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Bayhawks Look to Maintain Their Perch Atop MLL Standings

March 18, 2016
ANNAPOLIS, MD –Hamilton was not at full strength the first time it played Chesapeake this season. The Nationals were missing a slew of key players and were blown out by the Bayhawks, 20-7, on their home turf.

Three players – attackmen Cody Jamieson and Stephen Keogh along with midfielder Joe Walters – were still playing indoor for the Rochester Knighthawks, champions of the National Lacrosse League. Two starting defensive midfielders – Steven Waldeck and Danny Burns – were also not available for that May 18 th contest.

Asked during this week’s Major League Lacrosse teleconference what Hamilton must do to avoid another lopsided loss to Chesapeake, head coach Regy Thorpe said: “We have all of our players so that’s a good start.”

Hamilton has won two straight since regaining the services of the aforementioned players and looked very impressive in routing Rochester, 17-8, last Saturday night. Now the Nationals come to Annapolis looking to avenge that earlier defeat to the Bayhawks.

“We’re a different team now and we’re looking forward to showing that on Saturday night,” Thorpe said. “Chesapeake is playing really well right now. We’re looking forward to the challenge of facing the number one team in the league.”

Chesapeake (5-1) will be seeking to maintain its perch atop the MLL standings when it hosts Hamilton (2-3) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Head coach Dave Cottle knows the Nationals will be more potent offensively due to the addition of Jamieson, Keogh and Walters while their defense will be stronger with the presence of Waldeck.

“Hamilton has its entire team back and has been playing much better offense. They are being unselfish and moving the ball better,” Cottle said. “We need to do a great job of defending their offensive midfielders with our short sticks. If we have to slide, it’s going to be death by a thousand wounds.”

Thorpe likes to put two long poles on the wings for face-offs with Waldeck and Brodie Merrill remaining up top to defend midfielders. That means the Nationals will use a short stick defender to cover one of the Bayhawks’ attackmen. 

“Merrill and Waldeck are very good at pressuring the ball and extremely strong in the middle of the field. We can’t get beat between the lines,” Cottle said.

Chesapeake, which took over sole possession of first place with a 15-7 thumping of the Charlotte Hounds last Saturday night, has yet to settle on a starting goalie for this week. Tyler Fiorito, a second round draft pick out of Princeton, practiced with the team for the first time this week. Mike Gabel, acquired last week from Rochester, also practiced this week.

Kip Turner, who started in road victories over Hamilton and Denver but sat out last Saturday’s game, is also available. T.C. DiBartolo, who made his third start and recorded 10 saves in just three quarters versus Charlotte, is the other candidate to man the cage.  

Cottle said the coaching staff will make a decision on the goalkeeper following Friday night’s walk-through and bristled at suggestions that the Bayhawks need to settle on one consistent starter. “We’re waiting for somebody to win the position. That being said, we have good goalies and we’re confident that whoever we put out there will give us a great effort,” he said.

Midfielder Kyle Dixon leads the Bayhawks in scoring with 23 points while midfielder Steven Brooks and attackman Drew Westervelt have totaled 18 and 17 points, respectively.

The Bayhawks also boast the third-best face-off specialist in the league as rookie Adam Rand (Stony Brook) owns a .569 winning percentage. Rand was downright dominant against Charlotte last Saturday night, capturing 19 of 26 draws. Rand was acquired to fill in for Alex Smith, the most successful face-off man in MLL history who is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

“Adam has really taken over that position and is trying to make everyone forget about Alex Smith,” Cottle said.

Cottle said he sees the close defense of Michael Evans, Brian Spallina, and Nicky Polanco coming together as a unit. Spallina and Polanco are first-year members of the Bayhawks and defensive coordinator Tony Resch felt the chemistry and communication within the unit was much better on Saturday when the Hounds were held to seven goals.

Midfielder Ben Hunt, the team’s fifth-leading scorer with 12 points, will miss a second straight game with a hamstring injury. His absence last Saturday was lessened by the play of rookie Matt Mackrides (Penn State), who scored two goals against Charlotte. Brent Adams (Fairfield), another rookie, has emerged as a strong short stick defensive midfielder.

“Matt and Brent have given us quality minutes,” Cottle said. “Matt is very intelligent and picked up the offense right away. He’s hard to guard with or without the ball. Brent is a versatile guy with great quickness. He’s an outstanding on-ball defender and has been great working the wing on face-offs.”

The Bayhawks return home on Saturday, June 16 th to battle the Hamilton Nationals. Howard W. Phillips will be giving away beach towels and for Father’s Day the Bayhawks are offering the Father’s Day Family Pack – 4 tickets and a pizza for just $60 (deadline June 15 th at 3pm). Tickets can be purchased online at www.thebayhawks.comor over the phone by calling the box office 866-99-HAWKS (42957). Reserve your seat today and see the Bayhawks battle at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this summer.

For the Bayhawks full schedule go to