Chesapeake Prepares for Battle against Denver on Native American Celebration Night
ANNAPOLIS, MD - Color commentator Quint Kessenich suggested the team from Annapolis, Maryland might be the team to beat in Major League Lacrosse (MLL) during last Sunday's broadcast of the Chesapeake Bayhawks' 24-7 rout of the New York Lizards on Long Island.
Kessenich and play-by-play voice Joe Beninati were discussing the new reality of a three-way tie atop the MLL standings between the Bayhawks, Boston Cannons and Denver Outlaws. These three teams all boast 6-3 records.
Having just witnessed Chesapeake's complete destruction of the New York Lizards, Kessenich opined that perhaps the Bayhawks might be playing the best lacrosse among the top MLL contenders.
"Maybe Quint meant that we were the team to beat that day," Chesapeake Head Coach Dave Cottle said with a chuckle when informed of the statement. "Seriously, there is still a long way to go in this season and a lot of things can happen. I think this teams still needs to get better to reach its potential and we'll all keep working toward that goal."
It was hard not to be impressed with the Bayhawks based off last Sunday evening's performance. Attackman Steele Stanwick totaled five points while four others amassed four points as Chesapeake dominated from start to finish.
Goalie Brian Phipps made his first start of the season and backstopped a defense that shut down one of the most dangerous offenses in Major League Lacrosse as the Bayhawks completed a weekend sweep of the Lizards in a rare back-to-back, home-and-home situation.
Cottle was asked if Sunday's performance was Chesapeake's best this season.
"Well, the score certainly says that. I thought we played as well offensively as we have all season. We were very unselfish, shared the ball and shot it well," Cottle said. "Defensively, we communicated and worked together and won the individual matchups. It was a very complete effort in all areas, but it's still just one game."
Needless to say, Cottle would like to see Chesapeake replicate that performance on Saturday, August 10th at 8:00 PM EST when the Bayhawks host the Denver Outlaws in a showdown for first-place. The surging Bayhawks will be seeking their seventh win of the season on their home turf for the organization's Native American Celebration Night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The Bayhawks have two Native American players who have been on their roster since game one, superstar attackman Lyle Thompson (from the Onondaga Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy) and All-Star first-year midfielder Brendan Bomberry (from the Mohawk Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy). Both players have factored heavily into the Bayhawks' offense and played prominent roles in the Bayhawks' last game against the Outlaws.
Denver, who has dropped two-straight, barely beat the Bayhawks, 14-13, in the Outlaws' Fourth of July game.
"I thought we played a great game for three quarters, but faltered in the fourth quarter and didn't finish," Cottle said of the initial meeting with the Outlaws. "This is an important game because we need to find out how much we've improved - how much we've learned since then." Despite the recent downturn, Denver remains one of the most formidable teams in Major League Lacrosse with talent in every area of the field. Dillon Ward has statistically ranked among the league's top goalies and anchors a defense spearheaded by fellow All-Star Finn Sullivan.
Midfielder Zach Currier is widely considered one of the best players in Major League Lacrosse and has a dangerous running mate in the speedy Mikie Schlosser. Attackman Brendan Kavanagh leads the Outlaws in scoring with 28 points, just two ahead of the ageless John Grant Jr. - Major League Lacrosse's all-time leading point scorer.
"Denver is the defending champion and has a very solid core group of elite players," Cottle said. "I think the Outlaws are at their best when the ball hits the ground. They're really dangerous in unsettled situations. We have to take away the transition and make them play six-on-six lacrosse."
The Bayhawks can match the Outlaws, or any other opponent, in terms of offensive firepower thanks largely to the potent trio of Lyle Thompson, Steele Stanwick and Colin Heacock. Thompson has been tremendously consistent all season and still leads MLL with 47 points on 32 goals and 15 assists. Stanwick, the team's offensive quarterback, ranks top 10 in scoring with 31 points on the strength of 18 assists.
Heacock exploded for 10 goals in the two games against the Lizards last weekend and is now among the team and league leaders with 24 points. Heacock's weekend performance earned him the title of Major League Lacrosse's Warrior Offensive Player of the Week for Week 9.
