8/11/14 8:43 AM
Annapolis, MD – Attackman Drew Westervelt and midfielder Matt Abbott totaled six points apiece as the Chesapeake Bayhawks closed a difficult campaign with a resounding 19-13 rout of the Charlotte Hounds before a raucous crowd of 6,322 on Fan Appreciation Night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Westervelt scored three goals and dished off three assists while Abbott added a goal and a career-best five assists for Chesapeake (5-9), which displayed tremendous pride and passion in a matchup of teams tied for last place in Major League Lacrosse.
“I thought our guys played with great energy, I thought they played with great unity, and I thought they showed that they are professionals,” Chesapeake Head Coach Dave Cottle said. “This is the top level of the sport and our guys showed that they were on top of their game tonight.”
There had been speculation that Chesapeake might purposefully lose the game in order to secure the No. 1 pick in the 2015 Collegiate Draft. Cottle said during the weekly MLL teleconference that nothing could be further from the truth and the Bayhawks backed him up on Saturday night.
“We don’t play for draft picks. It’s against the coaches’ DNA and it’s against the players’ DNA to not try to win,” Cottle said. “I knew what was on the line tonight and I couldn’t do it. It just didn’t feel right.”
Midfielder Ben Hunt also had a big game with four goals and an assist for Chesapeake, which went 3-for-3 on power play opportunities. Attackman Joe Walters totaled two goals and two assists as the Bayhawks led from start to finish. It was a season-high goal total for the Hawks, who had scored 18 in a victory over Florida on June 28.
“We came out firing on all cylinders and everybody was contributing,” said Abbott, who is flourishing in more of an offensive role. “I think this was our best team effort of the season and 19 goals is a testament to that.”
Abbott has been a defensive midfielder for most of his career, but Cottle likes what the former Syracuse All-American contributes on the offensive end and is going to give him more runs on that side of the field.
“Matt is a two-way guy that gets back on defense and is great between the lines. He isn’t going to stop playing defense, he’s just going to play defense after he plays offense,” said Cottle, adding that the presence of two other standout defensive midfielders in Dan Burns and Jeff Reynolds along with the development of rookie Mark McNeill has allowed him to use Abbott in a different role.
Hunt set the tone by scoring unassisted just 24 seconds into the game and Abbott then took over, assisting on three straight goals to give Chesapeake an early 4-0 lead. Attackman Matt Danowski scored Charlotte’s first goal with 2:12 remaining in the first quarter, but the Bayhawks finished strong with Walters assisting attackman Ben Rubeor then scoring himself off a feed from Hunt to make it 6-1.
Chesapeake scored six more times in the second quarter with Westervelt contributing a goal and two assists. McNeill, a local product out of St. Mary’s-Annapolis and former North Carolina star, provided a spark in transition with a goal and an assist as the Bayhawks took a 12-5 lead into intermission.
“Mark McNeill has really improved. He’s a tremendous athlete, he’s really good on the ground… he has a future here,” Cottle said.
Starting goalie Tyler Fiorito was terrific in the first half, stopping 14 shots and allowing just four goals. Cottle said Fiorito will challenge three-year starting keeper Kip Turner next season. Turner, who anchored Chesapeake’s consecutive championship teams in 2012 and 2013, missed the last five games of the season with a broken thumb. Turner is unavailable early in the season because he works as an Assistant Coach at Brown.
Cottle followed through on a commitment to play backup Jack Runkel between the pipes in the second half. The former Loyola University standout finished with eight saves.
Another young player the coaching staff was able to evaluate was attackman Jack Rice, a second-year professional out of Villanova who saw his first action for Chesapeake on Saturday night. Rice showed he could be a finisher by notching a hat trick with two of the goals coming in the third quarter when the Bayhawks continued to pour it on.
Hunt scored two goals while Westervelt had a goal and assist as Chesapeake outscored Charlotte, 7-3, in the third quarter to take a 19-8 lead.
“I was really proud of how we played tonight. We wanted to play Bayhawks lacrosse and give the type of effort our fans have come to expect,” Hunt said. “It’s been a tough season, but we wanted to finish on a positive note. Tonight, we finally played like a championship team and that is something to build on.”
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