Bryce Wasserman: From 2020 MLL MVP to pro lacrosse underdog once again

Bryce Wasserman: From 2020 MLL MVP to pro lacrosse underdog once again

“In this sprint of a season, the Boston Cannons will not be caught. The Cannons are the 2020 Major League Lacrosse Champions!”

Shortly after those words were uttered by Joe Beninati, Bryce Wasserman was named the 2020 MLL MVP, finishing the shortened five-game season with 15 goals and six assists. In the months following the conclusion of the MLL season, the underdog story of a kid from Southlake, TX who played “small-time” college lacrosse at Monmouth University before launching himself to MLL stardom in three years became well known. Yet, Wasserman's rise to stardom has never been easy.

As a seventh-round draft pick of the Denver Outlaws, Wasserman never got an opportunity to crack the roster of the team that drafted him. His first opportunity instead came after being claimed off waivers by the Ohio Machine in 2018. And this opportunity only came about after Wasserman called Denver Outlaws coach Tony Seaman asking to be released.

"I was sitting on my couch, working out at home and waiting on a phone call that was never going to come. Thankfully that was the summer with the world games in 2018... so the guys that were on the world team were going to miss. I had that game marked on my calendar."

Wasserman called Coach Seaman hoping to get a shot to play in the absence of some of the Team USA players on Denver, but was devastated to find out that the Outlaws planned on dressing local Denver players instead. Rather than letting his best opportunity to make an MLL roster pass, Wasserman took matters into his own hands.

"I hung up the phone with him, just sulked a bit and put my head to my chest... then decided to call him back five minutes later," Wasserman recounts. "I said 'Coach, I respect your decision, but I want to play in this league. I will do whatever it takes. I appreciate you drafting me and giving me the opportunity, but please release me. I want to go find my shot somewhere else."

Coach Seaman honored Wasserman's wishes and after being released by the Outlaws, Wasserman made phone calls to every other MLL coach. It was then that Machine head coach Bear Davis gave Wasserman the call and told him that Ohio was signing him off waivers. Playing in place of Marcus Holman, Wasserman quickly earned his stripes that season, scoring eight goals in three games on a Machine team that included names like Kyle Harrison, Justin Guterding, Tom Schreiber and the previously mentioned Holman. The success in his rookie year continued rolling through his second year to an all-star season while playing with the Dallas Rattlers. With the upward trajectory that Wasserman was on with his recent MVP season, it seemed safe to think he had established himself as one of the top attackmen in professional lacrosse. 

But things aren’t always as they seem.

Less than a year removed from hoisting the MLL Championship and MVP Trophies, the attackman was passed over in the PLL Entry Draft before being claimed off waivers by Cannons LC. That left him with a feeling that’s all too familiar.

The feeling of being overlooked and an underdog.

Bryce Wasserman helped lead the Boston Cannons to their second MLL title in 2020. (Photo courtesy of MLL)

“Coming out of college, having played at a small school, I understood why I might have been overlooked and that I needed to go right out and prove myself,” Wasserman said the day after not hearing his name called during the PLL Entry Draft. “The feeling now is ten times what it was coming out of college. I’m really excited to get to join the PLL and be back in a combined league with the best players in the world, I just didn’t expect to not be drafted.”

Heading into the PLL’s Entry Draft Wasserman was already feeling a little overlooked and filing away extra motivation. The reigning MLL MVP seemed to be consistently left out of conversations focused on the “top” players joining the PLL from the merger. Wasserman might not admit it right away, but he was taking note about what players were being hyped up, and more notably what player wasn’t. Him.

“Oh, absolutely it bothered me,” Wasserman said sheepishly. “I thought I had proved that I belong. I felt like the way I had played and what I’d done had shown that I belonged in those conversations. Not getting really any buzz or respect had me fired up and still does.”

Sitting looking at a horse pasture turned lacrosse field on a south Florida ranch belonging to his girlfriend’s family, that fire has Wasserman ready for training camp and the upcoming season. Even if he had to play at a moment’s notice, he’s prepared. 

“I’ve been ready. There’s no “getting ready” for me right now. I could go out and play tomorrow if I had to,” Wasserman commented. “I have a pasture down here on the ranch that they let me turn into a lacrosse field. I’ve been shooting, running and lifting every day.”

Offseason reps will turn into training camp reps sooner than later when he is reunited with the Cannons LC head coach Sean Quirk. While it’s not the exact same team, there is a distinct 2020 Cannons flavor to the rebranded Cannons LC.

“I love Coach Quirk. He’s just an awesome all-around man and coach. Last season coming in there was a lot of hype around other guys with guys like Randy Staats, Mark Cockerton, Kyle Jackson. I got to focus on how I could help the team out and play my role to the best of my ability. It was fun to get that experience of playing with and watching those box lacrosse guys just go to work.”

The mixing of old Cannons and new Cannons for the upcoming season will change the dynamics and make up of the team. Some might look at the roster makeup and wonder how Wasserman might fit into an attack line that features Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson, Ryan Drenner and more.  Having played on three very different teams in his three years as a pro, Wasserman isn’t worried about that.

The need to fight for a roster spot has followed Wasserman throughout his career. From asking to be released from the Denver Outlaws so he could be picked up by another team to getting past a cancer scare so he could make his Ohio Machine debut, Wasserman's journey as a pro has never been easy. Now, just three seasons removed from when Ohio Machine starting goalie Scott Rodgers pulled Wasserman aside to tell him that he "belonged in pro lacrosse," Wasserman is fighting to prove himself against the best players in the world once again.

“The story is never going to change. I’ve been a starter on teams with big-name guys before, but it doesn’t change,” Wasserman said. “I can fit in with any roster of guys as I think I’ve shown as a pro. I’m not a system player. I’m a guy who adapts to the team around me and the role I’m asked to play.”

Whether it’s running the offense from X, working out of the box or somewhere else, Wasserman is heading into the PLL season motivated, prepared and looking to prove his 2020 MLL MVP wasn’t a fluke. If you don’t think he’s is hoping to show the lacrosse world (once again) that you don’t sleep on Bryce Wasserman, you’re sorely mistaken.

Yet, at the end of the day, Wasserman’s goal is to win another championship. This summer, he'll have a chance to do it once again with Coach Sean Quirk and a handful of his fellow Cannons teammates from their 2020 MLL Championship run

“I couldn’t be more excited to be back with Coach Quirk and wearing red, white and blue. Last summer was one of the best experiences of my life in such a short time and I’m excited to have a full summer playing for Coach and representing the Cannons," Wasserman said. "In the PLL, everything is earned and nothing is a given, so it should be a really fun summer ahead of us.”

Feature photo courtesy of Jamal Cooley / MLL

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