It's the midway point in the 2011 NLL season and the Minnesota Swarm head into the All-Star break with the number 4 on their minds. Minnesota sits second in the West with a 4-4 record and has 4 players particpating in this year's All-Star game.
Forward Ryan Benesch and G Nick Patterson will start for the West, while F Callum Crawford and T Andrew Watt will come off the bench after being named reserves.
The 2011 NLL All-Star game will be televised nationally on VERSUS at 1 p.m. this Sunday, Feb. 27 from Verona, New York.
Want to watch the game with other Swarm fans? Head over to Cork's Irish Pub in downtown St. Paul for an All-Star party.
Q: What does it mean to be selected as a starter in the NLL All-Star Game?
Benesch: It’s a great honor to even be selected, and to be named a starter was an unbelievable feeling. I’m really looking forward to playing with the best players in the game, and getting to meet new people and share stories with some of the other players around the league.
Q: Last season you scored 28 goals and now at the half-way point you already have 25 goals. What are some of the reasons behind your success this season?
Benesch: The key to my success is the play of my teammates and linemates. Without them, I don’t do well. I want to give all the credit to the guys helping me along and maybe not getting the same recognition as me. Guys like Kevin Ross and Sean Pollock are putting in the grunt work to allow guys like myself, Callum Crawford, Aaron Wilson, and Zack Greer to put the ball in the net. I really appreciate all they are doing because it’s allowing me to be so successful right now.
Q: You guys currently sit one game out of first place in the West heading in to the All-Star break. What are your thoughts on the first half of the season?
Benesch: We've had some highs and lows. We started the season off with a tough loss, but we knew we were still in good shape to rattle off consecutive wins. We ended up winning three in a row, but then ended up losing three in a row right after. I feel that everyone is still confident in our ability to win games, and we all know what we need to do in order to be successful on the field. It’s just a matter of coming prepared to play, every game, every shift.
Q: The All-Star Game and the Swarm’s next home game on March 27th will be televised nationally on the VERSUS. What are your thoughts on being able to play in front of a national audience?
Benesch: It’s something that I’ve always wanted. I think all the players want to be on TV to have more people to know about the sport of lacrosse. There are still some people that don’t know what lacrosse exactly is. I think the nationally televised games are going to really help out our league and our sport as well. It’s going to be a great game against Buffalo on March 27th, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
Q: This is your second time heading to the All-Star game, but this year you will be starting for the first time. How does it feel?
Patterson: It feels great. I was selected a few years ago and it was a great time. I’m honored that I will be able to go again this year.
Q: Since you have already been to the All-Star Game before, tell me a little bit about what it is like for the players. What are some of the things you do while you are there?
Patterson: It’s a lot of fun. You get to play with all the great players from around the league. It’s nice to meet new people and also see some of the guys you’ve played with before.
Q: What are you looking forward to the most when you head down to the All-Star game this year?
Patterson: I’m looking forward to playing with all the guys I played with in junior or in the minors with. I basically grew up with those guys, and it will be nice to see them again. I’m also expecting some great shots on net. The players are the best in the league. Every shot is going to be a great one, and a challenge, so you just need to have fun with it.
Q: Right now the team is 4-4, what are some things you guys will have to do in order to be successful in the second half of the season?
Patterson: Really I just think we need to work hard, play together and stick to the game plan. I think when we do that we are successful as a team.
Q: How does it feel to be selected to your first All-Star game?
Crawford: It’s an amazing accomplishment. I feel grateful to be selected amongst some of the best lacrosse players in the world. This is really exciting for me.
Q: What are you looking forward to the most while you are there?
Crawford: I’m just looking forward to being a part of such an elite group of guys. I will have fun playing with some of the guys I’ve looked up to my entire life. I’m also looking forward to being with the three other guys from Minnesota and being able to experience something so great with them.
Q: You guys currently sit at .500 with a 4-4 record at the midway point, how do you feel the team has played thus far?
Crawford: During the first half of the season we did really well against our own division (4-0) but we really need to start winning our Eastern Division games. We still have a few left this season including the national televised game against Buffalo on March 27th. We are happy that we are one game out of first, but I think we all expected to be doing better than .500.
Q: What are the team's goals for the second half of the season?
Crawford: We would really like to take over first place in the West Division and continue getting better every game. We are starting to evolve into a great team and I think we will have great things to come in the second half of the season.
Q: Is there anything in particular you think you guys will have to focus on to be successful after the All-Star break?
Crawford: I think we just need to win all the little battles. We have to be a tough, gritty team that works for every break that we get. On paper we aren’t flashy, and maybe don’t have any big names, but what we do have is a great work ethic. I think we represent the people of Minnesota pretty well in that aspect. Everyone needs to be fighting tooth and nails every shift that we go out there. I think we got away from that a few times, but if we can be that team that fights for every inch of turf, we can be pretty successful in the second half. That’s the type of team that our coaches and management try to bring out of us and that’s what we pride ourselves on being. If we can just focus on being a tough team and winning the little battles, we will have an exciting second half to our season.
Q: What does it mean to be named to your first All-Star team?
Watt: It’s an honor to be selected as an All-Star. With the help of my teammates and the coaching staff, I’ve been able to have a pretty successful year so far.
Q: What are some things you are looking forward to on your trip to the All-Star game?
Watt: It’s my first time there, and I’ve only been in the league for three years, so it will be nice to meet some of guys around the league and get to know them a bit better. The game will be a lot of fun, as will the entire weekend.
Q: Talk about the team's play so far this season...
Watt: We’ve had a decent year so far, but there have been a few games where it was close and just didn’t capitalize. We have struggled against the East Division, but have been able to take care of things in our own Division. We are confident that we can be even more successful in the second half of the season, and make a push for first place. It would be great to host a few playoff games for our fans here in Minnesota.
Q: What are some things you guys will have to do in order to be successful in the second half of the season?
Watt: I think we just need to continue to listen to our coaches and go about our game plan. All season we have had a solid game plan and when we execute it, we win games. We just have to do what are coaches tell us to and we will have a successful second half.