Ex-Terp Dan Burns excited for homecoming with Bayhawks

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Dan Burns has always been a local boy. He grew up Severna Park, won three Anne Arundel County titles and two state championships at Severna Park, and played college lacrosse at Maryland.

Now, after beginning his Major League Lacrosse career with the Rochester Rattlers and Hamilton Nationals, Burns is returning home. The Chesapeake Bayhawks acquired the 25-year old in a trade with the Nationals this offseason, reuniting him with former Terps coach Dave Cottle in his home state.

On Saturday night, the midfielder will make his Chesapeake debut when the Bayhawks take on the Rattlers in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the 2013 season opener.

Burns said he loved his time with the Nationals, but he's excited to return to the state he's spent almost his entire life in. And playing under the guy that recruited him to College Park and coached him for four years makes it even better.

"Playing for Coach Cottle is a just a bonus in the whole situation," Burns said. "I loved playing for him at Maryland. He's a great coach and I don't think I'd be where I am today if he wasn't my college coach."

Burns joins a Bayhawks team just eight months removed from winning its fourth MLL Championship in the league's 12-year history, beating the Denver Outlaws, 16-6, on Aug. 26. And with a returning core of veterans and the addition of a few key newcomers, Chesapeake is likely among the favorites to take home the Steinfeld Cup for the third time in four years.

Cottle's team returns three of its top point-scorers in midfielders Kyle Dixon (48 points), Steven Brooks (36) and Michael Kimmel (36), a trio which combined to score nearly 40 percent of the Bayhawks goals last year. The second-year coach also has a duo of young attackmen he thinks could make significant strides this season in Matt Mackrides and Grant Kaleikau.

On the other end of the field, Chesapeake returns faceoff specialist Adam Rand, midfielder Matt Abbott, and defenders Barney Ehrmann, Dan Hostetler and Nicky Polanco, five players who picked up 203 of the team's 430 ground balls last season.

The Bayhawks also have four goalkeepers on their roster, giving Cottle flexibility and the ability to ride the hot hand in the cage.

"I think we have the personnel defensively to hold teams under 10," Cottle said. "I know that's a daunting task in this league, but if we do a good job of getting back on defense with our personnel and our communication and everything like that, we think we can be a pretty good defensive team."

The addition of Burns, though, gives the Bayhawks a player Cottle said the team was missing last season. The former Terps coach was looking for a second shortstick midfielder to play alongside Abbott and help out on the wing during faceoffs, and he thinks his former pupil has the ability to be that guy.

Burns thinks so, too. He played that role for Cottle during his time in College Park, and he graduated from Maryland after picking up 111 ground balls over a stellar four-year career.

But in his first year with his home team, he's not dwelling on what he did with the Terps, or even the success the Bayhawks had without him last season. With the 2013 MLL Championship just four months away, all he and his teammates are thinking about is bringing home that trophy one more time.

"The team motto this year is, 'It's all about the chase,'" Burns said. "Last year's accomplishments are last year's accomplishments. This season it's a new team, but the same goal is still in mind. And that's winning that championship at the end of the year."

jvitale@baltsun.com

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