Marechek, Bayhawks set sights on title ring


Tom Marechek collects national lacrosse championship rings the way some people collect baseball cards.

"I have a nice little shelf in my little trophy room that has 11 national championship rings on it," said the high-scoring Bayhawks attackman. "Not a bad collection, huh? The only reason why I'm playing is to win championships. I love championships. I just love it. I'm very competitive. I love competition."

This weekend in Boston, Marechek will be out to put championship ring No. 12 on that neat little shelf as the Bayhawks (10-2) go after the Major Lacrosse League title in the four-team playoffs.

The second-seeded Bayhawks will battle the third-seeded Rochester Rattlers (6-6) at 5 this evening in the semifinals at Boston University's Nickerson Field, with the winner advancing to Sunday's 1 p.m. championship game.

A win Sunday would "make my summer," said Marechek, who will turn 37 four days after the title game. "I think everybody on the team would be willing to give anything away to have that ring on their finger after August."

In addition to a 2002 ring with the Bayhawks, Marechek's collection commemorates two NCAA titles at Syracuse, four pro box lacrosse titles with the Philadelphia Wings, three box titles in his native Canada and one outdoor title there.

Marechek is second on the team to Bayhawks player-coach Gary Gait (38) in age, scoring (55 points to 63) and total goals (33 to 42, all one-pointers for both men). Gait also leads the MLL in points and total goals while Marechek is fourth in the league in points and tied for fifth in total goals.

The Bayhawks' Mark Frye leads the MLL in two-point goals with 11.

Marechek and the fast-starting Bayhawks have lost two of their past three games since winning their first nine games and being anointed by some people as one of the greatest lacrosse teams of all time.

"That might have caused us to relax a little," said Marechek, the unsung member of the all-Syracuse attack for the Bayhawks, which also includes Gait and celebrated rookie Mikey Powell.

The top-seeded Boston Cannons (10-2) ended the Bayhawks' unbeaten run with a 25-13 victory three weeks ago at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium -- before 6,071, the largest Baltimore crowd to watch the Bayhawks.

The loss that really stung Marechek and his teammates was Saturday night's 21-19 setback at Rochester on what Marechek called "probably the worst field in the league."

"It's very bumpy and dirty, and the lights are very, very bad, very poor," Marechek said. "Their players said the same thing [about field]. It's an absolute disgrace. You can always use so many excuses why we lost. But the bottom line was, we kind of fell out of our game plan a bit. We just don't move the ball like we used to in the middle of the season."

Marechek said that if the Bayhawks return tonight to their crisp passing and moving the ball, winning "won't be a problem."

"Hopefully, we take care of Rochester, enjoy practice Saturday, and then just get ready and pumped up for Boston Sunday at 1," Marechek said.

That is, assuming the Cannons get past the fourth-seeded Long Island Lizards (4-8) at 8 tonight in the other semifinal at Nickerson Field.

Boston is led by former Bayhawk Mark Millon, who is third in the MLL in points (56) and total goals (38). Lutherville native Conor Gill is second on the Cannons and fifth in the league in points (54).

Bayhawks tonight

Matchup: Bayhawks (10-2) vs. Rochester Rattlers (6-6)

What: Major Lacrosse League championship semifinal

Site: Nickerson Field, Boston University

Time: 5 p.m.

Outlook: The Bayhawks haven't exactly entered the playoffs on a roll, losing two of their past three games after a 9-0 start. The second loss came just six days ago to the Rattlers, 21-19, on a dimly lit field in Rochester, a setback that cost the second-seeded Bayhawks the top seed in the four-team Boston field. There should be no lighting problems this time. If the Bayhawks can avenge Saturday's upset, they will meet the winner of tonight's 8 o'clock semifinal between the top-seeded Boston Cannons (10-2) and fourth-seeded Long Island Lizards (4-8). The MLL championship game will be played at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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