Chesapeake Upsets Top-Seeded Boston in MLL Semifinals
Hunt Leads Huge First Half, Garrity Preserves Lead in 13-9 Win
Annapolis, MD - After watching the Chesapeake Bayhawks dominate the favored Boston Cannons on both ends of the field during a stunning first half, ESPN television commentator Quint Kessenich pulled no punches. “Boston is getting outplayed, outhustled, outworked and outcoached,” Kessenich stated emphatically during the live broadcast.
That was an apt description of Chesapeake’s dominating first half performance, which proved crucial to a shocking upset in the Major League Lacrosse semifinals.
Midfielder Ben Hunt totaled four points to help the host team build a commanding seven-goal halftime lead and goalie Chris Garrity thwarted any thoughts of a comeback with 18 saves as fourth-seeded Chesapeake stunned top-seeded Boston 13-9 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Veteran left-handed shooter Andrew “Buggs” Combs scored two goals while fellow attackman Ben Rubeor dished off two assists in a balanced offense for the Bayhawks, who had 11 different players contribute points.
“I’m extremely proud of this team right now. What makes me most proud is the way the guys played as a team. Every man stepped up and contributed out there today and that’s what you need to win a championship,” Chesapeake president and head coach Brendan Kelly said.
Hunt, a second-year player out of North Carolina, was the catalyst of the first half onslaught. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound native of nearby Severna Park scored a 2-point goal on a rocket of an overhand shot to give the Bayhawks an early 3-2 lead then opened the second half with back-to-back goals on strong one-on-one moves.
“In the first half I was getting the short stick and we’re told that when we have that matchup we need to go hard to the goal,” Hunt said. “That’s what I did today, some lanes opened up and I was able to capitalize.”
Midfielder Jed Prossner scored an extra man goal off an assist from Danny Glading to complete a 5-0 run that gave Chesapeake a 7-3 lead. Boston attackman Matt Poskay, the MLL Most Valuable Player, scored to briefly halt the barrage, but the Bayhawks closed the second quarter with three unanswered goals to take a comfortable 10-3 halftime lead.
Boston goalie Kip Turner, the MLL Goalie of the Year, didn’t stand a chance against some of the cannon blast shots the Bayhawks took. Rookie attackman Brian Carroll epitomized the type of looks Chesapeake was getting when he reared back and scored on an 8-yard crank shot with no defender around.
“I think they just game-planned a little better than we did. They had a good game-plan and we didn’t necessarily stick to ours during that first half,” Turner said. “I think they just scouted us real well and did some things in this game that they hadn’t done before.”
Boston mounted a mini comeback in the second half, scoring five straight goals to pull within 12-9. Garrity, who was named the Bud Light MVP, made sure it got no closer by making several tough stops and midfielder Brian Vetter scored the clinching goal for Chesapeake with 1:30 remaining.
“Chris Garrity was absolutely lights out. Chris came out on fire, made some incredible saves early that really put the Cannons on their heels and they never recovered from it,” Kelly said.
Long stick defensive midfielder Kyle Hartzell also came up big, blanketing 2009 MLL Most Valuable Player Paul Rabil from start to finish and holding Boston’s second-leading scorer to zero points. “Kyle Hartzell did an incredible job on Rabil. Kyle was without a doubt our unsung hero,” Kelly said.
Kelly said Chesapeake was motivated by a fan poll on the Major League Lacrosse website in which 75 percent of voters selected Boston to win Saturday’s semifinal. The Bayhawks won two of three regular season games against the Cannons, including a thrilling overtime triumph on August 7.
“I think we got tired of hearing that we’re not supposed to be here. Boston was the overwhelming pick to beat us and our players took that personally,” Kelly said. “We also heard some of the Cannons said we got a cheap win the last time, that the game didn’t matter and they didn’t care. Well that game did matter because it showed our players we could beat the best team in the league and this game mattered even more.”
The Bayhawks captured MLL championships in 2002 and 2005 then missed the playoffs four straight seasons. Now Chesapeake (7-6) is trying to complete a Cinderella run to another title that no one would have expected when the team endured a five-game losing streak during the regular season.
“You hear all the time that this is a players’ league, and our players decided after the five-game losing streak that it was time to come together and get it done,” said Combs, who has announced he will retire after the season. “Brendan Kelly has led us and motivated us and we’ve put the work in to become a championship level team.
“You learn a lot about people when you lose. We learned that we have a lot of guys on this team that are resilient, that stick together and are faithful to one another,” Combs continued. “We really like each other and have fun together, which is the key. It’s all about team and playing for one another – that is why we’re in the championship.”
Kevin Buchanan scored three goals while fellow attackman Ryan Boyle had two goals and an assist to lead Boston (8-5), the MLL regular season champion.
Midfielder Stephen Berger fired in five goals as third-seeded Long Island upset second-seeded Denver, 16-12, in the second semifinal. Attackman Keith Cromwell dished off five assists for the Lizards, who outscored the Outlaws 7-3 in the second half to break open a close game.
The Bayhawks and Lizards are meeting in the championship game for the fifth time, having split the four previous meetings. Winner of Sunday’s (1 p.m.) championship game will join Philadelphia for most MLL titles with three. Chesapeake and Long Island split during the regular season with each winning at home.