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Chesapeake Hosts Denver in Rematch of MLL Championship

March 18, 2016
NNAPOLIS, MD– The Chesapeake Bayhawks hoisted the Steinfeld Trophy after beating the Denver Outlaws in the 2012 Major League Lacrosse Championship game, dominating on both ends of the field,  16-6 at Harvard Stadium. That result prompted Outlaws management to make some drastic personnel changes.

“The last time we played Chesapeake they completely took us apart. They out-gunned us, out-manned us, out-coached us and out-played us,” Stagnitta said. “A lot of what we did in the offseason was to compete better with the Bayhawks.”

Denver is the lone unbeaten team in MLL after winning last weekend against Hamilton (5-1), 22-9. Now the Bayhawks will try to make a statement when they take on the Outlaws in Annapolis for a championship rematch at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

“Kudos to Denver for playing so well. The pressure’s not really on us because Denver has been so dominant,” Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle said. “In my years in this league, I’ve never seen a team this dominant. It’s a great organization, a great system and the team is extremely well-coached. They are doing everything well right now.”

Denver has scored 20 goals or more in four of six games this season with perennial All-Pro attackman Brendan Mundorf leading the way with 25 points. “If they score 20 like they have on everyone else we’re going to get killed,” Cottle said. “We have to find a way to hold them under 20, which is easier said than done.”

Chesapeake boasts the stingiest defense in MLL, having allowed just 54 goals through six games. Keeper Kip Turner has been outstanding, posting a phenomenal .624 save percentage and 8.32 goals-against average. He has gotten great support from a tough and aggressive close defense comprised of standout veterans Mike Evans, Brian Spallina and Nicky Polanco.

Chesapeake is coming off its most complete performance of the season – a 21-8 rout of the New York Lizards. Attackman Drew Westervelt scored a career-high eight goals to lead an impressive offensive onslaught.

“I started kidding around and calling (Westervelt) two-goal Drew. He threw it back in my face and now I owe him dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse,” Cottle said.

Ben Rubeor leads Chesapeake in scoring with 22 points on 17 goals and five assists while Westervelt (14 goals) and fellow attackman John Grant, Jr. (11 goals) are also dangerous threats. However, Stagnitta still believes the key to defending the Bayhawks is shutting down the midfield that is led by perennial All-Pro Kyle Dixon (19 points) and includes several other long-range shooters in Ben Hunt, Michael Kimmel and Steven Brooks. Second-year player Matt Mackrides (15 points) has given the Bayhawks another scoring threat in the midfield.

“You have to control their midfielders first. We have to keep their big, strong middies dodging down the side then play good off-ball defense,” Stagnitta said.

Chesapeake added another scoring option on attack last week when Tim Goettelman, the all-time leading goal scorer in Major League Lacrosse, came out of retirement to join the team. Goettelman, who has gotten into great shape by doing martial arts, showed he is still a force as a bull dodger by scoring two goals in his Bayhawks debut.

“I think Tim Goettelman is a tremendous teammate, tremendous person and tremendous locker room guy,” Cottle said. “I think Tim can still go to the goal with the best of them. He is another big body, like John Grant, who is hard to knock down. One thing about Tim, he always goes forward.”

Denver is led defensively by goalie Jesse Schwartzman, who owns a .549 save percentage this season. The former Johns Hopkins All-American has the ability to get hot and shut down an opposing offense while also triggering the transition with great clearing passes.

“I think the guy that really makes Denver go is Jesse Schwartzman. If Jesse is saving the ball he jump-starts the fast break because he’s such a good passer,” Cottle said. “We’ve got to make this more of a six-on-six game. We have to eliminate all the transition goals and 2-pointers they’ve been getting in the open field.”

Cottle is hopeful that long stick defensive midfielder Mike Simon can came off the injured list and play Saturday night and said that will help determine whether he decides to dress six long poles or three short stick defensive midfielders. Cottle must also determine how many attackmen will play against the Outlaws and said veteran midfielder Josh Sims has been activated and might make his Bayhawks’ debut.

“We have some personnel decisions we need to make. We have four different options that we’re looking at,” Cottle said.

The Bayhawks return home on Saturday, June 15 th against the Denver Outlaws at 6:30 PM at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Severn Savings will be giving away fiddlesticks to the first 500 kids through the gates. 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).