August 25, 2013

Bayhawks Claim Third MLL Title in Four Years

by Phil Shore | | Twitter

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* Bayhawks Grind it Out to Set Up Old vs. New Matchup

CHESTER, Pa. -- For the first time since 2007, Major League Lacrosse has a repeat champion.

The Chesapeake Bayhawks defeated the Charlotte Hounds 10-9 in the MLL championship game Sunday, claiming their second consecutive title and third in four years.

Kip Turner and the Bayhawks defense stifled Charlotte while Chesapeake's veteran offensive players stepped up as the franchise won its third MLL title in four years, beating the Hounds 10-9.
© Kevin P. Tucker

It wasn't an easy road back, but the Bayhawks showed their willingness to win, especially towards the end of the season.

"We lost three games in overtime by one goal, and we were in seven one-goal games and two two-goal games," Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle said. "A normal team that didn't have the intestinal fortitude would have given up and quit. We kept trying to improve to the end of the year. That's a credit to our players. They never pointed fingers."

The Bayhawks left PPL Park in Chester, Pa., as the victors thanks to a stifling defense and the superb play of its iconic players.

Charlotte was tied for third in the league in goals scored and was first in 2-pointers but the Bayhawks held the Hounds offense to single-digit goals and only one two-pointer, which was a midfield heave by Matt Danowski right before the end of the game in a meaningless shot.

The game was tied for the lowest scoring championship contest in league history.

"We know they like to get back into the game with twos so we said, 'Hey we've got to press out and break down on their stick heads so we can stop those,'" said Bayhawks goalie Kip Turner, who made 14 saves on the day. "Mike Evans did a great job on Danowski and held him in check. We needed to hold [Mike] Sawyer in check, and [Jake] Tripucka has been getting hot recently, so we did a good job with all those guys."

Evans' defense on Danowski left the Hounds' leader in points virtually invisible the entire game. He had only two shots on goal, five shots off target, and that 2-pointer was the only goal he scored on the day.

"Matt, in my eyes, is one of the best players in the league," Evans said. "Today I was lucky enough to get the better of the match-up. He's been on the other end of that many times."

The cliché is that defense wins championships, but the Bayhawks needed to outscore the Hounds. They got that from the legendary combination of John Grant, Jr. and Casey Powell.

Powell finished with one goal and two assists. Grant scored four goals and was named the Championship Game MVP. Both dazzled with impressive over-the-shoulder and behind-the-back shots and passes.

"The guy is the best," Grant said of Powell. "I just try to stay out of his way and when he needs me to step in there and help him out, I try to do that. ... Having him on your team is always a benefit."

The Bayhawks didn't light up the scoreboard but they got what they needed. Powell and Grant played a large role in that and defending them wasn't easy.

"They're not so much one-on-one. They're just so good at moving the ball that we were sliding all over the place. They were just finding guys backdoor there for dunks," Hounds rookie Mason Poli said. "It helps a lot when we're tired and they're moving the ball real quick. It's tough to recover."

The second quarter was the difference maker for the Bayhawks. They held the Hounds scoreless in that quarter and extended their lead to three goals before halftime.

While Charlotte's Ryan Young had a stellar game – he scored four goals and assisted on three others – the rest of the Hounds offense struggled. Danowski only had the one goal, Mike Sawyer had two goals but didn't get on the board until the fourth quarter, and Tripucka and Matt White were held scoreless.

"It was about winning our match-ups. We had to have trust in each other," veteran Bayhawks defender Nicky Polanco said. "Some guys are going to get off. It's going to happen. But as long as we contain, let him get a couple goals, we'd get the 'W' in the end."

Polanco spoke about having respect for each other and other Bayhawks players echoed that sentiment. It was an important aspect of the team that willed them to the championship game and embodied the "intestinal fortitude" that Cottle said his team had.

Having previous championship weekend experience and a veteran locker room helps.

"It was an up and down season," Grant said. "We played well in spurts and other times we were just atrocious. We said when we were 7-5 we wanted to be 11-5 at the end of the year and that's what we did. Now we have the trophy."

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