Bayhawks bracing for a different Rattlers team this Saturday

Since 2006, the Chesapeake Bayhawks have won eight of 12 meetings with the Rochester Rattlers, including a 17-14 victory on April 27. But that game was the season opener for both teams, and Rochester has changed drastically since then.

After a 1-3 start, the Rattlers have split their last eight meetings and – with a 5-7 record – are among five teams battling for the final two berths in Major League Lacrosse’s four-team playoff.

Rochester’s offense has been buoyed by a pair of rookie midfielders in David Lawson and John Ranagan (Johns Hopkins), who have combined for 28 goals and three assists. The team’s play caught the attention of Chesapeake coach Dave Cottle, whose Bayhawks will meet the Rattlers on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

“They’re a team that plays what they do,” Cottle said. “They’ve had to go through a lot of personnel changes and playing on the road for some home games. Those guys have been road warriors a little bit. We played them at home in Florida. So the two teams that played that day are so different in personnel. There is no advantage one way or the other because they’re playing a whole different roster and we’re playing a whole different roster, too.”

Similarly, Chesapeake has undergone a personnel transformation. Attackmen John Grant Jr. (17 goals and six assists) and Casey Powell (4, 2) did not play in the season opener, and Severn's Kip Turner (10.41 goals-against average and .578 save percentage) has replaced former Mount St. Mary's standout T.C. DiBartolo (12.82, .478) as the starting goalkeeper.

“It’s just an All-Star roster,” Rochester coach Tim Soudan said of the Bayhawks. “Every guy is big, strong and fast. You’ve got names like John Grant Jr. and [attackman Drew] Westervelt has been tearing it up. They move the ball around very well, they’re unselfish and they have a great concept. They want to have a certain percentage of 2-point shots every game to make sure that they don’t leave anything on the table. So they’re real dangerous there -- they’re real solid on the defensive end.”

As strong as Chesapeake has historically been against the Rattlers, CBS Sports Network lacrosse analyst Evan Washburn said the Bayhawks cannot afford to take them lightly.

“I think Rochester has shown that they are playing better,” he said. “They played [the MLL-leading] Denver [Outlaws] better than I think Chesapeake played Denver. They held Denver to 12 goals and they had a shot to tie it up late in the game and just ran out of gas [in a three-goal loss on July 20]. They have that in their hat and they’re coming off a win against [the] New York [Lizards]. They shouldn’t be overlooked and they can say that they’re playing for a chance at the playoffs as well.”

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