FRISCO -- It took eight months, but we finally have a professional major-league sports team in DFW playing a postseason game in 2018!
With the Cowboys, Stars, Mavericks, and (soon) Rangers all failing to make the postseason this year, only the second time that's happened since the Stars gave DFW a "Big Four" of major pro franchises in 1993 (the other was 2013), the Dallas Rattlers will be the first top-level local team to play a playoff game when they host the New York Lizards in the Major League Lacrosse semifinals Saturday at the Ford Center in Frisco.
The Rattlers, which relocated prior to this season from Rochester, N.Y., finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 11-3 and the second-best attendance at 4,779 per game, which is impressive since lacrosse is largely a niche sport in the South.
"There's a lot of fans here," says midfielder John Ranagan. "You can hear them at the game, they're loud, but they actually know what they're yelling about. So to see it grow in an area like Dallas, coming from New York where it's a hotbed of lacrosse, it's cool to see the sport grow."
The team's growing popularity is also impressive considering the players have regular jobs elsewhere across the country and they typically fly straight to their game sites on weekends and fly out soon after the games, so their ability to participate in community outreach efforts like camps and clinics is extremely limited.
"A big part of what we do is trying to get sticks in kids' hands," says team president Bill Goren. "We're all over town doing that with and without players, and it is difficult not having our players here, but they've been great about coming down when we need to have them and staying an extra day. They have as much desire to be in the community as we do."
It also helps that Dallas has played a bunch of high-scoring and exciting games, averaging a 14-13 score with eight of their 14 games being decided by just one goal and two more being decided by two. One of those nail-biters was a 13-12 loss to the Lizards just two weeks ago, marking New York's seventh-straight win over the Rattlers franchise which includes a victory in the 2015 MLL Championship game. Suffice it to say, the Dallas players are done with that deja vu!
"I was actually talking to my mom and she saw that, as well," recalls Ranagan. "I thought it [started with] the 2015 championship game and she says, 'Oh, no! It started before that!' So, it's a little more fuel to the fire."
The Rattlers and Lizards face off Saturday night starting at 7 p.m. If you're not at the game you can stream it on the Lax Sports Network, but if you're only holding out on going because you're hoping to see Dallas in the championship game instead, don't--unless you're planning to travel next weekend. The MLL Championship game is a neutral-site event, being held this year in Charleston, S.C. on Saturday, Aug. 18. ESPNEWS will televise the final.