Pro lacrosse title game may help land Atlanta franchise

MLL Championship

Who: Rochester Rattlers vs. Denver Outlaws

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw

Tickets: $20

Major League Lacrosse is holding more than a championship game at Kennesaw State today. It’s hosting an audition to bring a professional team to the Atlanta area.

The Rochester Rattlers play the Denver Outlaws to determine the MLL championship. But by 2016 you’ll likely see those teams on a regular basis, when the league would like to have an Atlanta-based franchise.

“There’s a lot of interest in having an MLL team in Atlanta,” commissioner David Gross said. “Our goal is to field a team there in 2016.”

There had been some speculation that Atlanta could land a team as early as 2015 by moving the Rochester franchise. That discussion ended last week when Gross announced that the Rattlers will be return to Rochester in 2015.

“We want to put a team in Atlanta,” Gross said. “We’re working with the Atlanta Sports Council and Cobb County to get that done. Right now the most important thing is what the reaction will be when those people walk out the door. If they walk out and say, ‘Wow, that was awesome,’ then that’s the response we’re looking for.”

A year ago more than 4,000 fans showed up at Kennesaw State to watch a regular-season game between Rochester and Boston.

The Southeast has become fertile ground for the growth of lacrosse. The sport has been embraced by the Georgia High School Association, where it was first sanctioned in 2005. This year there will be 96 schools fielding a team, primarily in the metro Atlanta area.

There are a few variations between the professional and college/recreational game. The MLL uses a shot clock to encourage the pace of play and there’s a two-point shot awarded for scores outside the 16-yard line.

The championship will be a rubber game between the clubs. Rochester (10-4) and Denver (9-5) split during the regular season, with each winning at home. Rochester beat Ohio 15-11, while Denver beat New York 14-13 to reach the final.

Denver is led by veteran John Grant Jr., at 39 the oldest player in the league, and he is coming off an outstanding season of 28 goals and 54 points. Eric Law has a team-high 36 goals and 52 points. Jeremy Sieverts has 48 points.

Rochester’s top scorers are Mark Cockerton (24), Dave Lawson (23) and Jordan Wolf (21). Justin Turri leads the team with 34 points, with 19 goals (two two-pointers) and 13 assists. The defense is led by Michael Manley, who was named the MLL’s defensive player of the year, and John Galloway, the MLL goalkeeper of the year.