There is a saying in lacrosse that to enjoy postseason success, a team has to be strong up the middle.
Kip Turner is familiar with that mantra about solid play from the goalkeeper and faceoff specialist, but the Chesapeake Bayhawks goalie said he is not carrying any additional pressure as the team prepares for Saturday's start of the Major League Lacrosse playoffs.
"I think the only pressure that I have is from myself, to keep doing what I've been doing all season and to make the saves that I need to make," said Turner, a Severn graduate. "If I can spark something and I can play great, that's great. But it's always a team thing first, and if they give me a chance to save the ball, I need to save it."
Chesapeake is trying to join the Philadelphia Barrage as the only franchises to capture back-to-back league championships. (Philadelphia won in 2006 and 2007, capping a run of three crowns in four years.)
To accomplish that, the No. 2 seed Bayhawks (9-5) must defeat the No. 3 seed Hamilton Nationals at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., in a semifinal Saturday and then either beat the top-seeded Denver Outlaws (14-0) or the No. 4 seed Charlotte Hounds (7-7) in the title game Sunday.
Turner and faceoff specialist Adam Rand likely will play a significant role. Last season, Turner stopped 63.4 percent of the shots he faced and Alex Smith (Boys' Latin), Rand's predecessor, won 62.3 percent of the draws that he took, propelling the Bayhawks to victories over the Boston Cannons and Denver to the franchise's fourth Steinfeld Trophy.
That type of dominance is rare at Championship Weekend. Since 2005, only three goalies have turned aside more than 60 percent of shots: Turner, Chesapeake's Chris Garrity (St. Mary's) in 2010 and Brian Dougherty (Maryland) for the Barrage in 2006. During that same span, just two players have won more than 60 percent of faceoffs: Smith, for the Rochester Rattlers in 2008, and current Stevenson men's coach Paul Cantabene, for Philadelphia in 2006. (Andrew Corno won 59.6 percent of his draws for the Barrage in 2007).
"If your goalie is 60 percent and your faceoffs are 60 percent, it almost doesn't matter how bad everybody else plays — you're probably going to win," Hamilton coach Dave Huntley said. "That being said, rarely is a goalie 60 percent. [To do that] you can't give up a lot of transition goals, you have to ride well and not give up any free ones, and your defense has to be very well-organized. So those are numbers that are a function of other things. Similarly on the faceoffs, with the exception of Alex Smith ... I really don't think there are any faceoff guys in this league that win all the faceoffs to themselves. Even when Alex was at his best, he still had help from his wing play. I think that's more a function of team play rather than one individual whether it's the goalie or the faceoff [man]."
Turner, who finished last season first in the league in goals-against average (10.51) and second in save percentage (.544), has improved in both categories (10.35 and .571), but he has been overshadowed by the Outlaws' Jesse Schwartzman (Pikesville, Johns Hopkins), who has registered a 9.67 goals-against average and a .597 save percentage en route to being named the Goalie of the Year.
Steady play has been the key for Turner, coach Dave Cottle said.
"He's been consistent throughout the year," Cottle said. "The thing we're fortunate with is, he's won two Steinfeld Cups as a goalie, and we have an experienced guy in that position who's had some success. He's been consistent with his effort, he's been consistent with his preparation, he's been consistent with his play, and we're hoping he can elevate his play this weekend for us because we're going to need him."
The key for Chesapeake might be Rand, who ranks fifth in the league on faceoffs at 48.0 percent and trails Denver's Anthony Kelly (55.1 percent) and Hamilton's Mike Poppleton (50.0) among postseason participants.
The Bayhawks could go with a two-man rotation of Rand and former Johns Hopkins All-American Matt Dolente (45.2), but CBS Sports Network lacrosse analyst Evan Washburn said this weekend could unfold nicely for Rand.
"Rand's actually been pretty successful against Poppleton for Hamilton," Washburn said, referring to Rand's 60.7 success rate against the Johns Hopkins grad in two games this season. "He dominated that matchup. So that's a positive for the semifinal. If they go up against Denver — which is sort of the prevailing feeling because they've been so dominant — that's a tough matchup, but it's a better matchup for Adam Rand on a Sunday against what won't be a 100 percent Anthony Kelly."
To be fair, Chesapeake also will need the offense to share the ball and the defense to force opponents into low-percentage shots, too. If the players can succeed in those facets, Turner is confident about the team's chances.
"We know that there are great teams out there," he said. "Hamilton had a great run in the middle of the season. Charlotte's very good and very talented and youthful. Denver hasn't beaten yet this year. We're just kind of going into it with the thought that anything can happen. We've just got to play well. If we play well, we'll do all right."