Ahead of his team’s Major League Lacrosse game Monday against the Boston Cannons, Chesapeake Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle called it one of the team’s most important of the past four years.
Not since 2013, during Cottle’s first run as Bayhawks coach, has the team made the playoffs. That was its third championship in four years that season, but the era of good feelings ended soon after. Chesapeake hasn’t finished higher than sixth in the league since.
With the Bayhawks’ 15-8 rout Monday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, it seems all but inevitable that will change. Chesapeake improved to 7-2, tying its win total from last season and moving closer to a playoff berth with five regular-season games left. Last year, the Florida Launch and Rochester Rattlers made the playoffs as the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds, respectively, with eight wins.
The Bayhawks now have won six straight games, a streak that includes a May 19 win over the Cannons (3-7) in Boston, and their seven-goal margin was their largest this season.
“I think it’s the most important thing, is the seventh win,” Cottle said. “We’ve only played nine games — a bunch of teams we’re fighting [with] for playoff spots have played in a lot more games — so this was very important. … We had to get this game to continue where we’re going.”
Seven Bayhawks had a goal in the win, and five scored at least twice. Chesapeake attackman Matt Danowski led all players with a game-high seven points (three goals, four assists), and midfielder Colin Heacock (Maryland, Boys’ Latin) had three goals.
Only one Cannons midfielder or attackman, former Johns Hopkins attackman Shack Stanwick (two goals, two assists), finished with multiple goals. Boston faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste also had a pair.
The Cannons scored two of the game’s first three goals, but they seemed to quickly wilt in the 90-plus-degree heat. Bayhawks midfielder Ian MacKay’s goal midway through the first half to tie it at 2 started a streak of five straight Chesapeake goals by a different player.
After goals by Danowski, long-stick midfielder CJ Costabile, Heacock and midfielder Ryan Tucker (Gilman), the Bayhawks led 6-2. Danowski’s second goal extended the lead to five, and Chesapeake went into halftime up 8-4.
“I don’t think we played great, but I thought we played winning lacrosse,” Cottle said. “We shared the ball on offense.”
When Danowski found attackman Josh Byrne (two goals) on a nice feed that set up the Bayhawks’ ninth goal early in the third quarter, they’d already equaled their scoring total from their last game, a 9-6 win over the Atlanta Blaze two weeks ago. After Heacock scored the next two goals, including a two-pointer, Chesapeake led by seven.
Boston, which entered the game with just one player in the top 20 league wide in scoring (James Pannell), could not solve Bayhawks goalkeeper Niko Amato (Maryland) enough times to keep close. Even with former Navy defensemen Matt Rees and Chris Fennell inactive because of military obligations, Chesapeake held an opponent to single-digit scoring for the second straight time.
“We have a good understanding of what we need to do, and we tried to execute it,” said Amato (13 saves), who helped manage a close defense of Goran Murray (Maryland), Garrett Epple (Calvert Hall) and Jesse Bernhardt (Maryland). “I don’t really think there’s any one particular general. I think we all kind of share the responsibility of owning the defense at certain times.”
The Bayhawks will play their third of four straight home games Saturday against the New York Lizards.
“All that matters is the next one,” Cottle said. “Let’s just win the next one and go from there. When you get to the playoffs, you’ve just got to win two games.”