A wet forecast and a meeting with the league's top-seeded team hasn't dampened the Chesapeake Bayhawks' confidence heading to into the Major League Lacrosse playoffs this weekend at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
A quick glance at Chesapeake's roster shows numerous players who have already won championships as professional or college players. So, even though they finished league play at 6-6 and enter the postseason as the fourth seed, the Bayhawks have swagger heading into Saturday's game against the Boston Cannons, who swept them during the regular season by an average of 5.5 goals.
Chesapeake faced the same scenario last year before knocking off Boston in the semifinals en route to their third league title. The players are hopeful the same scenario will play out again. If the Bayhawks win Saturday, they will play the winner of Hamilton and Denver on Sunday at 3 p.m. and try to become the first team in MLL history to win four championships.
"We have a mentality that if we have to win a game, we're gonna dig deep and give everything we got," said goalie Chris Garrity, who played high school lacrosse at St. Mary's. "We want to win every game, and when it comes to clutch time, a lot of our guys seem to thrive under those conditions. I'm glad we have players like that. I think that goes a long way come playoff time."
The biggest challenge facing the Bayhawks will be shutting down Boston midfielder and MLL MVP Paul Rabil (Johns Hopkins) and attackman Matt Poskay. Rabil finished the season with 28 goals and 17 assists for 49 points. Poskay, the 2010 MVP, has 30 goals.
A hamstring injury to All-Star defenseman Mike Evans (South River, Johns Hopkins) opened the door for some younger players to get valuable playing time in the Bayhawks' regular-season finale last week. Bayhawks coach Brendan Kelly lauded the play of rookies Dan Hostetler (River Hill), Barney Ehrmann (Gilman) and Bray Malphrus. He said the young trio has responded when called to play important roles.
"Mike looks good. I think he's going to be fine," Kelly said. "We're really comfortable with who we got regardless. We've had to play without Michael a couple of times this year and we've won without him. But, it's always great to have him back."
Offensively, Chesapeake is led by a couple of Virginia products in Danny Glading and Ben Rubeor (Loyola). Glading enters the game with 23 goals and 15 assists, while Rubeor has 17 goals and 10 assists.
Kelly remains confident he has the depth to defend the title. He said the Bayhawks know how to respond in big games.
"I would say we're the healthiest we've been since training camp," Kelly said. "We're probably in the best shape we've been in all season. This is the first time all season there's not a doubt in my mind where we stand as a team. It took 12 games to get to this point, but right now, I'm more confident than I've been all season. We know what it takes to win. We pride ourselves on being a tough-nosed, blue-collar team. If it's gonna rain, and it turns into a street fight, we love that."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun