Military Appreciation Night, Fireworks Highlight Home Finale
Annapolis, MD - For the Chesapeake Bayhawks, the mission is clear going into Saturday night’s regular season home finale against the Chicago Machine. Chesapeake must win in order to have a chance of participating in the Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend, being held Aug. 21-22 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
“We all know the situation. This is like a playoff game and we need to bring a do or die mentality,” said midfielder Peet Poillon, the Bayhawks’ leading scorer with 38 points. “This game is not about Xs and Os or talent on the field. It’s going to come down to heart and determination. It’s all about who wants it more.”
There are many league-wide playoff scenarios, but for the Annapolis-based franchise it comes down to this: beat Chicago (4-6) by more than four goals and Chesapeake (4-6) clinches a berth in Championship Weekend. Win by less than four goals and the Bayhawks remain alive for the postseason going into their regular season finale at league-leading Boston (7-3). A loss would eliminate the team from contention.
“We control our own destiny, which is all you can ask at this point in the season,” said Bayhawks president and head coach Brendan Kelly. “This team has shown it is capable of scoring 17 or 18 goals and holding its opponent to 10 or less so it is very conceivable that we could beat Chicago by four. I think the guys are ready for the challenge.”
Chesapeake has suffered five straight losses since starting the season 4-1. However, both players and coaches said they saw encouraging signs during last Thursday’s 14-11 loss to Long Island.
“There were a lot of positives that came from that game. We converted 40 percent on extra man offense, which is double what we had been averaging. We scored five goals on our first eight shots so our shooting percentage was a lot better,” Kelly said. “We made some personnel adjustments in order to improve team chemistry and I think they paid dividends. I want guys working together and I saw signs of that against Long Island.”
Poillon said the emphasis ever since the head coaching change has been on ball movement and getting everyone involved with the offense. “Earlier in the season when we were averaging 16-18 goals, we were sharing the ball and getting goal-scoring from all sorts of different people. We need to get back to being unselfish.”
Chesapeake conducted a practice on Tuesday of this week and will hold a walk-through prior to Saturday’s game. “We had a great practice this week and I see the team jelling and the players bonding,” Kelly said.
The Bayhawks welcome back three key players who helped the United States capture the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship in Manchester, England. First line midfielder Kyle Dixon, starting close defenseman Joe Cinosky and faceoff specialist Alex Smith all did not play against Long Island.
“We definitely missed all three of those guys. Kyle Dixon is our offensive quarterback and provides veteran leadership on that end of the field while Joe Cinosky is one of our best ball-handlers on the defensive end,” Kelly said. “We only won 6 of 29 faceoffs against Long Island and that’s simply not going to happen with Alex Smith back in the lineup.”
It will be Military Appreciation Night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium with all service personnel displaying valid identification receiving a ticket discount. At halftime, the Bayhawks will make a special presentation of a Bayhawks jersey recognizing Matt Russell, a goalkeeper out of the Naval Academy who has been on the Bayhawks inactive roster while serving a Tour of Duty in Afghanistan. Russell was drafted by the Bayhawks in 2006 and played for the team that season.
“We are honored to play our games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which was built to honor all of those who fought for this country. The reason we’re able to play a lacrosse game on Saturday night is because there are men and women who are willing to fight to preserve the freedoms we enjoy here in the United States,” said Kelly, noting that Navy lacrosse coach Richie Meade will accept the jersey on behalf of Russell.