August 1, 2013 - Major League Lacrosse (MLL) - Chesapeake Bayhawks
ANNAPOLIS, MD - It\'s that point in the Major League Lacrosse season when the contenders are separated from the pretenders. The Chesapeake Bayhawks have set a high standard since owner Brendan Kelly took over in 2010, capturing two of the last three MLL Championships.
President and head coach Dave Cottle believes the Bayhawks have the talent to retain the coveted Steinfeld Trophy, but knows the team will have to pick up the pace as crunch time arrives this month.
"It\'s August and that means it\'s time for every member of our team to step up and start playing like a Bayhawk," Cottle said.
Denver (12-0), which is seeking to become the first franchise in MLL history to complete an unbeaten regular season, has clinched the top seed for MLL Championship Weekend while Hamilton (9-3) has also secured a playoff berth. Third-place Chesapeake (7-5) controls its own destiny and could possibly clinch a postseason spot by beating Rochester (5-7) on Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Cottle hasn\'t spent too much time sorting through all the playoff scenarios; he is focused solely on getting the Bayhawks to play at a higher level over the next two weekends. Chesapeake closes the regular season on Saturday, August 10th against fourth place Charlotte (6-6).
"We need to win the next game and we need to play better than we have been," Cottle said. "Our players are professionals. They know what has to be done. If we\'re going to be an elite team that is going to be a factor, we need to turn it up a couple notches."
Chesapeake is loaded with accomplished MLL veterans, many of whom have multiple championships under their belt like close defenseman Brian Spallina, who has hoisted the Steinfeld Trophy five times.
"We\'ve got a group of winners that know what it takes at this time of the season. I would expect them to play their best lacrosse down the stretch," Cottle said. "Brian Spallina is a champion and a leader so when he speaks in the locker room it means something. Casey Powell didn\'t come back to win regular season games. Those guys have a bigger picture in mind. But in order to accomplish big things, we need to start doing the little things."
Cottle identified three areas that need to improve in order for Chesapeake to regain its championship form: transition defense, half-field offense and face-offs. Cottle said the Bayhawks need to cut down on the turnovers and prevent opponents from scoring fast-break or unsettled goals. They need to share the ball better and move it faster to create higher percentage shots and they must balance the field during draw situations.
Chesapeake is coming off a difficult 14-12 loss to Denver at Sports Authority Field in the Mile High City. The Bayhawks came out aggressive and looked like the defending champions while grabbing an early 5-1 lead, but suffered a couple scoring droughts in the second and fourth quarters that proved costly.
"I think as a group, coaches and players, we felt disappointed because we were in position to win and didn\'t close it out. I felt we left some scraps on the table," Cottle said. "We dominated the first quarter against the best team in the league. We need to find a way to play at that level all four quarters."
Chesapeake will regain the services of several key players for Saturday\'s contest with Rochester. Standout short stick defensive midfielder Jeff Reynolds has been activated and should play for the first time since suffering a concussion on May 18th. Offensive midfielder Matt Mackrides, the team\'s fourth-leading scorer with 25 points, will return after missing one game with a wrist injury. Long stick defensive midfielder Michael Simon along with offensive midfielder Kyle Dixon, who leads the team with 16 assists, will also be back after sitting out versus Denver.
"I thought we looked a tad slow on defense against Denver. Getting Jeff Reynolds and Mike Simon back will help us player quicker and faster," Cottle said.
Chesapeake edged Rochester, 17-14, in a wild, back-and-forth shootout in the April 27th season opener for both teams, held at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fl. Both teams have made massive personnel changes since then with the Rattlers receiving big boosts from collegiate draft picks John Ranagan (Johns Hopkins) and David Lawson (Duke), a pair of high-scoring midfielders.
"This is an entirely different Rochester team that we will be facing. They\'ve gotten some key veterans back from indoor league and added some young players on offense that are playing at a high level," Cottle said. "This is going to be a tough matchup for us because some of the things Rochester does really well - such as running from defense to offense - are what we have been struggling with."
The Bayhawks return home on Saturday, August 3rd against the Rochester Rattlers at 7:00 PM at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online at www.thebayhawks.com or over the phone by calling the box office 866-99-HAWKS (42957). For the Bayhawks full schedule go to www.thebayhawks.com.