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Chesapeake Hosts Denver in Showdown for Regular Season Crown

8/10/12 8:00 AM

Chesapeake Hosts Denver in Showdown for Regular Season Crown


ANNAPOLIS, MD- Major League Lacrosse officials could not have asked for a more dramatic end to the 2012 regular season. The Chesapeake Bayhawks will host the Denver Outlaws on Saturday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in a showdown for the regular season championship and top seed in the playoffs.

The Bayhawks and Outlaws are tied atop the MLL standings with identical 10-3 records and are the only teams to have clinched berths in Championship Weekend, being held August 25th-26th at Harvard Stadium in Boston.

Chesapeake holds a slight advantage by virtue of having beaten Denver, 18-16, on June 2nd at Sports Authority Field. Perennial All-Star Kyle Dixon totaled seven points while fellow midfielder Steven Brooks scored the tying and winning goals to lead the Bayhawks in that game.

If Chesapeake wins this Saturday night, it will be the outright regular season champ. If Denver wins, the teams will go to a tiebreaker formula that begins with total goals scored during the season. The Outlaws would win that category as they currently have scored 39 more goals than the Bayhawks. Reward for earning the top seed at Championship Weekend is to play in the first semifinal at noon as opposed to the second semifinal at 4 p.m.

“If you could choose when you would play, you would certainly pick that earlier game. Obviously, that provides the opportunity to the players more rest prior to Sunday’s championship game,” Chesapeake coach Dave Cottle said. “In the grand scheme of things, you want to be playing your best lacrosse at this point in the season. Our goal on Saturday night is to do all the things that lead to winning lacrosse.”

Denver is on a roll, having won five straight and seven of its last eight. The Outlaws boasts a high-powered offense led by attackman Brendan Mundorf, who is the league’s second-leading scorer with 54 points despite missing two games. Third-year midfielder Jeremy Sieverts, a former member of the Bayhawks, is enjoying a breakout seasons with 40 points on the strength of seven 2-point goals. Midfielder Peet Poillon, another Chesapeake alum, has accumulated 38 points despite constantly drawing the long pole.

“We’re playing a great Denver team that is playing better than anyone in the MLL, especially on the offensive end,” Cottle said. “Hopefully, we can do a better job of defending Denver than we did in the first meeting. We have to win some of our one-on-one matchups on the defensive end.”

Mundorf was at his playmaking best in racking up a game-high eight points on three goals and five assists in the loss to Chesapeake. Fellow attackmen Jordan McBride and Mark Matthews both had six points on four goals and two assists.

Chesapeake defenseman Nicky Polanco switched to Matthews early in the first half and limited the dynamic rookie from the University of Denver to one goal so fans can expect to see that matchup again. Michael Evans will likely guard Mundorf the team quarterback with Brian Spallina battling inside with McBride, another Canadian who is a talented catch-and-shoot weapon on the crease.

Denver leads the MLL in goals scored (202) and shooting percentage (.349), numbers Cottle attributes to great ball movement due to having unselfish players who are excellent passers. Chesapeake goalie Kip Turner will have to make some tough saves, which he has been doing all season while leading the league in save percentage (.556) and goals-against average (10.14).

“Kip has enjoyed an outstanding season. Not only has Kip made a ton of great saves, but he’s made them at critical times. He has a knack for coming up with the tough save that stops runs,” Cottle said.

The Outlaws face an equally stiff challenge in containing the Bayhawks, who are led in scoring by the midfield trio of Dixon (41 points), Michael Kimmel (36 points) and Brooks (34 points). Dixon has set the MLL single-season record with 13 two-point goals, two of which came in the victory over Denver. The Outlaws raced out to an 8-3 lead after one quarter, but the Bayhawks rallied due in part to firing in 3 two-point goals.

“The first time we played Chesapeake we jumped on them early and could not finish,” Denver coach Jim Stagnitta said. “We need to do some different things in terms of preparation. Obviously, we need to defend their midfielders better and find a way to stop them from scoring 2-point goals. Chesapeake is very balanced, very potent on offense. They put four midfielders out there who are all threats, and three of them can shoot the two.”

Cottle said Chesapeake will activate face-off specialist Alex Smith for Saturday night’s game. Smith, who ranks fifth in MLL history with 861 career face-off wins, has not played in a single game while recuperating from offseason shoulder surgery. Smith has been practicing with the team the past few weeks and last Friday performed very well against season-long starter Adam Rand (181-for-334 on face-offs).

“We have to get Alex into a game and find out whether or not he can be a factor in the playoffs,” Cottle said.

The Bayhawks return home on Saturday, August 11th to battle the Denver Outlaws. A fireworks show will follow the game. Tickets can be purchased online at www.thebayhawks.comor over the phone by calling the box office 866-99-HAWKS (42957). Reserve your seat today and see the Bayhawks battle at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this summer.

For the Bayhawks full schedule go to www.thebayhawks.com.



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