Throughout the regular season, the Bayhawks downplayed the importance of each of their 10 wins, and promised that the playoffs would bring a more focused and consistent team.
For 40 minutes of their Major League Lacrosse semifinal against the Boston Cannons last night, the Bayhawks were all that and more.
Playing as well as they have all season, the Bayhawks ran out to an eight-goal halftime lead, extended the advantage to 11 goals in the third quarter, and then let goalie Greg Cattrano do the rest in a 15-10 win last night before 2,638 at Ravens Stadium.
Cattrano made 23 saves as the Bayhawks (11-4) advanced to the league final on Sunday at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. They will play the Long Island Lizards, 19-11 winners over the New Jersey Pride on Saturday night.
The Bayhawks and Lizards met in last year's inaugural MLL final, with Long Island winning, 15-11. The Lizards also beat the Bayhawks twice this season.
"That was as good of a first half that we played all year," said player-coach Gary Gait. "We're going to need two halves like that come Sunday."
Midfielders Josh Sims, Paul Cantabene, Mark Frye, Jeff Sonke, Rob Shek and Gait each scored two goals. All but two of the Bayhawks' goals were scored by midfielders.
"It was the style Boston played," Gait said. "They were not going to slide from the attack and give the attack easy goals. We were smart enough to recognize that and take advantage."
The Bayhawks took control by beating Cannons starting goalie Keith Cynar on their first three shots.
Then, after Boston closed to 8-4, thanks to Mike Regan's two-point bounce shot and rookie Steve Dusseau's second goal of the half, the Bayhawks threw the Cannons back on their heels, scoring four straight goals to take a commanding, 12-4 lead into intermission.
"They did exactly what we were afraid of and kept running," said Cannons coach Scott Hiller, whose team ended its season at 7-8. The Cannons still have not beaten the Bayhawks in six all-time meetings.
"Cattrano was making some big saves, and we just couldn't stop them."
Sims started the run with two straight goals. On the second, he took a pass from Cantabene in transition, planted his feet and fired a rocket from 14 yards into the top netting.
Just 21 seconds later, Jeff Wills fed a streaking Tom Marechek, who went behind the back to beat Cynar and give the Bayhawks an 11-4 lead.
Cynar was pulled in favor of Kevin O'Brien, and Gait greeted him with an extra-man goal to account for the eight-goal halftime spread.
In the half, the Bayhawks were actually outshot, 26-21. However, Boston fired many of its shots from behind the two-point line. Hiller said the shot selection was a result of his team trying to get back in the game quickly after falling behind early.
"The more I see of them [two-point shots], the more comfortable I get," Cattrano said. "I was expecting them to take a lot of those. Actually, I was expecting them to take even more."
After Dusseau's goal at 12:45 of the second quarter, the Cannons went nearly 26 minutes without a goal. During that time, the Bayhawks scored seven straight to take a 15-4 lead and all but settle the outcome.
"We match up with them real well," said Cantabene, who won 14 of 24 faceoffs. "We're real confident that, against them, we can get up quickly and go."
The only flaw in the Bayhawks' effort was the Cannons' game-closing five-goal run that included two straight two-point goals from Regan and Scott Doyle, but by that time, the Bayhawks' trip to Columbus was assured.
Boston 3 1 3 3 - 10
Bayhawks 8 4 3 0 - 15
Goals: Boston-Dusseau 2, Silcott 2, Regan, Gill; Bayhawks-Frye 2, Sims 2, Sonke 2, Cantabene 2, Gait 2, Shek 2, Millon, Marechek, Fulks. 2-pt. goals: Boston-Regan, Doyle. Assists: Boston-Battista, Regan, Gill; Bayhawks-Millon, Cantabene, Collins, Wills. Saves: Boston-Cynar 5, O'Brien 6; Bayhawks-Cattrano 23.
Next for Bayhawks
Opponent:Long Island Lizards
Site:Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
When:Sunday, 4 p.m.