MLL final is nothing short of blockbuster

Bayhawks, Lizards bringing star casts for 1st championship today

Lacrosse

September 03, 2001|By Dan Hickling | Dan Hickling,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Call it a match made in lacrosse heaven: the two best teams as proved throughout the regular season of Major League Lacrosse, the Bayhawks and the Long Island Lizards, meeting at 1 p.m. today at Kennedy Stadium in the league's inaugural championship game.

As scripts go, this one couldn't have been written better, better even than those hashed out for Big Brother Jake, the long-forgotten sitcom that featured MLL founder Jake Steinfeld.

That show never featured stars of the magnitude the Bayhawks or the Lizards can put on the field. Most of the sport's true standouts are on one roster or the other.

The talent-laden Long Island roster reads like a "Who's Who" of lacrosse: Paul Gait, Gary Gait, Casey Powell.

Each helped fuel what proved to be the MLL's most potent offense, which totaled 216 points.

Backed up by superb defender (and former Johns Hopkins star) John Gagliardi and goaltender Sal LoCasio, the Lizards can afford to run and gun with abandon.

"Long Island's a great team," said Bayhawks coach Brian Voelker. "They have a bunch of great players."

The Bayhawks can answer with their own cast of stars. The offense boasts plenty of firepower in Mark Millon, Tom Marechek and Dan Denihan, plus a strong supporting cast that includes Josh Sims, Paul Cantabene, Greg McCavera, Jarred Testa and Kip Fulks.

The defense is anchored by Rob Doerr, named yesterday as the MLL's top defender, and Greg Cattrano, who walked away with top goalie honors.

"It's going to be a [heck] of a game," Paul Cantabene said.

Both teams come in with 11-4 marks, after having survived harrowing semifinal tests Saturday.

The Bayhawks withstood a spunky effort by the underrated Boston Cannons, 12-11, while the Lizards were taken to overtime by the Rochester Rattlers before winning, 13-12.

The Hawks held the upper hand in the season series, sweeping both games - a 16-13 win June 7 at Homewood Field and 16-10 win July 14 on the Island.

Marechek believes that for the Bayhawks to win the title, they must stay with what worked against Long Island in the earlier meetings.

"Move the ball and use our middies a lot," he said. "We have great athletes on the team, and once we start holding the ball a little more, we find ourselves in a hole. I think we have to move the ball quickly, and let the middies run. That's the best way we can beat Long Island ... beat them off the ball."

Cantabene, who helps anchor the Bayhawks middle and is the team's top faceoff man, agrees.

"I think we'll play a huge role," he said. "We going to want to play up and down, get in and get out ... like we did in our previous games."

"They've got great middies of their own. Guys like Gary Gait, and A.J. Haugen [another former Hopkins player]. They've got good face off guys."

The MLL held its first awards luncheon yesterday, and honored seven players, including Cattrano and Doerr.

The Rochester Rattlers' Ryan Powell, the MLL's top point-getter, was named the league's most valuable player. His teammate, John Grant Jr., was named Offensive Player of the Year.

Attackman Keith Cromwell of the Bridgeport Barrage was named the league's Rookie of the Year, while Long Island skipper John Detomasso was selected as the league's top coach.

The Sobe Ironman Award, given to the MLL's "unsung hero" as voted on by fans in online balloting, went to Long Island's Joe Ghedina.

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