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Washington Stealth begin title defense
EVERETT — The Washington Stealth could have checked off just about every goal they set for the 2010 season in winning the National Lacrosse League title.
“It’s always great to soak up the fruits of your hard work and it was a tremendous experience to win last year,” said Washington Stealth coach Chris Hall, who shared the Les Barley Award for coach of the year in 2010. “We got to do some tours with the cup and we had a dinner a couple of nights ago to sort of bring closure to last season.”
As an exclamation point to the season, the Stealth unveiled their title banner and showed off their trophy at the first home match of the season Jan. 9 against Calgary.
In 2011, the Stealth trade in their “new guy” label to the “team to beat,” as they try to defend their title. Last season, the Stealth finished with an 11-5 record en route to winning the NLL Champions Cup.
But last year’s team was far from perfect, and Hall said he addressed a few concerns from a year ago.
“You always got to be trying to improve, you can’t just rest on your laurels,” said Hall. “And we knew that we were weak on the left wide of our defense.”
In response, to that weakness, just about the only changes the Stealth made were to trade for Jeff Zywicki from Calgary and to sign Chris McElroy to shore up the right side.
Of course, the Stealth shouldn’t want to change much, as is often the case with champions. Washington brings back a pair of All-Pro second team selections in forwards Lewis Ratcliff and Rhys Duch. The two combined for 183 points in 2010.
Ratcliff leads a talented Stealth offensive attack, as he led the NLL with 46 goals in the regular season.
Along with the two forwards, the Stealth brings back perhaps the most exciting player in the league, transition Paul Rabil, who finished with a career-high 37 points last season.
Also, the Stealth have perhaps the most promising goalie in the league in Tyler Richards, who is coming off a 3-0 record in the playoffs last season and posted 50 saves in the Champion’s Cup final vs. Toronto to help the Stealth win the title.
Washington began its season with back-to-back games against Colorado and Calgary on Jan. 8 and 9, but will play the Minnesota Swarm Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. in the Comcast Arena.