Jared Welsh, LTR Mid-Atlantic
2020 has been a year of firsts when it comes to a lot of sports. Major League Lacrosse is no different. The week long “season” being played tournament style was not the vision MLL leadership had after last season. In the first game on Friday, we saw another first; the use of emergency back up players. As part of the precautions taken for the event, Ronnie Fernando and Luther Fleming were designated the emergency goalie and face off players, respectively. Injuries suffered by Chesapeake (3-1) goalkeeper Brian Phipps in the game Wednesday night against the Denver Outlaws prompted coach Tom Mariano the use of Fernando to back up Sam Lucchesi. Similarly, Noah Rak received the night off while Fleming dressed as the back up to Justin Schwenk for the Connecticut Hammerheads (2-2).
The game opened up with Bayhawks midfielder Shane Simpson making a move from the “X” to get above goal line extended and executing a brilliant backhand shuffle shot to get the scoring started. A little over a minute later, the Hammerheads pulled even as Bradley “Bubba” Voigt answered with a backhand shot of his own. The Bayhawks regained the lead minute later when Andrew Kew beat his defender on a dodge and fired a low bouncer into the net. In a back and forth quarter it was only natural for Connecticut to tie the game with Kraus finding Voigt in front of the crease for some inside out ball movement and the goal. A follow up goal for the Hammerheads gave them their first lead of the game when Voigt passed out of the double team to an open Ben Martin for the goal. Answering back would be a two goal run by the Bayhawks started by Lyle Thompson firing a shot around a sliding defender and CJ Costabile scoring on the backdoor of the crease. The quarter ended with the Bayhawks up 4-3.
It took almost five minutes for the Bayhawks to continue their run in the second quarter. Boy’s Latin standout Colin Heacock brushed off a check and shot over his ducking teammate Andrew Kew to grow the lead to 5-3. Mike Panepinto kept things rolling for Chesapeake off a dodge at the arc and calling his own number for the 6-3 lead. Connecticut’s 12:18 scoring drought game to an end when Will Sands found Bubba Voight free on the inside to pull them within two. Thirty six seconds later, Ben Martin scored his second of the game and the Hammerheads found themselves down one with six minutes left in the half. Chesapeake’s Ryan Keenan put the Bayhawks back up two on a sweeping sidearm mid range shot. A great move from below goal line extended allowed Adam Osika to gain leverage and shoot across hit body for a ridiculous angle shot that pulled Connecticut back to within one. With 1:24 left in the half, Cody Radziewicz would tee off on a mid range rocket to tie it up for the Hammerheads.
The 7-7 tie was broken 45 seconds into the third quarter when Connecticut’s Ben Martin drove himself to the crease with a dive shot. Things started to get heated when CJ Costabile took a 2 minute unsportsmanlike penalty. The game started to grow chippy and the Bayhawks racked up 9:30 worth of penalties through 7:05 mark of the third. Lyle Thompson found long pole Chase Levesque for the team’s second defender goal of the game to tie it at 8. That tie only lasted a minute and six seconds after Ben Martin scored the hat trick to regain the lead for Connecticut. The Hammerheads grew the lead with another Voight catch-turn-shoot goal with 2:47 left in the quarter to go up 10-8. With less than a minute to play Andrew Kew fired a pass to Nate Solomon, who threw a couple fakes on the crease to get the Bayhawks back to with one. However, with only 12 seconds left in the quarter, Connecticut would bang home two goals. Ben Martin on a mid range shot, followed by Adam Osika on the toe drag and drive. The quarter ended with Connecticut up 12-9.
The fourth quarter scoring did not start until 6:55 left to go when Adam Osika scored with a backhand flip to extend the Hammerheads lead to 13-9. Bubba Voight would score his fourth of the day on a stop-turn-and shoot around defender CJ Costabile to continue the goal run for the Hammerheads. The game would end with the Hammerheads coming out on top 14-9.
“You can find a million excuses but at the end of the day we didn’t play hard enough. We didn’t compete”, Bayhawks head coach Tom Mariano said.
“It means the world to get drafted and that you can actually make an impact on your team and help them accomplish the team goals” Ben Martin said about being a first year player. “I think Bubba [Bradley Voigt] is one of the best finishers i have probably every played with in my life…he draws a ton of attention. They are really reluctant to slide off him and it really helps when you try to get to the cage as a dodger”. Depending on how the late night game finishes out, tomorrow could lead to a Chesapeake versus Connecticut rematch. “We know we are going to get their best shot tomorrow, so we are just going to watch film tonight and recover and make sure we are ready for that first swing” Martin said.
The Hammerheads improve to 3-2 and hold the tiebreaker over Chesapeake who fall to 3-2. The Semi-Finals will take place tomorrow on ESPN+ with Denver taking on the #4 seed at 1pm and the #2 versus #3 seeds at 4pm.