For years, Brendan Mundorf knew the Chesapeake Bayhawks were desperate to acquire him. And for years, Mundorf's former team, the Denver Outlaws, rebuffed the Bayhawks' persistent advances.
This offseason, the Outlaws finally gave in.
But it took the departure of a living legend for the Bayhawks to finally land their prize. In September, Mundorf (UMBC, Mount St. Joseph) was traded for John Grant Jr., who was the championship weekend MVP last season for Chesapeake. Mundorf, the 2012 MLL Most Valuable Player and a five-time All-Star, said the trade caught him by surprise.
"It was probably because we never won a championship out there in Denver," Mundorf said. "It just never really worked out for us. With me being in my eighth or ninth year in the league, they wanted to bring in some younger guys."
On Sunday, Mundorf will play his first game for the Bayhawks in the team's season opener against the Boston Cannons. The Bayhawks, who have won five Steinfeld Trophies in the MLL's 13-year existence, enter the season with a chance to become the league's first franchise to win three consecutive titles.
Bayhawks attackman Drew Westervelt, a former teammate of Mundorf's at UMBC and as a member of the Denver Outlaws, said it would be unwise for the Bayhawks to set their sights on championship weekend before the season even begins.
"A lot of us have played for a long time and been on teams that have looked terrific on paper but did not perform to their expectations," said Westervelt (John Carroll). "We have a core group of guys who have been there, and we added some guys who, on paper, fit in nicely. We'll have to see during the season if we can be as productive as we think we can."
Along with Mundorf, the Bayhawks acquired a slew of homegrown talent this offseason in Maryland's all-time leading scorer, Joe Walters, and UMBC and Howard Community College product Peet Poillon. Walters, who has averaged 44 points per season during his six years in the MLL, was traded by the league's newest franchise, the Florida Launch, for Casey Powell. Poillon played for the Bayhawks' 2010 championship team before being traded to Denver. He spent last season with the Charlotte Hounds.
But among the team's three noteworthy additions, only Mundorf will take the field Sunday in Boston. The Bayhawks will be without several key players, many of whom are playing in the indoor National Lacrosse League or coaching college teams. Along with Walters and Poillon, Cam Holding, Kyle Rubisch and Westervelt will not suit up.
Bayhakws coach Dave Cottle said his team will have to survive the first few weeks of the season before reinforcements can replenish the roster.
"These first two or three games are going to be particularly tough for us," Cottle said. "But that's the challenge in this league. You have three different teams before the season is over by the time you get your college guys. Once you get to that point, you can put the lineup together the way you want."
Defensively, the team will be led by veterans Brian Spallina and Nicky Polanco. Michael Evans (Johns Hopkins, South River), Jesse Bernhardt (Maryland) and Brian Megill will also play significant minutes. Kip Turner (Severn) will return in goal after posting a 10.35 goals-against average last season, which was the third-lowest in league history.
Cottle said the communication on the defensive end has improved tremendously during the team's three training camps. However, the Bayhawks might continue to struggle with faceoffs. Last season, Chesapeake won only 46.7 percent percent of its faceoffs during the regular season and lost 31 of 48 during championship weekend.
The Bayhawks added Stephen Peyser (Johns Hopkins) during the offseason and selected Yale product Dylan Levings with the 24th overall pick in January's college draft; both will see time at the faceoff X this season.
In an offseason filled with blockbuster acquisitions, the additions of Levings and Peyser could prove to be the most crucial to Chesapeake's chances of making it back to championship weekend. But Cottle said getting all the new players acquainted with the returning starters will make or break the season.
"We're not the same team," Cottle said. "This one team, this group of guys, it's the first time they've ever played together. We're going to try to do all we can to position ourselves so when it's time to play for a championship, we're all on the same page."