When Bayhawks rookie midfielder Bill McGlone flew to Denver for his first game June 3, he expected to meet his new teammates and maybe get a few minutes on the field.
But the Bayhawks had more in mind for the recent Maryland graduate and fifth overall pick in the May 31 Major League Lacrosse draft. Veterans Mark Millon and Mark Frye quickly pulled McGlone aside with a simple message.
"They encouraged me to just go out and shoot," McGlone said. He did just that, firing 12 shots, including his first career goal less than 25 minutes into the game.
There has been no hesitation with any of the Bayhawks' rookies, and after selecting three of the first five players in the draft, last year's MLL championship team (2-3) believes it can bounce back from a slow start and return to the playoffs.
"I've been watching this senior class for a long time and I knew it was one of the strongest I've seen since I've been in the league," Bayhawks coach Scott Hiller said. "We needed them, so there's no better time."
Last Friday, No. 4 overall pick Matt Ward (Virginia) had his first career hat trick in just his second game to earn Rookie of the Week honors, and fourth-round choice Greg Havalchak (Rutgers) made 17 saves in a 14-9 win against Rochester.
Through three games with the team, McGlone has five goals and fellow Maryland alum and No. 13 pick Brendan Healy has three. In just two games, the Tewaaraton Trophy winner Ward has eight points, and No. 15 pick John Keysor of Hofstra has scored twice.
Perhaps the most notable rookie mistake was Havalchak not being able to start his debut in New Jersey after forgetting to bring his athletic cup to the game. Still, he has played 90 minutes in two games and has saved 60 percent of the shots.
"As a rookie you just want to come in and not do stupid things," McGlone said. "But we realize we're going to have to do more. We can't just sit there and watch the veterans. We were brought in for a reason."
It's also the reason the Long Island Lizards (1-4) will see a different opponent tonight at Johnny Unitas Stadium than the Bayhawks team they beat, 17-11, in the season opener -- 10 days before the draft that might have shifted the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.
The Bayhawks were able to rely on the draft to stock their roster because of trades that brought them the second, fourth and fifth overall picks.
And as well as the rookies have been playing so far, the Bayhawks are still looking forward to adding No. 2 overall pick Kyle Dixon (Archbishop Spalding), a former Virginia midfielder who is out with a ruptured ligament in his left thumb but could be back as early as July 8.
"He passes the ball better than any [midfielder] that I've ever played with," Ward said of Dixon, his teammate from Virginia's 2006 NCAA championship run. "He'll be a good fit for the MLL, because he can run all day and he's big and strong."
It remains to be seen how far the rookies can take the team -- many first-year MLL players get tired because they join their new squads right after the collegiate season ends -- but the Bayhawks don't mind resting their hopes on some of the top young players in the game.
"If we can continue to get these performances out of them, we could make a decent run at it," Hiller said. "We're just hoping to make the playoffs. Once that happens, anything can happen."
Matchup -- Long Island Lizards (1-4) @ Bayhawks (2-3)
Site -- Johnny Unitas Stadium
Time -- 7:30
Outlook -- The Bayhawks look to remain undefeated at home and climb back into the Eastern Conference race. They rode Mark Millon's 43rd career hat trick to a 14-9 win against Rochester last Friday at home. Millon and fellow veteran Tom Marechek lead the team with 14 goals each, but it's the play of rookies like Matt Ward (eight points in two games) and Greg Havalchak (.600 save percentage) that has the team looking forward to a positive run. The Lizards' only win this season was a 17-11 victory in their season opener against the Bayhawks in Long Island. Blake Miller leads the Lizards with 17 goals and had a hat trick in the teams' first meeting.