all individuals were cooperative.

While waiting for the results, Marrocco said everyone went back to their rooms and the Player’s Council (Marrocco is Boston’s representative) conducted a FaceTime call to talk about how the players on the teams were feeling about the situation.

Three players in total, all from the same team, tested positive for COVID-19. The teams then separately met to discuss how they wanted to move forward.

The Bayhawks, the defending champions, decided to withdraw from the remainder of the season.

“As a team, we chose to sit it out,” Davis-Allen said. “Guys were nervous with kids and families at home.”

“We just felt, for everyone’s health and safety, it was the right thing to do,” Mariano said. “Obviously, everyone wants to compete. Everyone wants to win a championship. At that moment, with everything going on, it became bigger than that.”

The Hammerheads, Chesapeake’s opponent Friday when the first positive test came through, also chose to withdraw from the competition.

“We did an anonymous team vote,” Sconone said. “We had guys speak up, not just the captains, but many players speak up about the situation. We were in the hotel locker room. Guys were looking around. I saw looks in the guys’ faces that they were not confident in playing. I made the right choice for the team. I still back that. It is bigger than playing lacrosse, as much as I hate to say it. This is people’s lives at stake. Guys made the right choice for their families.”

On the flip side, Marrocco said Boston had no positive tests, which put many players at ease. Still, not everyone was comfortable. Cannons midfielder Frank Brown tweeted that he decided not to play in the MLL championship game due to the COVID-19 concerns. While they did not explain their reasoning, Randy Staats, Bryan Cole, Matt Gilray, and Jason Brewster also opted out of the final game.

It was a decision Marrocco said he and the remaining Cannons players fully supported.

“It’s a unique situation where everyone has a different scenario in their life, and they have something going on at home where they don’t feel comfortable playing despite testing negative, then that’s OK and we’ll respect this decision,” he said. “They’re still a part of this team, and they’re still reasons why we got that far. A couple guys made that decision. The rest of us felt comfortable playing.”


For the Outlaws, Adler said there was more discussion than just if everyone felt safe. After losing to the Bayhawks in the 2019 championship game, he said Denver players even discussed if playing despite Chesapeake not having the ability to compete was the morally correct thing to do.

After talking it over, however, the team ultimately decided to continue forward. No Denver player opted out of the final game.

“At first, I was like, 'I don’t know if we should because that sucks for them,'” he said. Adler added the rumors of other players possibly breaking the bubble rules helped them make their ultimate decision. “The Outlaws, we ate together in the bubble. We didn’t leave the bubble. We weren’t hanging out with other teams. We all self-quarantined. We all made a lot of sacrifices so we didn’t get this.”

With only Denver and Boston remaining, the league set that matchup as the championship game on Sunday afternoon.

After the game, Alexander Brown said he was pleased with how the league responded to the situation.

“We will do an investigation, but our initial findings are no one left the bubble,” he said in a postgame press conference. “We did everything by the book. I feel very good about how we handled it and managed it. I’m disappointed Connecticut pulled out. I understand the situation in terms of the Bayhawks. Understand, we gave our players and coaches the ability to make that decision. That was their decision. We weren’t going to stand in the way of it.”

All players and coaches interviewed agreed they believed the league handled the situation in the best way possible. Even if some of the players had their seasons end abruptly, they did not regret their decisions, and they seemed happy to even get the chance to participate.

“If you look at any sport trying to play right now, at some point, someone has caught this virus,” Davis-Allen said. “No league has gone unscathed. I knew at some point someone was going to catch it. It was making sure it didn’t spread. The league did a good job. It could’ve been worse than it was.”

“Even to get a tournament going during a pandemic is an unbelievable milestone,” Sconone said. “It’s very hard. Other professional leagues trying to get going, they’re hitting roadblocks as well. Just to get the tournament going is a huge step. I think the league did a great job on that part. Guys took advantage of it, and they were pumped up they had an opportunity to play.”