6/22/10 1:45 PM
Bayhawks Week 7 Preview
After a frustrating 20-16 loss to the Denver Outlaws in week 6, the Chesapeake Bayhawks are in a three-way tie for first place with Denver and Boston. They will need to recover quickly as they play the Toronto Nationals on Thursday night in week 7.
While the Bayhawks are 2-0 against the Nationals this season the two games could not have been more different. Chesapeake crushed the Nationals in their first encounter, 25-12 in week 2, but in week 5 they had to hang on in a 10-9 win.
Toronto picked up their first win of the 2010 season in week 6, an 11-9 victory over the Long Island Lizards, and Bayhawks’ General Manager Spencer Ford says his team can’t approach this game with an obvious win in mind. “All teams in this league are very good,” he said. “At any time first place can get beat by last place.”
Rookie goaltender Scott Rodgers made his MLL debut against the Bayhawks in the week 5 meeting, and made 19 saves while allowing only 6 goals. It seems Toronto has reworked their tandem goalie situation and found solace in Rodgers playing the first half with Brett Queener as the closer. The duo was successful last week, holding the Lizards to single digits in the win. “Both keepers are very good, but good shots go on any keeper,” said Ford. “If we allow them to get hot by hitting them or shooting in their sticks, we could be in for a long night.”
That’s exactly what Chesapeake will look to avoid as they try to hold onto first place. In order to do so, the Bayhawks need to get the ball in the net. Chesapeake boasts one of the best scoring offensive units in the league averaging 12.7 goals per game. The attack has been balanced with 16 different goal scorers on the season and five players who have registered 10 or more, but last week 16 goals weren’t enough to defeat Denver.
“We made way too many stupid mistakes,” said Brian Vetter, who posted three goals last week. “We didn’t slow the ball down when we should have; we forced things and threw away passes. It was just a total lack of focus.”
Chesapeake’s defensive effort or lack thereof, was also to blame in allowing 20 goals to the Outlaws. “Our slides were too sloppy and we kept letting them get inside,” said defenseman P.T. Ricci. “We didn’t give [Chris] Garrity a chance.” Currently, Garrity has 98 saves and boasts a 0.587 save percentage to lead the league. He and the rest of the defense take last week’s loss personally and do not want to repeat their dismal performance.
“It was unacceptable as far as the defensive effort. We got beaten to spots, we were slow to slide and I didn’t make any big saves at times when we really needed one,” Garrity said. “We had too many defensive lapses and allowed them too many runs. Defensively, we let the team down tonight.”
The defense will be looking to make it up to the team and to do so, they’ll need to stop Nationals’ attackmen John Grant Jr., Shawn Williams and former Bayhawk Kevin Huntley as well as midfielders Jordan Hall and Brett Bucktooth. Grant anchors the offensive line with nine goals and eight assists on the season while Hall and Bucktooth follow close behind with eight and seven goals respectively. Ford said, “They can all score and they handle their sticks very well.”
Another avenue the Bayhawks need to rework is the extra-man offense. They have scored just 9 goals on 36 man-up opportunities this season. The 25% success rate ranks fourth in the league through six games. Chesapeake has missed critical opportunities because they’ve been unable to convert the man-up to a goal. With Toronto coming back with a vengeance, the extra-man offense could be the game changer, especially since the Nationals are converting a mere 8% of their man-up opportunities which ranks last in the league.
“We’ll need to work on shooting, extra man offense and team defense; we have a tremendous amount of confidence in our squad and are expecting to be sharp at both ends of the field and expect to be playing very good lacrosse the rest of the way,” said Ford. “We need to focus on the Bayhawks and playing our game and we should be fine.”
Chesapeake isn’t going to give up first place without a fight. Watch this week as the Nationals try to topple Chesapeake out of first place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 24 streaming live on ESPN3.com. Also check out our Live Blog and Chat presented by Warrior.com, coverage begins at 7:15 p.m.
2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend presented by Warrior
August 21-22, Annapolis, MD
For information and tickets go to www.majorleaguelacrosse.com