Boca Raton, FL – It took Joe Walters a couple games to re-acclimate to the outdoor game after playing professional indoor lacrosse deep into May. The 10-year Major League Lacrosse veteran has found his comfort level and that’s good news for the Chesapeake Bayhawks.
Walters went wild on Saturday night, exploding for eight points to propel Chesapeake to a critical 18-11 victory over the Florida Launch at Florida Atlantic Stadium. Walters was simply spectacular as the catalyst of the offense, scoring four goals and dishing off four assists.
“Joe is an outstanding offensive lacrosse player who is very unselfish and does a great job passing the ball,” Chesapeake Head Coach Dave Cottle said. “I think the ball movement tonight was outstanding. Our players are learning how to play with Joe Walters. They know if they get open, Joe is going to find them.”
With attackman Brendan Mundorf sitting out due to an injury, Walters took over as the offensive quarterback and did a superb job of initiating as Chesapeake reached a season-high for goals. The crafty left-hander scored on cannon crank shots and used his vision to consistently find open teammates for goals.
“I think our offense finally got it going. We just started to bury the ball,” Walters said. “We’ve been getting tons of shot and not finishing them. It was nice to finally see the ball go into the net tonight.”
Midfielder Matt Mackrides piled up six points on two goals and three assists for the Bayhawks, who won for the second time in three games and improved their record to 3-6. Attackman Drew Westervelttotaled three goals and an assist for Chesapeake, which outscored the host team 13-6 over the second and third quarters.
Attackman Ben Rubeor contributed two goals and an assist for Chesapeake, which outshot Florida 58-40 and won the ground ball battle 37-29. Midfielder Peet Poillon added a goal and two assists for the Bayhawks, who are in the midst of playing four out of five games on the road.
“We feel like we’re starting to play better lacrosse. Our effort level has picked up and we are playing extremely hard,” Cottle said. “We are playing at our fastest speed of the season and some of our young guys are really starting to assert themselves.”
Goalkeeper Tyler Fiorito made his first career start and came through big-time with 14 saves. Fiorito, who was forced into action due to a broken thumb suffered by season-long starter Kip Turner, stopped nine shots in the second half to thwart any thoughts of a Florida comeback.
“I think that game at Denver when Tyler played the second half and only allowed two goals gave him a lot of confidence,” Cottle said. “I thought Tyler played very well for three quarters then let up a bit and gave up a couple bad goals. Overall, we are very pleased with his performance in this game.”
Faceoff specialist Stephen Robarge had his best game since being acquired from Denver earlier this month, winning 18 of 31 draws to repeatedly give the Bayhawks possession.
“Stephen had gone against two of the best faceoff guys in the league so it wasn’t fair to judge him just yet,” Cottle said. “I thought we would find out tonight whether or not Stephen could be an effective faceoff man in this league. He really stepped up and did a great job.
Rookie long stick midfielder Jason Noble had another terrific game – flying around the field from start to finish, gobbling up eight ground balls and making an impact as a wing on faceoffs as well as in the transition game.
“Jason Noble is beginning to establish himself as one of the best long poles in the league. He looks like he’s 13 years old, but is a real assassin out there on the field,” Cottle said.
Chesapeake took a 2-1 lead after one quarter with Walters having a hand in both goals. With the Bayhawks trailing 1-0 early, Poillon found his fellow first line midfield partner wide-open about 12 yards in front of the net and the lefty sent a sidearm crank shot into the top corner. Walters then made a nice pass to Hunt for a blistering overhand crank shot to snap a 1-1 tie with 1:09 left in the period.
Walters added four more points in the second quarter as Chesapeake outscored Florida, 6-3. The former Maryland All-American had two goals and an assist to spark a 4-0 run to close the stanza and give the Bayhawks an 8-4 halftime lead.
Chesapeake continued to pour it on after intermission, outscoring Florida 7-3 in the third period to take a commanding 15-7 lead going into the final frame. Westervelt had two goals and an assist while Mackrides contributed a goal and two assists to the onslaught.
Legendary midfielder Casey Powell scored two goals and assisted another to fuel a 5-0 run that enabled Florida to cut the deficit to 15-10 with 4:17 remaining in the fourth period. However, Mackrides ended any thoughts of an incredible comeback by lobbing a 2-point goal into an empty net from about 25 yards away. Rubeor then scored unassisted into the empty net to provide the final margin.
Chesapeake now travels to Ohio for a late afternoon (4 p.m.) Fourth of July matchup. With five games remaining in the regular season, the Bayhawks feel confident they can get on a roll and secure one of four playoff berths.
“We believe in the players we have on the roster and know there is enough talent on this team to get the job done,” Walters said. “Hopefully, we can build off this win, gain some momentum and really finish the season strong.”