CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The Charlotte Hounds finally put together the kind of performance that got them to last year’s Major League Lacrosse championship game—it just took them a few weeks.
That the Hounds’ best game of the 2014 season came against the defending MLL champions was a plus, as Charlotte crushed the Chesapeake Bayhawks 12-7 on Saturday for its first win of the season.
Charlotte native Mike Sawyer tied his career high with three goals, and Drew Gibbons added two goals and an assist as the Hounds (1-2) improved to 3-0 all-time against the Bayhawks at American Legion Memorial Stadium.
“We started the game with high energy,” Sawyer said. “In past games, we started off a little flat, but we got the momentum behind us.”
It was also a measure of revenge from last year’s MLL championship game, where Chesapeake dominated throughout in a 10-9 victory to claim its second straight league title.
“We’re getting more comfortable with each other,” Charlotte head coach Mike Cerino said. “We had a good effort last week (in a loss to the Florida Launch), but this week we had more sharing of the ball on offense… and some great play by (Pierce) Bassett in the net.”
The numbers certainly bear that out—the Hounds enjoyed a 28-17 shot on goal advantage against the Bayhawks, as well as led in ground balls recovered (26 to 19). Charlotte also scored twice on power-play opportunities.
“We do not have very good chemistry on offense at this point,” Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle said in a prepared release. “We’re not passing the way we should, and we are throwing the ball away way too much. We try to shoot our way out of trouble, and that usually doesn’t work.”
Charlotte’s Tim Fallon also had his second straight plus-.500 game on faceoffs, taking 14 of 21 against four different Chesapeake FOGO’s. Bassett, making his second start in place of Adam Ghitelman (out for coaching commitments), also made a career-high 17 saves.
“We didn’t play a team game, and this is what happens,” said former Charlotte midfielder Peet Poillon, who had two goals for the Bayhawks along with Ben Rubeor. “We made some dumb penalties, we had some dumb shooting, and we never really ran our offense.”
That came despite a lengthy thunderstorm, which soaked the field at Memorial Stadium and pushed back the start time of Saturday’s game by just over two hours, twice forcing the teams off the field during pre-game warmups.
Yet the start-and-stop didn’t seem to bother Charlotte, which jumped out to a four-goal lead—two goals coming from Sawyer—in the first five minutes of the first quarter against listless Chesapeake (1-2), and never let them pull closer than three goals the rest of the game.
“It can mess with your focus waiting that long to start a game, warming up then stopping,” Sawyer said. “We were able to come out and beat the elements, and beat the obstacles in our way.”
Long-stick midfielder Mason Poli, playing his first game of the season, punched in the Hounds’ first 2-point goal of 2014, and five others—Josh Hawkins, Jake Tripucka, John Haus, Ryan Young and rookie Thomas DeNapoli, playing his first MLL game—had one goal each.
Outside of Poillon—making his first MLL appearance of 2014—and Rubeor (who also had an assist), only three other players scored for the Bayhawks: Brendan Mundorf, Matt Abbott and Drew Westervelt. Kip Turner also had 17 saves in goal for Chesapeake.