By Caitlain Kelley
The Chesapeake Bayhawks take on the defending MLL Champion Toronto Nationals at the title holders’ home on Saturday, May 22 at 2 p.m eastern, live on ESPN2.
The Chesapeake Bayhawks started the season off right with a 16-8 win over the Long Island Lizards. Head Coach John Tucker said, “We were a little flat coming out, but Brian Vetter had a big two-pointer to get us going.” The confidence of winning their season opener will give the young Bayhawks an extra boost of momentum going into their next game against the Nationals.
Bayhawk anchor Kyle Dixon was unusually quiet last week, scoring only two, two-point goals. “We were a little sluggish coming out of the third quarter,” Dixon said of last week’s game. “Long Island could have made a run there but luckily they also made some mistakes and we were able to get the win and feel pretty good about that.” He will be looking to post the big numbers he was known for last season as the league’s two-point leading scorer.
While Dixon couldn’t hit the net last week, Bud Light Game MVP Peet Poillon had a breakout game. Dixon said, “Poillon was shooting the lights out,” totaling five goals and seven points against the Lizards (equaling his point total in two games last season). “For a little guy [Poillon] generates a lot of power,” said Tucker. “If he puts it on goal, the speed of his shot makes it tough to stop.”
Alex Smith’s ability to win face-offs is essential to the Bayhawks outperforming the Nationals. Last week he succeeded in 17 of 25 draws earning the title of MLL Defensive Player of the Week. “I’m glad he’s on my team and not the other team,” Dixon said. “I don’t know how he does it, somehow he wiggles his stick in there and he can put it right into your stick.”
General Manager, Spencer Ford is pleased with close defensemen Michael Evans and Joe Cinosky saying, “We feel that we have two guys on our close defense that can give [Defensemen of the Year Brodie Merrill] a run for his money.” The defense will have to adapt to the hybrid outdoor-indoor offensive game the Nationals are known for. Dixon says the Nationals “have one of the most potent offenses in the game,” but he isn’t worried with Evans and Cinosky who are used to that style of play. The other players, who do not play in the NLL, will have to adjust their defense to match the Nationals’ offense.
Cinosky says the Bayhawks defense is clicking well, adding, “We did a great job of shutting down everybody one-on-one, and we supported each other, which was great to see on the first night.” Goalkeeper Chris Garrity made 12 amazing saves, protecting the goal from Lizard advances. As long as the defense and Garrity continue to work together and improve, Ford is confident that they will “have one of, if not, the strongest defensive unit in the game.”
With all the off season trades, Dixon is pleased with how well the Bayhawks’ offense and defense are working together and meshing. Last season the Bayhawks were unable to defeat the Nationals in three tries. Dixon remembers those games well, “all three games we had significant leads and couldn’t close the game out.” He hopes to carry the momentum of a successful first game and get an early lead, stick with it and come out with the win.
Watch the Bayhawks vs. the Nationals live on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 22.
To hear an interview with Bayhawks Midfielder Kyle Dixon click here: