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Bayhawks Return Home with New Rookie Talent

June 15, 2017
For Immediate Release: June 15th, 2017

Fans will get their first glimpse of Chesapeake's latest crop of rookies when the Bayhawks return home on Friday night. Attackman Josh Byrne and faceoff specialist Ben Williams headline a list of six players recently selected in the Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft who are expected to suit up when Chesapeake hosts the Charlotte Hounds at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at 7:30pm.

Byrne made an absolutely spectacular professional debut last Saturday when when he scored seven goals in a 17-16 overtime loss to the Rochester Rattlers. The third round pick out of Hofstra University was named MLL Rookie of the Week honors after putting on a show. It was the second-highest number of goals scored by a first-year player in MLL history, trailing only the nine goals by Grant Catalino.

"Josh definitely made a major impact and we're hoping he continues to do so," Chesapeake Head Coach Brian Reese said. "What I really like is that he scored in a variety of ways - off-ball, dodging, extra man, even strength, settled, in transition... you name it. It was a very impressive performance."

Byrne, who amassed 111 points (71 goals, 40 assists) in just two seasons at Hofstra, was named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year and a third team All-American selection as a senior. The left-hander from British Columbia will be back in the starting lineup on Friday night and looking to build off his remarkable debut.

"Do we expect Josh to score seven goals every game? Of course not," Reese said. "However, Josh has shown he can put the ball in the cage if left open so that gives us another weapon that opponents have to account for, which will open up things for others on offense."

Ben Williams actually made his MLL debut during Chesapeake's last home game, June 2nd against Ohio. The former Syracuse All-American won 23 of 32 faceoffs and scooped 15 ground balls against the Machine.

Williams was also solid in his second pro outing at Rochester, battling on even terms with Drew Simoneau by winning 17 draws. The fifth round draft choice has provided a solution to a crucial area of the game that had been an issue for the Bayhawks.

"Ben has shown he can be an effective faceoff man in this league," Reese said. "Ben started off strong against Rochester, but Simoneau made an adjustment that worked in his favor. It's going to be a learning process for Ben. He needs to get to know all the MLL faceoff guys and figure out how to counter what they do."

Jake Froccaro, Chesapeake's first round pick (No. 7 overall) out of Villanova, saw his first professional action this past Saturday night - starting on midfield and contributing an assist. Froccaro, a second team All-American this past spring, scored 125 career goals in college.

"Jake has some tremendous skills and we would like to see him be more aggressive going to the goal and shoot the ball more," Reese said. "I think Jake deferred a bit and was too unselfish in his first game."

Chesapeake's coaching staff also got its first look at short stick defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen, a second round selection out of Maryland. Davis-Allen, who scooped 132 ground balls during his collegiate career, provided a real boost to the short stick unit.

"I thought Isaiah was fantastic on Saturday night. He's a really smart player who defends well and is excellent in transition. He makes a lot of little plays," Reese said.

A pair of Naval Academy graduates - close defenseman Chris Fennell and long stick midfielder Matt Rees - made their professional debuts versus Rochester. Fennell covered perennial All-Star attackman Ned Crotty and held him to only one goal. The three-time Patriot League Defender of the Year is a welcome addition as the Bayhawks have lost starting close defenseman Joe Cinosky for the season to a shoulder injury.

Rees showed he can be a difference-maker between the lines by scooping three ground balls and dishing off an assist in transition. "We want Matt to be the player he was in college, to play with reckless abandon and really make things happen," Reese said.

Chesapeake has several other 2017 MLL Collegiate Draft choices that could still make an impact this season, such as midfielder Colin Heacock (2nd round, Maryland), attackman Nick Aponte (4th round, Penn State) and faceoff specialist Stephen Kelly (6th round, North Carolina).

The Bayhawks will receive additional reinforcements next weekend as superstar attackman Lyle Thompson and veteran defenseman Jason Noble are expected to join the team in time for a June 24th contest at Ohio. Thompson and Noble just helped the Georgia Swarm capture the National Lacrosse League championship.

Thompson put together one of the finest seasons in NLL history by piling up 116 points in leading Georgia to the Champions Cup series victory over Saskatchewan. The former Albany University standout was named the league Most Valuable Player.

"Lyle is a little worn down from a long indoor season so we want him to get a week's rest so he is refreshed and raring to go for the outdoor season," Reese said. "I can't wait to get Lyle on the field in a Bayhawks uniform. I've been watching film of his Albany days and from box lacrosse and his skills are out of this world."

Noble has been with the Bayhawks since 2014 and proven a valuable and versatile defender, capable of playing down low or up top. He will add depth to the long stick unit and give the coaching staff more options.

Chesapeake went on the road and defeated Charlotte, 17-16, in another high-scoring affair on May 13th as part of a three-game winning streak. The Bayhawks (3-3) have dropped two in a row and are in fifth place in Major League Lacrosse.

"We played much better against Rochester than we did against Ohio. We just had some defensive breakdowns that proved costly and didn't finish some offensive opportunities that were there. It all boils down to shooting better on offense and communicating better on defense."

The Bayhawks are expecting an enthusiastic crowd for Friday night's game, which starts at 7:30 p.m. Chesapeake partnered with Smoothie King of Severna Park to distribute 18,000 tickets for the June 16th game to Anne Arundel County middle school students. That outreach effort was a way for the Annapolis-based Major League Lacrosse organization to recognize and reward the students for a successful school year.