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Chesapeake Looks to Repeat Surprising Run to MLL Championship

March 18, 2016
Coach Kelly Confident Bayhawks Have the Talent & Experience to Spring Upsets


ANNAPOLIS, MD - The Chesapeake Bayhawks find themselves in familiar territory heading into the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) Sports Authority Championship Weekend presented by Warrior. Last season, Chesapeake entered the semifinals as the fourth seed with a 6-6 record and was the underdog against top-seeded Boston.

As former New York Yankees Hall of Fame baseball player Yogi Berra once famously stated: It’s déjà vu all over again!

This season, Chesapeake is once again the fourth seed with a 6-6 record and matched up against top-seeded Boston, which captured its second straight regular season crown with a 9-3 mark. Head coach Brendan Kelly senses a repeat of what happened in last year’s semifinals when the Bayhawks stunned the Cannons, 13-9, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

 “We’ve been here before, and we know what it takes to get it done. The core group of players who led us to the championship last season are still our team leaders,” Kelly said. “We have the talent, we have the experience, and we have the motivation. We have 20 who are excited to make another run at a title.”

Chesapeake endured another up and down season – starting off hot, going through a tough stretch midway through the season, then winning the games it needed to in order to secure a playoff berth. Kelly believes the regular season becomes meaningless on Saturday in Annapolis.

 “Being 6-6 or 9-3 doesn’t mean a hill of beans at this point, as we saw last season,” he said. “We’ve been building toward this all season. We have been evaluating our personnel and figuring out which combinations work best. We know the team we want to put out there on Saturday, we have the matchups we want, and we’re ready to show again that we’re the team to beat.”

Boston swept Chesapeake during the regular season, winning 17-13 in Beantown and 17-10 in Naptown. The Cannons boast an explosive offense led by midfielder Paul Rabil and attackman Matt Poskay. Rabil, who was named MLL Most Valuable Player for the second time in three seasons, ranks second in the league with 49 points on 28 goals and 17 assists. Poskay, the 2010 Offensive Player of the Year, is tied for first in goals scored with 30.

Boston, which is averaging 15 goals per game, has plenty of additional firepower as four other players have totaled between 26 points or more. They are attackmen Matt Quinzani (22, 10) and Ryan Boyle (10, 19) along with midfielders Brad Ross (19, 6) and Kevin Buchanan (20, 5).

“We’re doing a great job of sharing the ball and getting multiple guys involved with the offense,” said Boston head coach Bill Daye, whose squad is riding a three-game winning streak. “When we have seven or eight different scorers in a game, we are tough to stop.”

Goalie Jordan Burke anchors a defense that has been equally strong, limiting three opponents to single-digit goals this season. Burke ranks first in the MLL with a .615 save percentage and second with 166 saves. In the last meeting between the teams, Boston hurt Chesapeake with its long stick midfield unit as Brian Farrell, P.T. Ricci and Kyle Sweeney combined to produce seven points.

“Boston is a very talented team that beat up on us twice,” Kelly conceded. “They are a strong transition team, and that is one thing we need to stop this weekend. Their long poles are very involved with the offense so we need to really focus on running from offense to defense and getting back in the hole. We need to play Bayhawks’ tempo and not Cannons’ tempo. That will be the difference in the game.”

Offensively, Chesapeake has been led all season by the attack combination of Danny Glading and Ben Rubeor. The former University of Virginia teammates have shown great chemistry together with Glading ranking among the league leaders in scoring with 38 points on 23 goals and 15 assists and Rubeor also posting superb numbers with 17 goals and 10 assists.

Dan Hardyjoined the starting attack for the first time in the regular season finale against Denver and contributed two assists. Kelly and assistant coach Dave Cottle liked what they saw and said Hardy will likely start on attack again on Saturday.

In order to spring the upset, Chesapeake must get more production out of a midfield unit that has not shot the ball well all season. Kelly is looking for veterans such as Kyle Dixon and Steven Brooks to step up and put away some perimeter shots to loosen up the defense.

Kelly would not publicly name his starting goalie as veteran Chris Garrity and rookie Brian Phipps have both played well at times this season. It would not be a surprise if the coaching staff went with Garrity, who missed much of this season with an injury but returned in time to make 14 saves in a crucial victory over Rochester that clinched a playoff berth for Chesapeake.

Garrity was a big reason why the Bayhawks captured the MLL championship last season, making 28 saves in the two playoff games against Boston and the Long Island Lizards. “Garrity is a championship goalie who has always performed well under pressure,” Kelly said.

Kelly was encouraged by the way his young defense performed in the second half of the regular season finale against Denver. Dan Hostetler held Billy Bitter scoreless while Bray Malphrus shut out Drew Westervelt as the Bayhawks outscored the Outlaws 8-3 after intermission.

A key matchup will come at the faceoff spot where Chesapeake’s Alex Smith and Boston’s Chris Eck are two of the league’s best. Smith once again led the MLL with 177 faceoff wins while Eck captured almost 60 percent (156-262) of his draws.

 “Chesapeake is a well-coached team that has some great players on the roster,” Daye said. “They are the defending champs so we certainly can’t look past them. We have to look back on those two games during the regular season and emulate what we did in terms of game-planning and execution.”

Chesapeake is a founding member of Major League Lacrosse and has captured three championships since 2001. Boston is the only original franchise still active that has not won an MLL title.

Bayhawks’ 2012 season 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.