Championship Weekend capped a great 2013 MLL season. We saw upsets, we saw records broken and we saw the Chesapeake Bayhawks capture their fifth title in club history sparking several talks of “Dynasty”.
After each of the three games we asked coaches and players to give us some of their immediate thoughts on the game just played. Here is an account of the weekend in the words of the coaches and players.
The weekend started with the
Charlotte Hounds upsetting the undefeated
Denver Outlaws 17-14 to advance to the Championship Game.
When asked about the keys to the game Charlotte coach
Mike Cerino had this to say:
“We’re going to have to shoot the ball well, Schwartzman is one of the best goalies to play the game we’re going to have to control faceoffs and play great team defense.”
With 15 out of their 28 shots on frame making it into the net and with
Geoff Snider winning 22 of 32 faceoffs, we think that they accomplished what they were trying to do.
Jim Stagnitta after the loss was asked what his thoughts were.
“We didn’t play well,” Stagnitta said. “Bad day not to play well. We started out tentative, we made every mistake you could possibly make, in the first half, everywhere from shot selection, to substitutions, to just basic fundamental mistakes and we dug ourselves a hole against a pretty powerful team.”
The general consensus among the Hounds players was that good teamwork is what helped them win.
Matt Danowski said,
“We played great fundamentally in the first half. Faceoff men did a great job and defensively we played great. Guys stepped up, we’re a team that everyone gets involved in. It’s not a one man show. Everyone just gets one or two [goals].”
“Team effort. It’s all team effort,” said defender Ryan Flanagan. “You look at all our guys, every one of them does a little bit. We don’t lean on any one player; we don’t ask any one guy to shut one guy down.”
Denver did have some positives to take away though. Rookie
Eric Law played his best game yet scoring nine goals on 11 shots and breaking the record for goals in a single playoff game.
“[Law is] very important for the future, and was very important this year,” Stagnitta said. “He kind of had that first year, start on a high and then take a dip, but came back and really played strong down the stretch. His effort today was phenomenal, if we had that from top to bottom, youknow, it might have been a different outcome. We’re lucky to have him.”
Law took a moment to reflect on his season as well
“I had a great season because of the great teammates around me and the style we play, everyone gets the accolades,” he said. “I’m excited to come back next year; we will be hungry and use this as fuel for the whole offseason and come back and hopefully get it done Championship Weekend.”
Lead changes good offense and great defense were the themes of the second semifinal that saw the Bayhawks prevail of the
Hamilton Nationals 13-12.
The key to the game for Chesapeake coach
Dave Cottle was to
“play Bayhawks Lacrosse” and they did.
“I just felt like we grinded,” he said. “It was a microcosm of our entire season. How we’ve been in six one-goal games, two two-goal games and we kept battling. Everything was difficult. We found a way to come from behind to win like we came from behind in the Charlotte game [Aug. 10]. We’ll find out tomorrow if we’re any good.”
Mike Kimmel scored the first and last goals of the game to help the Bayhawks reach the Championship Game.
“It was a battle,” Kimmel reflected. “We were definitely stagnant on offense there for a while, and our experience just came through at the end. I was kicking myself because two possessions before [the game-winning goal] Mackrides found me on the doorstep, and I was even more open, and I missed it. So Casey Powell was drawing a lot of attention. I think he had the attention of two slides and the goalie was looking at him, so I couldn’t have missed that one. It was an empty-netter, and I just batted it in.”
Even with the loss, Nationals coach
Dave Huntley saw some positives to take away.
“I thought our guys competed well, and that’s all you can ask for,” Huntley said. “You play hard, but the ball didn’t bounce our way. So proud of the way Joe Walters played today. He was terrific for us today. All our young guys played well. It was a great game. We’re playing a sport and people come to watch it, and I’m particularly pleased with the level of respect their team has for us, and us for them, so I wish them luck tomorrow.”
Even with being disappointed in the loss
Joe Walters promised the Nationals will be back
“Great game,” he said. “Both teams are Championship-caliber teams. Both teams fought back. When you look at the history of Championship Weekend, usually the first semifinal is a one-goal game. Then the first game is surprisingly a blowout, but this is what you can expect. They played like a Championship team. They came back. They fought back. Whenever you lose in the playoffs it’s disappointing. I guess some positives are that we made the playoffs, guys really stepped up. This is just very disappointing, but we’ll be back for sure.”
Sunday’s Championship Game was set to be an exciting one. The teams split the regular season series but both were very close games. It was up to the Bayhawks to set the tempo for the game and make sure they didn’t allow the Hounds to speed up the game.
In the end, the five-time champions were able to limit the Hounds production and came away with a 10-9 win.
Coach Cerino said,
“There is no doubt we got caught in their tempo. But with the extra possessions we picked up with [faceoff man] Geoff Snider, we probably should have done a little more to them. Kip Turner had a tremendous game in the goal, certainly in the first half. We didn’t really finish some of the good looks we had.”
“We had a tough one today,” Hounds attackman Ryan Young echoed. “That’s what happens in this league, everyone is so good. There is really nothing we can say right now. We’d take the way we played any day; it’s a tough one.”
But the day belonged to the Bayhawks, a combination of veterans and young guns started strong and never looked back on their way to winning the Steinfeld Trophy.
“I thought we played great team defense,” said coach Cottle. “Our guys fought and scrapped, and I thought our goalie was excellent. Our veterans on attack were great, John Grant had four goals, Casey Powell was really a factor, and Drew Westervelt was great. We were opportunistic and kind of grinded one out. We played seven one goal games this season already, which helped. Grant was willing to do anything to win a Championship, and Brian Spallina and Nicky Polanco and those guys were willing to do anything to win a Championship, and when that happens, usually good things happen.”
John Grant Jr. was eventually named Championship Weekend MVP and cited experience as one of the key components to their success.
“Experience. We knew what it took to win,” Grant said. “We have been here before. Our composure and leadership definitely stepped through today against a younger team. Hats off to Charlotte, they played an excellent weekend and they’re going to be a team to reckon with in the next couple of years. You know, whether we played our best game or not, that doesn’t matter now—we played well enough to win.”
Ultimately it was defenseman
Brian Spallina, a six-time MLL Champion, who revealed the secret to this championship team
“100 % Team Chemistry,” Spallina said. “Everyone bought in. This is just a team through and through. Nobody wanted any individual awards—I don’t think we even got one. Ultimately the end goal came true for us. This is just a pure team win.”