At 11-4, the Georgia Swarm get to enjoy their bye week having won four-straight games and closing out March lossless. Getting hot at the right time in the season is huge, but enjoying bye weeks while recovering physically and mentally is also important for helping to keep winning streaks alive through April and May.
Another important factor in going deep in the postseason is veteran experience, and Connor Sellars gets to count himself as one of those veterans. The Belmont Abbey College alum has been to the postseason in each of his two seasons in the NLL, winning an NLL Cup his rookie year. Sellars’ role out the back door has increased more and more with each game, and he has firmly solidified his spot in the Swarm’s defense, particularly the penalty kill. In his 15 games this season, Sellars has seven points (3G, 4A), 56 loose balls and 12 caused turnovers to go with just two penalty minutes.
Despite being in just his third season, Sellars is taking the lessons he learned from his mentors and passing them down to his juniors. He took some time out early in the bye week to chat with GeorgiaSwarm.com about how it is for him now as a veteran, the Swarm’s recent team-building in Nashville, and what the past month has meant to the men in blue and yellow:
From your vantage point, how would you say the team’s feeling right now?
We’re feeling really good right now. In the last couple of games, we’ve put together some strong performances against Buffalo and now Toronto. We took a little step back against Rochester, but I think we’re getting into our groove now. Out of the last three games, we’ve probably played two of our best games all season. It’s kind of the right foot to be on heading into the last stretch of the season.
You all just got back from the team-building trip in Nashville last weekend. It came at a good time before April and the postseason, right?
Yeah, it’s a good thing that we’ve got the team-building event. I think it really helps us grow as a group together. Obviously, we don’t spend too much time throughout the week together, so when we get these opportunities, it’s really good for us to capitalize. It just helps solidify the group we’ve got and gets us to bond even more.
You’re in your third season and have seen from the World Championship to now. How does this season’s defense compare and contrast from previous years?
We’re a fairly similar team to my first two years. I would say we’re probably a little bigger than we’ve been in the past with a little more size back there. But I think we do the same aspect of what we’ve always tried to do, which is play our tempo in the game and distinguish and predict, not sit back and react to what the other teams are going to do. We’re trying to make it so we get them to do what we want to do.
Faceoff | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
Narrowing down to you personally, you’ve cemented your role on the Swarm defense over the years, and you’re quietly having your best season. What’s been working for you in 2018-19?
Just as a whole, obviously getting more comfortable with things, getting into more of a veteran role than in the first two years, and I think it also goes back to – it’s not just personally, it’s the teammates around me. I think they’ve also been able to help me with being more active and taking on a bigger role in things. You just have confidence that the other guys are going to do everything around you, which helps you be more successful in your own position.
How has your role evolved from your rookie year?
Going into your rookie year, you don’t know what to expect. Every year, you progress and get put into more situations and try to just grow as a player each year. As you grow, you try to use your experiences to help some of the younger guys on the team, and obviously you come up in a leadership role which will help you in certain scenarios in the game. You see more scenarios, which helps benefit you in all the aspects.
What’s it like getting to play with Adam Wiedemann again?
It’s good. I played with him in school (Belmont Abbey College) and over the summer in Brampton (Major Series Lacrosse) and stuff. It’s good to see he’s having a great year. He’s developing well, and it’s good to see. I’m glad he’s doing really well. He’s really come in and helped our team and make our D what it is this year.
Jumping back to February, the team had just dropped two-straight games, and it reminded me a bit of 2018 when the team was 5-7 and struggling to gain traction, even though the record this season was 7-4. What was the atmosphere around the team at that time?
It was a different feeling. I think we just realized we were struggling in aspects. Everyone had to take time to look at themselves in the mirror and see what we were going to do with this year. Yeah, we started off well, but we were in a little slump there. Those games were almost a wake-up call for our team to say we just can’t come out and go through the motions. We have to come out and compete every day. I think in the last few games, we’ve shown that we’re here to compete and that was just a little slide that probably is going to come back and benefit us and help us grow as a team and figure out what we should do, just take a deeper look at where we were with everything.
