In a game of two halves, the Bayhawks picked the wrong half.
Chesapeake doomed itself with its worst first-half performance of the year Saturday night, letting up 11 unanswered goals before halftime. While the Bayhawks outscored Denver 8-3 after intermission, it was too little, too late.
The Outlaws held on to defeat the Bayhawks 15-9 in front of an announced 8,517 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, bumping Chesapeake down to the fourth seed in the upcoming Major League Lacrosse playoffs.
"Tonight we came out a little sluggish and we played much better in the second half," Bayhawks coach Brendan Kelly said. "But you've got to play 60 minutes in this game."
In a rematch of last year's semifinal, the Bayhawks (6-6) will face Boston (9-3) at noon on August 27 for the right to play in the championship the following day. Denver (7-5) plays Hamilton (7-5) in the other semifinal at 3 p.m. The entire championship weekend will be played in Annapolis.
Last week Brendan Kelly experimented with a new defensive strategy, pressuring the ball on the perimeter in an hopes of producing turnovers. While the new look worked against Rochester, Kelly's approach backfired on Saturday.
The Outlaws had no trouble getting by the Chesapeake defenders in the first half, and the Bayhawks struggled in providing help defense.
Brendan Mundorf led the charge for Denver, notching seven points in the first two quarters.
Bayhawks rookie goalie Brian Phipps — starting after Chris Garrity was a late scratch with a family emergency— had his hands full all night. Denver put 34 shots on goal, with 22 of those coming in the first half.
Kelly said the Bayhawks' defensive struggles stemmed from their inexperience on defense. With veteran Mike Evans out with a hamstring injury, Kelly was forced to start rookies Dan Hostetler, Bray Malphrus and Barney Ehrmann against one of the league's most dynamic offenses.
It didn't help that the Bayhawks couldn't get their offense moving in the first half against Denver's All-Star netminder Jesse Schwartzman. After Kyle Dixon tied the score three minutes into the game, the Bayhawks went on a 31-minute scoring drought.
The Outlaws pulled away midway through the second quarter, exploding for seven goals in a four minute span. Mundorf started the charge for the Outlaws, breaking through a double team and scooping an underhand shot past Phipps. The former UMBC star recorded two more goals during the Outlaws' run and concluded the half with an assist to Billy Bitter.
"[Mundorf's] the best attackman in the world right now," Kelly said. "He's phenomenal."
Ben Rubeor ended the Bayhawks' scoring drought shortly after halftime, whipping a shot above Denver backup goalie Adam Ghitelman's shoulder.
The Bayhawks had an easier time scoring against Ghitelman — a rookie from Virginia who checked in for Schwartzman at halftime — and a few minutes after Rubeor's goal, Dixon nailed a two-pointer from the top of the perimeter.
Danny Glading opened the scoring for the Bayhawks in the final quarter, spinning past a defender and bouncing a shot top corner. Glading added another tally when he ripped a low shot from the wing that slipped by Ghitelman.
The Bayhawks' leading scorer made it a hat trick with two-and-a-half minutes to play, taking a behind-the-back pass from Dan Hardy in front of the net and depositing it above Ghitleman. Glading's third goal cut the deficit to six, but that was as close as the Bayhawks would come.
"I was just in the right spots in the right time," Glading said. "We played better in the second half. Hopefully we can come out and put a full game together in the semifinals."