The Chesapeake Bayhawks knew they would move one step closer to locking up the top spot in the Major League Lacrosse playoffs with a win over the Long Island Lizards. But the Bayhawks received some extra motivation about three hours before Saturday night's game.
That's when they discovered coach Dave Cottle wouldn't be with them because of a family emergency. Team president -- and former coach -- Brendan Kelly stepped in, and Chesapeake came together and routed Long Island, 13-6, before an announced 10,083 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Cottle's son, Sean, had to undergo emergency surgery, and the players then wanted to do something for their leader. The coach said, by text message, that his son was fine.
"These guys love him," Kelly said. "They did it for Cottle. They all signed a ball at halftime for Sean, and they're ecstatic to get this one for him."
The Bayhawks, who had already clinched a playoff spot, improved their record to 10-3
Chesapeake will meet the Denver Outlaws (tied with the Bayhawks for first) at home Saturday. Chesapeake beat Denver, 18-16, earlier this season and would earn the top seed in the playoffs with a win.
"That's what we're shooting for ultimately is the No. 1 seed," said Ben Hunt, who scored three goals. "We know Denver is going to be a good contest for us, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
Hunt's three goals paced Chesapeake. John Grant Jr. (two goals, one assist), Michael Kimmel (two goals) and Steven Brooks (one goal, two assists) also helped out.
"We'd like to be first," Grant said. "We just have to play well next week, and we're probably going to see them in a couple weeks after that. It's a game to kind of see what each other has and battle it out."
The Bayhawks took charge early against Long Island (8-5), also in contention for a playoff spot. Chesapeake dominated play in the first half en route to a 7-3 lead at the break.
The Bayhawks never trailed and broke the game open late in the first quarter. Long Island was called for two penalties at once with 36 seconds left. The Bayhawks scored on a goal by Grant with 10 seconds remaining in the period for a 4-1 lead.
Chesapeake added to their lead in the second period. Grant beat Long Island goalie Drew Adams with a quick backhand flip 61 seconds into the period for a 5-1 lead.
Kimmel's slick over-the-shoulder shot later in the period made it 7-2. Ben Rubeor extended his point-game streak to 28 with a goal early in the fourth quarter, and Hunt's late 2-point shot set an MLL record for most two-pointers by a team in a season (26).
But winning it for Cottle made this one even sweeter for Chesapeake.
"All the kudos to him," Kelly said. "He's done a hell of a job with these guys this year."
BOX SCORE Bayhawks 13, Long Island 6
L 1 2 1 2 -- 6 B 4 3 3 3 --13 Goals: L-Langtry, Mangan, Peyser, Palasek, Unterstein, Gibson; B- Hunt 3, Grant 2, Kimmel 2, Dixon, Rubeor, Glading, Brooks. Assists: L- Catalino 2, Seibald, Gibson; B-Brooks 2, Glading, Grant, Mackrides. Saves: L- Adams 13; B-Turner 10, DiBartolo 0. Half: B, 7-3Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times