Defending Shawn Evans | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
You come off the bye week and knock off Rochester and Buffalo. Did either of those games feel like a positive turning point for the Swarm?
I think the Buffalo game was a big turning point, especially how our first game against them went. Coming back, we started playing well against Rochester off the bye week. It helped us with the Buffalo game. I think that was the first game all year where we ended up playing a strong, full 60 minutes, which just showed everybody on our team, and it helps solidify what we were thinking as a team. It also shows this is what we can do as a team when we play a full 60 minutes and play a team game. I think that’s shown again in the Toronto game.
That was arguably the best Swarm game so far this season. How huge was it for you guys to control the game start to finish against one of the top teams in the NLL, taking another season series against a division rival, and cap off March with four wins?
I think it was really big, especially coming into a bye week here. We were just working hard. It was big in it gave us confidence going into a bye week, showing us what to do. Everything just clicked at once. We were doing really well in all aspects of the game, and all three parts clicked really well with our offense to our defense and our goaltending. We played aggressive as a team, and we didn’t sit back and relax. It was almost a statement game from us, showing this is who we are after kind of letting it up against Rochester. That was a big thing for us to be able to close that one out from start to finish.
After the bye week you take on San Diego. Is the plan similar to normal bye weeks, rest up and relax, heal those bumps and bruises before watching the Seals play on Saturday?
Yeah. So during the bye week, you want to get back into your workout routine. It’s a good week to two weeks to get back into the rhythm of things, get back into the gym and work on a couple of things you’ve noticed over the past couple of games before. But it also helps you get a little mental and physical clarity. You can help recover your body better from wear and tear. It also gives us an opportunity to scout and get more prepared for the game coming up. It’s a good thing that we’re going to be able to watch one of their games on Saturday, kind of see what they’re doing and get an early scouting report on them.
I know there’s still season left, but the postseason has to be on your mind having clinched your spot on 3/15. How do you put that in the back of your mind?
What we do is we normally focus on a game at a time, and we treat every game now for the rest of the season like it’s a playoff game so we can get everything going and keep our momentum going for the playoffs. We can’t take anything lightly, so we just have to treat everything as a playoff game and pretend they’re all one-game series from here on out until the end.
That does remind me again of last season with Jordan MacIntosh saying every game towards the end was a playoff game.
Yeah. Even though we’ve already clinched playoffs, (they’re) already playoff games. We are trying to get the No. 1 seed, we are trying to get the home-floor advantage to play in front of our crowd, which has been absolutely great this year. We’ve had really good turnouts, and we’ve all noticed how good the atmosphere has been at home. To be able to play a couple home games in front of our home crowd will be wonderful. We want to be able to just focus on trying to get those, but we can’t look over any of the games we have now, so that’s why it’s a playoff game atmosphere. You want to be rolling as best as you can going into the playoffs. You can’t overthink these next three games and just worry about the playoffs. You’ve got to take these as playoff games.
Look ahead | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
Recreational plans for the bye week?
Relax, watch sports. I’m going to go down and visit my girlfriend in Washington, D.C., but other than that, probably catch up on some of the games and see how the other games go throughout the week.
Who has the better muzzy, you or Staats?
It depends. I would say mine can be, but his gets a lot thicker, definitely longer than mine was.
Cheat day treat?
I’m not really a big sweet guy, kind of stay away from those. Cheat day would be a nice steak dinner or something.
Least favorite exercise?
Some of the stretching. Stretching can be hard. I’m not the most flexible person, so that really gets me sometimes.
Least favorite Swarm player to defend in practice?
Either Lyle or Randy. Both of them are two different aspects. Lyle is very quick and agile, but Randy is physical at getting around you and getting those shots off.
Star player in any other sport?
Hockey. I just grew up playing hockey and lacrosse, as well. Being a star player in hockey – especially being from Canada, hockey’s a very major sport here, so that would be another sport I really wish to be a star in.
Best lacrosse memory?
Winning the NLL Cup in my rookie year. It was a great group of guys, and there’s no better way to enter into the league than winning it all and seeing what it takes to do that.