The Chesapeake Bayhawks know what's at stake in their regular-season finale against Denver tonight.
Both Chesapeake and Denver come into the 7 p.m. game at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium tied for first with 10-3 records. The winner earns the top seed in the four-team Major League Lacrosse playoffs set for Aug. 25-26 at Harvard.
"We're bigger and stronger, but they're quicker," Chesapeake coach Dave Cottle said. "So, this will be a good test for us."
The Bayhawks already passed that test once this season. They rallied for an 18-16 victory over the Outlaws in Denver when the teams first met on June 2. Denver jumped to an 8-3 lead in that game before Chesapeake bounced back.
The Bayhawks are the league's top defensive team and have allowed the league's fewest goals (128).
But Denver leads the league with 202 goals scored and shooting percentage (.349) and that's why Cottle said the Bayhawks need to keep the Outlaws away from the ball.
"I think we're a solid team; we're very solid," Cottle said. "When we get possessions, we get good shots. We've just got to stay focused and make them play defense for a longer period of time."
Denver's got a number of scorers, most of whom have a local connection. Brendan Mundorf (UMBC) is second in the league with 54 points while Jeremy Sieverts (Maryland, and a former Bayhawk) posted 40 points.
He's also scored seven two-point goals, and Peet Poillon (UMBC, also a former Bayhawk) added 38 points. Denver goalie Jesse Schwartzman (Johns Hopkins, Pikesville High) has been one of the league's top goalies this season.
Denver's high-powered offense will likely keep Chesapeake goalie Kip Turner busy. He leads the MLL in goals-against average (10.14 per game) and save percentage (.556).
Midfielders Kyle Dixon (41 points), Michael Kimmel (36) and Steven Brooks have paved the way for a balanced Chesapeake offense. Dixon scored seven points in the first Denver game, and Brooks notched both the tying and winning goals.
Another midfielder, Ben Hunt, also will be what the coach calls "an X factor." He's missed four games due to hamstring problems, but Hunt appears to be finding his way. He led Chesapeake with three goals in last week's 13-6 victory over Long Island and said afterward the team knew what was coming this week.
"That's what we're shooting for ultimately is the No. 1 seed," Hunt said. "We know Denver is going to be a good contest for us, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
Chesapeake also is coming into this game after one of its best performances this season in the win over Long Island. The Bayhawks dominated that game from start to finish, playing for Cottle as the coach missed it due to his son having to undergo an emergency operation.
Cottle's son is fine now, and the coach will return to the sideline tonight, guiding a team that knows exactly what's needed in this game.
"We'd like to be first," said Chesapeake's John Grant Jr. "We just have to play well…and we're probably going to see them in a couple weeks [later on]. It's a game to kind of see what each other has and battle it out."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun