By Todd McElwee
"Any team has a chance to win the championship," Chesapeake goalkeeper Chris Garrity said. "You come into the season expecting to have an opportunity to compete for the championship, and obviously that was our main goal this summer."
Chesapeake (6-6) will need to outlast the Long Island Lizards, Denver Outlaws and Boston Cannons to claim the crown. Boston (8-4) and Denver (8-4) are the top two seeds. Currently slotted fourth, the Bayhawks will face the Cannons Aug. 21 in the semifinals. Chesapeake defeated Boston, 16-15, Aug. 7 in both sides' season finale. The Outlaws and Lizards (7-5) comprise the other side of the bracket.
After dropping five straight, the Bayhawks punched their postseason ticket July 31 with a 20-12 victory over the Chicago Machine. Leading, 10-8, at intermission, Chesapeake erupted for 10 goals in the third quarter and cruised to the win. Kyle Dixon led Chesapeake with a goal, two-point goal and assist. Garrity had 14 saves.
"It was a great feeling to get back into the winning column and clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time in five years," Garrity said.
Chesapeake appears to be back on track. After dropping five straight, the Bayhawks won their final two regular season contests. Chesapeake's victory in Massachusetts handed the Cannons their only home loss of the year.
"Losing five games in a row is never easy and doesn't necessarily bring a team together but it can create a sense of unity when you finally snap out of it and begin playing as a team and understanding the type of team we were in the beginning of the season and what it takes to be that team again," Garrity said.
The Bayhawks were the MLL's second-highest scoring outfit with 161 points. However, Chesapeake also surrendered the third most points (158).
"We are a good team, but we must come to play for 60 minutes as a team," Garrity said. "We can't rely on one side of the field to carry us through an entire game. Everyone in the organization kept positive even after a few rough years where we didn't respond well to losing."
Chesapeake was 3-4 against playoff teams, splitting with Long Island and the Cannons while dropping both meetings with Denver.
Bayhawks coach and president Brendan Kelly compared the four teams to that of an NFL division. He said the key is to make adjustments and put a wrinkle into the game plan that an opponent may not have seen before.
The Bayhawks' last playoff appearance came in 2005, when claiming Baltimore as home, they defeated Long Island for the Steinfeld Cup. The Bayhawks had previously defeated the Lizards for the title in 2003. Long Island defeated Chesapeake in the 2001 and 2002 championship contests.
"Everyone is fired up and in great spirits," Kelly said. "This is the first time we've been in the playoffs in five years. People are extremely excited and guys are fired up."
Issue 152: August 2010