Prior to the regular-season finale against the Charlotte Hounds, Chesapeake Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle said he was more concerned with his team's momentum than his opponent's. Saturday night, Cottle got a glimpse of the team's character.
Trailing by five goals in the third quarter, Chesapeake went on a 7-0 run and shut out visiting Charlotte over the final 25 minutes, 57 seconds to pull away with a 16-14 decision before an announced 10,831 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
The Bayhawks (9-5) capped the regular season with five victories in their past six contests and leapfrogged the Hamilton Nationals (9-5) for the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Major League Lacrosse playoffs due to tiebreakers. When the postseason begins Aug. 24 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., Chesapeake and Hamilton will meet in one semifinal at 4 p.m.
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Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, 550 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21401, USA
Meanwhile, the Hounds, as the No. 4 seed, will attempt to upset the top-seeded Denver Outlaws, who became the first team in league history to go undefeated (14-0). That semifinal is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Early in the second half, the Bayhawks were the ones who appeared headed to a playoff date with Denver. When Charlotte short-stick defensive midfielder Kevin Drew converted a centering pass from attackman Matt Danowski with 10:57 left in the third quarter, Chesapeake trailed 14-9.
But the team went on a 7-0 run aided by one goal and two assists from attackman John Grant Jr., two goals from attackman Ben Rubeor (Loyola Blakefield) and a 2-point goal from midfielder Michael Kimmel (Johns Hopkins, Loyola Blakefield).
"They bulled their necks," Cottle said of his players. "You don't hold a team like Charlotte scoreless for 26 minutes. You could see the energy go. This was a game about energy and effort. I thought we showed both of them today."
That spurt helped the team overcome an uncharacteristic performance in which the Bayhawks wilted in the face of a Charlotte run that spanned 9:42 and bridged the second and third quarters.
Over that stretch, the Hounds overcame a 9-6 deficit with an 8-0 binge that included a 2-point goal by Danowski. By the time attackman Drew Westervelt (UMBC, John Carroll) scored off a pass from midfielder Matt Mackrides with 9:03 remaining in the third quarter, it was Chesapeake that trailed 14-10.
"We talked about it kind of being a heavyweight fight, a precursor to the playoffs in that guys throw their best punches, you get knocked down, and you've just got to keep coming," said Rubeor, who finished with four goals and two assists and was named the Player of the Game. "I thought we played a pretty good second half. We've got to keep that momentum, and I hope we can keep it going into the playoffs."
In addition to Rubeor, two other attackmen recorded six points each. Grant Jr. had two goals and four assists and Westervelt posted four goals and two assists.
Charlotte relied heavily on its two-pronged attack of Danowski and several rookie standouts. Danowski scored his league-leading sixth 2-point goal and added two assists.
The Hounds offense also got help from a group of first-year players that included a hat trick by midfielder Jake Tripucka, two goals each from midfielder Mike Sawyer (Loyola) and short-stick defensive midfielder Josh Hawkins (Loyola), and a goal and an assist from attackman Matt White.
But Charlotte's offense evaporated in the second half as Bayhawks goalkeeper Kip Turner (Severn) made five saves in the fourth quarter, and defenseman Michael Evans (Johns Hopkins, South River) shut out Danowski in the fourth quarter.
"I think they got some good opportunities where we slid and didn't really get the second slide and weren't recovering as well as maybe we were right off the bat," said short-stick defensive midfielder Jeff Reynolds, a Maryland alum who scored a goal. "Just a couple things that we needed to tweak. So we just kind of regrouped a little bit."
Chesapeake will have almost two weeks to prepare for Hamilton, which split the season series with the Bayhawks. But Rubeor said the players won't view Saturday's win as a teaching tool.
"I don't think I learned anything new about this team," he said. "These are guys that have been together for a while, guys that have played this game for a while. They understand what it takes, and we've got to make sure that we prepare ourselves for the next two weeks. We've got a big challenge against the Nationals."
Bayhawks 16 Charlotte 14
Charlotte 3 7 4 0 — 14
Bayhawks 6 3 1 6 — 16
Goals: C — Tripucka 3, Hawkins 2, Sawyer 2, Danowski 1 (2pt.), Drew 1, Flanagan 1, Haus 1, White 1, Young 1; B — Rubeor 4, Westervelt 4, Kimmel 2 (2pt.), Mackrides 2, Grant 2, Reynolds 1. Assists: C — Danowski 2, White 1, Young 1; B — Grant 4, Abbott 2, Rubeor 2, Westervelt 2, Kimmel 1. Saves: C — Ghitelman 12; B — Turner 13.
PPL Park, Chester, Pa.
Semifinals, Aug. 24
1 p.m.: No. 1 Denver vs. No. 4 Charlotte
4 p.m.: No. 2 Bayhawks vs. No. 3 Hamilton
Final, Aug. 25
3 p.m.: TBA vs. TBA