The Chesapeake Bayhawks flexed their muscles during the Major League Lacrosse championship on Sunday at Harvard Stadium, rolling over the Denver Outlaws, 16-6, and making their case for being the best team in the 12-year history of the league.
Denver, which had the MLL's most explosive offense with 216 goals in 14 games this season, tied a league record for fewest goals in a championship game. The Bayhawks conceded the first two goals but scored 16 of the next 20 to capture their fourth league title — most ever in the eight-team league — and become the first No. 4 seed to go all the way.
"You hold that team to six goals, you're playing some great lacrosse," said Bayhawks attacker Ben Rubeor (Loyola High).
Behind early, the Bayhawks struggled to beat goalie Jesse Schwartzman (Pikesville, Johns Hopkins), a three-time MLL All-Star, who made four saves — two at point-blank range — in the first nine minutes. But once the Bayhawks were able to establish possession, their fire-away outlook on the attacking end began to pay dividends.
Steven Brooks put the Bayhawks on the scoreboard with a mid-range shot with six minutes left in the first quarter, and then he set his shooting stick aside to play the role of conductor. As the Bayhawks slowed the game down a little bit, Brooks orchestrated some slick ball movement around the perimeter and found Danny Glading open from 6 yards out for a quick putaway. Less than a minute later, Brooks was rewarded for keeping his head up, finding a wide-open John Grant Jr. on the low post as the Bayhawks took a 3-2 lead they never relinquished.
And once Alex Smith (Boys' Latin) got going at the faceoff-X, winning 17 of 25, Denver didn't see much of the ball.
"We didn't have enough possessions to compete," said Denver coach Tony Seaman. "And [if] you give that midfield and attack enough opportunities, they're going to score goals."
Smith, who sat out much of the season while recovering from elbow surgery, took the place of Adam Rand, whom Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle praised for his job in relief.
"Alex is the best faceoff guy in the history of the game, and if we had him on the sideline we would be idiots," Cottle said. "Alex is different than everybody else. He was phenomenal. And it made it easy for us."
The Chesapeake defensive unit was nearly unbreakable against some of the league's best shooters, clogging holes and forcing the Outlaws to take some off-balance shots from distance, most of which sailed wide or were blocked by goalie Kip Turner (Severn), who finished with 12 saves.
Rubeor, who tallied a game-high six goals in Saturday's 16-10 semifinal win over Boston, provided perhaps the goal of the playoffs with 17 seconds left in the first half. Rubeor circled around four Denver players in their own crease, finishing with a full spin and a diving, underhand shot to send the Bayhawks into the locker room with a 10-5 lead. Rubeor appeared ready to get clobbered in the crease had the spinning effort been a second later.
"He doesn't quit and he's not afraid to take a hit," said Bayhawks defender Michael Simon (Fallston, Stevenson). "We get into it in practice because I like to play pretty hard, too. So a lot of times he gets mad at me because I'll slash him and we'll go at each other, but that's exactly what I'm talking about. He just keeps going."
Rubeor, who averaged just more than a goal per game this season, finished the weekend with eight goals in two games and earned postseason MVP honors.
"I try and play hard," Rubeor said. "I watch the guys around me, and if my defensemen are willing to lay hits, I have to be willing to take them.
"I'm a little beat up. It's a long season. It's a rough season. But it feels a lot better when you win."