If the old adage that defense wins championships is true, the Chesapeake Bayhawks have some serious work to do.
Chesapeake came into Friday night's contest against the Charlotte Hounds ranked last in Major League Lacrosse with an average of almost 16 goals allowed per game. Head coach Brian Reese cited lack of communication as a reason for the defensive breakdowns while subpar goaltending hasn't helped.
Starting goalie Brian Phipps ranks last in Major League Lacrosse in both goals-against average (16.26) and save percentage (.427).
Neither problem got fixed on Friday night as the Bayhawks fell behind early and were beaten by the Hounds, 15-14, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Midfielders Kevin Crowley and John Haus (Maryland) along with attackman Ryan Brown (Johns Hopkins) all scored three goals for Charlotte, which avenged a one-goal loss to Chesapeake on May 13.
"It starts with winning individual matchups and myself making more saves," said Phipps, an Annapolis resident who finished with 13 saves. "Obviously, if I stop some more shots the goals-against goes down."
Diminutive attackman Joey Sankey totaled two goals and an assist while goalie Charlie Cipriano anchored a solid defensive effort with 13 saves for the Hounds (4-5), who took fifth place in Major League Lacrosse away from the Bayhawks (3-4).
Veteran attackman Matt Danowski scored four goals and assisted another to lead Chesapeake, which fell behind 6-2 after one period and played catch-up the whole way. Rookie midfielder Jake Froccaro, the team's No. 1 draft pick out of Villanova, had a hat trick in his professional debut.
"With the exception of the first quarter, we played pretty well," Reese said afterward. "For some reason we keep coming out flat and digging ourselves a hole, which is costing us games. We have to figure it out."
Midfielder Myles Jones also scored three goals while rookie attackman Josh Byrne had a goal and two assists for the Bayhawks, who have lost three straight and are winless at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this season.
The Bayhawks gave away 18,000 tickets to Anne Arundel County middle school students and that promotion produced the largest crowd of the season. Sankey scored off a power-play just over a minute into the game and the Hounds never trailed thereafter, effectively silencing the partisan audience.
Phipps struggled early, giving up a few goals he probably should have stopped. The Severn School graduate came out of the game briefly after sustaining damage to his throat protector and backup Niko Amato didn't fare any better, giving up two goals on two shots.
Chesapeake had a pair of rookies in the lineup on defense in Naval Academy graduates Chris Fennell and Matt Rees. Fennell started on close defense and had the tough task of covering Sankey, a lightning-quick 5-foot-5 product of North Carolina. Rees stepped into the role of No. 1 long stick midfield in the absence of usual starter C.J. Costabile.
"Our game-plan is great, it's just taking us a while to get into executing it," Phipps said. "We held them to four goals in the second half, which shows we are capable. We just have to come out ready to play from the get-go. All of us need to take a look in the mirror and do a better job."
Matt Rambo, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 MLL Collegiate Draft, made his professional debut and contributed two assists for Charlotte. Midfielder John Crawley, whom the Hounds took in the fourth round out of Johns Hopkins, added a goal and an assist.
Rookie attackman Colin Heacock, a second-round pick out of Maryland, made his first MLL appearance and contributed two goals for Chesapeake. Heacock was among 12 former Maryland players that participated in the game and they gathered for a group photo afterward.
"It was a lot of fun to get back on the field and run around. It was cool playing against some of my former teammates like Matt Rambo and Michael Ehrhardt," said Heacock, a Boys' Latin graduate who took a break following Maryland's national championship win. "There were a lot of Terps out here playing tonight, which was awesome."
Chesapeake has dug itself big holes to start the game throughout this season and that trend continued on Friday night as Charlotte raced out to a 9-3 lead with just over two minutes elapsed in the second period.
"We've tried a different warm-up and changing things pre-game, but the results are still the same," Reese bemaoned. "We come out passive and on our heels and fall behind before we can finally figure it out."
Jones and Fraccaro scored two goals apiece to spark a comeback that saw the Bayhawks outscore the Hounds 5-2 to close out the first half. Heacock scored his first MLL goal during that rally, which cut the Charlotte lead down to 11-8 at halftime.
The teams traded goals throughout the third period and the Hounds took a 14-11 lead into the fourth quarter.
Danowski scored a short-handed goal off a strong drive to the cage following a restart then finished a fastbreak with a cannon crank shot as Chesapeake cut the deficit to 15-14 with 3:21 remaining. However, the Bayhawks were unable to get the equalizer as Hounds goalie Charlie Cipriano came up with a big save off a Danowski shot with 1:24 to go.
Chesapeake caused a turnover to gain possession and Reese called timeout to set up a play. Reese put the ball in the stick of Danowski, who dodged from the right wing and fired a high shot from about 10 yards away that Cipriano calmly stabbed.
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In addition to Costabile, Chesapeake was also without high-scoring attackman Shawn Evans, who had amassed 14 points in three games since joining the team following the National Lacrosse League season.