8/8/13 5:00 PM
Bayhawks Could Earn No. 2 Seed for Championship Weekend
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Seeding for Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend will be on the line when the Chesapeake Bayhawks (8-5) host the Charlotte Hounds (7-6) on Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Chesapeake could earn either the second or third seed with a win while a loss would drop the defending MLL champions to No. 4. Both the Bayhawks and Hounds are hoping to avoid a semifinal matchup with undefeated and top-seeded Denver (13-0).
“We’re not afraid of Denver. That being said, you would like to play the Outlaws on the second day after they’ve had a tough game on the first day,” Chesapeake president and head coach Dave Cottle said.
That scenario worked out well for Chesapeake at last year’s Championship Weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The second-seeded Bayhawks totally dismantled the top-seeded Outlaws in Sunday’s final to the tune of 16-6.
Beyond seeding, Chesapeake wants to complete the regular season on a high note by beating another playoff team that is currently on a roll. Charlotte is riding a franchise-best three-game winning streak and has secured a postseason berth in only its second year of existence.
“I don’t care about Charlotte’s momentum. That means nothing to me,” Cottle said. “We’re more worried about Chesapeake’s momentum. We think we’re starting to play better. No disrespect intended, but Charlotte’s momentum, we don’t give two hoots about that. We’re only concerned with Chesapeake’s momentum.”
Chesapeake is coming off an impressive 12-8 defeat of the Rochester Rattlers that secured a spot in Championship Weekend. Rookie Jesse Bernhardt (Maryland), whose strong play has earned a starting job on close defense, was named Warrior Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the win.
“Jesse primarily played long pole in college, but we’ve moved him down low and he’s gotten better and better each week,” Cottle said. “Jesse was active and created a bunch of turnovers. Whenever he knocked the ball to the ground, he picked it up and cleared it.”
Cottle said the return of veteran short stick defensive midfielder Jeff Reynolds gave the Bayhawks a big lift. Reynolds played great man-to-man defense, was a force in the clearing game and even scored a transition goal.
“I thought Jeff Reynolds coming back was huge. Jeff is an elite shorty and just a tremendous cover man,” Cottle said.
Chesapeake’s attack combination ofDrew Westervelt and Ben Rubeor continues to pile up the points. Westervelt scored three goals and dished off two assists against Rochester and now has a team-high 42 points. The imposing 6-foot-5, 205-pounder has been shooting with tremendous accuracy in netting 32 goals, the most of his seven-year professional career.
Rubeor contributed a goal and three assists versus the Rattlers and stands second on the squad in scoring with 35 points. The slick left-hander has scored at least one point in 12 of 13 games this season.
Midfielder Kyle Dixon has suffered this season shooting-wise, but has transformed into a tremendous playmaker and leads the Bayhawks with 18 assists. That is a career-high in that category for the perennial All-Star, whose goal to close the Rochester contest was his first since June 6th.
“Kyle has been in a shooting slump, but that has not affected any other parts of his game,” Cottle said. “Kyle has always been a good passer and always makes the smart play. Experienced guys make adjustments and Kyle has helped the team by setting others up to score.”
Charlotte is led offensively by veteran attackman Matt Danowski, the fourth-leading scorer in Major League Lacrosse with 45 points (32 goals, 8 assists). Danowski, who is tied for the league lead with five 2-point goals, totaled seven points as the Hounds edged the Bayhawks, 16-15, in overtime on June 22nd.
“I think Dino is playing like a man possessed, he’s playing like a man who wants to play for Team USA,” Cottle said.
Chesapeake All-Star close defenseman Michael Evans missed the first meeting with Charlotte with an injury. Evans has successfully covered Danowski dating back to their collegiate days at Johns Hopkins and Duke, respectively.
Reynolds and long stick defensive midfielder Mike Simon also sat out the earlier contest at Charlotte and all three defenders available will make a difference. Cottle said there are other areas the Bayhawks must improve in order to reverse the previous result with the Hounds.
“We’ve got to get better face-off defense. Last time, we got out of balance and gave up three goals directly off the draw,” he said. “Charlotte is a great shooting team so we can’t foul a lot and give up extra man opportunities. We also need to do a better job of dropping into the hole and preventing transition or unsettled scoring chances.”
The Bayhawks play their final regular season game on Saturday, August 10th against the Charlotte Hounds at 7:00 PM at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on Comcast SportsNet and streaming on ESPN3.com. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online at www.thebayhawks.comor over the phone by calling the box office 866-99-HAWKS (42957). For the Bayhawks full schedule go to www.thebayhawks.com.
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