The lights will be bright and all eyes will be on the abundance of talent that inhabits the historic Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium as as the regular season championship will be up for grabs as the Chesapeake Bayhawks host the Denver Outlaws on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m.
Leading up to the big showdown, you would be hard-pressed to find an individual in either party that is more anxious for the matchup between the Denver Outlaws and Chesapeake Bayhawks than Brendan Mundorf.
As the week dwindles down his nerves have gotten significantly more frantic. The Outlaws standout attacker has some strong ties to the Bayhawks including his former head coach and general manager Brian Reese who has taken over GM duties with the Bayhawks. Also, his longtime teammate dating back to their college days at UMBC, Drew Westervelt, is now on the ‘other side’ and in an unfamiliar role as enemy.
“It’s going to be fun to go against those guys,” Mundorf said. While adding, “We’ve been looking forward to this game for weeks, we want first place and we want to play the first game of the playoffs.”
To say there is a lot on the line for Mundorf and his Outlaws is a huge understatement. The past ties are just the beginning, however.
Both teams enter the highly-anticipated match up tied for first in the league with only this game left to determine the regular season champ. The Bayhawks hold a slight lead over Denver after a late surge in their June matchup in which Chesapeake walked away victors, 18-16. It’s a simple strategy for Mundorf and his teammates, just win.
“I like it,” the attackman said of the challenge of facing the Bayhawks. “You don’t want to have a cakewalk entering the playoffs, this game is meaningful, it’s for first place. Everyone will be giving it their all because what is at stake.”
To further fortify the significance of this game, the Maryland-grown Mundorf will be treating this as a, ‘business trip’ by staying at the team hotel instead of in his own confines.
“It’s definitely nice to have family there supporting you, we have a couple of Baltimore guys on our roster. But, we are still going to their place, this isn’t a home game. We need to treat this like a business trip and not allow any distractions.”
The Bayhawks present several challenges with a stout defense including the feisty Brian Spallina and Nicky Polanco along with a potent offense that consists of Kyle Dixon, the crafty veteran John Grant Jr., and Michael Kimmel.
With the added adrenaline, you’ll sure see some tempers flare. The last meeting between the two was definitely chippy and unsurprisingly it was Spallina that played the catalyst. Denver’s rising rookie Mark Matthews scored his first career goal and while doing so he became quite familiar with Spallina’s tactics.
Matthews came galloping down the left side of the field and unleashed a howitzer beating Kip Turner. During the shot Matthews appeared to have tripped and as a result fell to the ground. Along with the grass, he was greeted by a head and shoulder from Spallina to the ribcage.
In record time, Mundorf came to the defense of his teammate and got in the grill of Spallina. Spallina quickly put his glove in the face of Mundorf and the two were separated by referees but the jaw-jacking continued.
This, along with many other reasons, has created the perfect storm.
“We’re hungry,” Mundorf said. “We have a lot of guys on this team who have been in the league for awhile but haven’t won it yet. We all want this; we know if we play the way we are capable of playing we can win this thing.”
The Outlaws are surging as they enter the contest with a five-game winning streak. Mundorf credits the addition of FOGO specialist Anthony Kelly as a big reason for the success as well as an overall improvement from every member on the roster.
“We have great faceoff guys now,” Mundorf said. “We have figured that out to an extent and we have guys all over the field that can score including (Peet) Poillon, (Jeremy) Sieverts, and Drew Snider among others. But, the strongest part of our team is the defense, they are simply a shutdown defense and have been such a big part of our success.”
The Outlaws defense led by Lee Zink will need to play up to the compliment from their teammate as they face a team that also has snipers from every angle.
Leading the way is Dixon, who is no stranger to ripping shots from the outside and Grant Jr., who loves to bump in front of the cage. Last, but definitely not least, is Towson native Kimmel who has seen his production almost quadruple from last season.
The Outlaws will not be able to cover everybody, but, that’s ok with Mundorf.
“The Bayhawks are midfield driven, our main concern is to try and shut them down. Their attackmen aren’t utilized as much. Kimmel is a top midfielder and Dixon is a good shooter so we know we are not going to be able to cover everybody,” Mundorf admitted.
The million-dollar question is which defense will feel powerless first? As far as Mundorf is concerned, his effort, along with his teammates, will be at 100 percent for four quarters and longer if need be.
“I’m not concerned about anything but winning. This whole week all I could think about was this game and come game-time we’ll be at our peak.”
Article Tags: anthony kelly, Brendan Mundorf, Brian Spallina, charles kruzits, chesapeake bayhawks, denver outlaws, drew westervelt, john grant jr, major league lacrosse, mll, Nicky Polanco, professional lacrosse, UMBC Lacrosse