Veteran Nick Mariano ranks as one of the top midfield scorers with 15 goals. Additionally, the Bayhawks have been bolstered by contributions from a pair of promising talent in rookie attackman Andrew Kew (12G, 4A) and midfielder Ryan Keenan (6G, 5A with Chesapeake).
"Lyle Thompson and Steele Stanwick have shown up every game. Obviously, Colin Heacock's emergence last weekend was a huge plus," Cottle said. "Our younger players like Andrew Kew and Ryan Keenan just keep getting better and better. I really like what I see developing with our offense."
Chesapeake seems to be settling into more of a regular rotation with Cottle using the exact same roster in both weekend games against New York. Speedy midfielder Shane Simpson made his MLL and Bayhawks debut last weekend and provided a lift with his work between the lines.
Jesse Bernhardt has taken over leadership of the entire defensive unit by providing superb communication and direction. Bernhardt showed he can be the shutdown defender that the Bayhawks need by containing the 2018 MLL MVP Rob Pannell last weekend.
Cottle has been quite pleased with the play of the close defense and plans to stick with Bernhardt, Warren Jeffrey and Chris Fennell for the foreseeable future. Jeffrey, who held 2019 All-Star MVP Dylan Molloy to a measly three points (1G, 2A) over the two-game weekend, earned an accolade alongside Heacock as the league's Warrior Defensive Player of the Week.
Hard-working veteran CJ Costabile and newcomer Greg Danseglio give Chesapeake a solid combination at long stick midfield while Isaiah Davis-Allen and Nick Manis spearhead a reliable short stick defensive group. Veteran Matt Abbott, who is known for his elite two-way game, has taken many shifts this season as a short stick defender, aiding a short stick defensive midfield composed entirely of All-Stars.
Brian Phipps was simply outstanding in his season debut and Cottle said he will not hesitate to insert the veteran between the pipes should the situation call.
"Brian went out last Sunday and proved what we already knew - that we have two strong goaltenders that are capable of starting and performing well," praised Cottle.
Niko Amato is still the projected starter for this showdown and will provide grade-A goaltending much like "Phipper."
The Bayhawks added faceoff specialist Jon Garino on Monday to provide a backup behind surging star Kenny Massa. Midfielder Kevin McNally was placed on the Practice Squad to make room for Garino. Garino's addition then allowed Chesapeake to, later in the week, acquire a 5th round 2020 Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft pick by trading faceoff specialist Noah Rak who had spent his entire Bayhawks stint on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List.
Garino played alongside Davis-Allen, Manis and Heacock on the 2017 NCAA DI National Championship-winning Maryland Terrapins team. Previously, the faceoff-man was a member of the New York Lizards and won 10 of his 17 faceoffs in his two-game 2017 campaign. His next appearance will mark his first since 2017. He will wear #41 for the Bayhawks.
The Chesapeake Bayhawks return to Annapolis on Saturday, August 10th to take on the Denver Outlaws at 8:00 PM EST for Native American Celebration Night. Tickets for the Native American Celebration game are available at thebayhawks.com/tickets or can be purchased through the Chesapeake Bayhawks Ticket Office by calling 866-99-HAWKS or emailing [email protected]
The Lexus Tailgate Zone will open at 5:30 PM and feature a live DJ, photo booth, games for kids and complimentary Bud Light for ticket holders 21 and older - as always. Additionally, legendary hand-made stickmaker, Alf "Alfie" Jacques of the Onondaga Nation, will be in the Lexus Tailgate Zone displaying his craft. During the game, Jacques will be in the Bayhawks' Club Level on the field.
The Bayhawks, to further their commitment to celebrating Native American Culture and the Creator's Game, will have in attendance representatives from the National Congress for American Indians, Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, and the Piscataway Conoy Tribe - the Chesapeake Bay area's local tribe. These groups will aid Chesapeake in their celebration with presentations pre-game and at halftime.
Images from this story
Chesapeake Bayhawks Lyle Thompson and Brendan Bomberry
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Major League Lacrosse Stories from August 9, 2019
- Chesapeake Prepares for Battle against Denver on Native American Celebration Night - Chesapeake Bayhawks
- MLL Week 10 Preview - MLL
- Denver Outlaws Look to End Two-Game Slide on Saturday vs. Chesapeake BayHawks - Denver Outlaws
- MLL Week 9: Inside the Numbers - MLL
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