Bayhawks, Lizards will settle it again

MLL title, bragging rights at stake in latest rematch

Pro Lacrosse

September 01, 2002|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

They played in the inaugural league game, faced off to decide the first championship and now are the only two teams left standing on the last day of season No. 2.

Then, there's that whole debate: "What area is the bigger hotbed for lacrosse?"

In two years, the Long Island Lizards and Bayhawks have created Major League Lacrosse's best rivalry. They will meet for the third time this season today at 4 p.m. at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, with the MLL championship on the line.

The Lizards beat the Bayhawks, 18-13 and 18-12, in two regular-season games this year. Last season, the Bayhawks defeated Long Island twice during the regular season before falling to their Long Island counterparts, 15-11, in the MLL title game.

"My old saying is that it's very hard to beat a team three times," said Bayhawks attackman Tom Marechek. "That will hopefully work in our advantage. We're a way better team than the last time we played."

Indeed, the Bayhawks (11-4) rebounded from the July 27 loss to the Lizards with four straight wins, including a dominating, 15-10 victory over the Boston Cannons in the semifinals last Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Lizards (10-5) limped to the finish line, losing four of their last five before downing the New Jersey Pride, 19-11, in the other semifinal last weekend.

"The matchup is unique because the talent level on both teams is enormous," said Lizards coach John DeTommaso. "The question is what group of guys or what one guy is going to take over and rise to the occasion."

For both teams, the more likely scenario is a group of guys taking over. The Bayhawks' star is attackman Mark Millon, whose 45 goals and 30 assists lead the team.

But the Bayhawks, relying on attackmen Marechek (30 goals, 11 assists) and John Blatchley (16 assists) and midfielders Gary Gait (19 goals), Josh Sims (25 goals) and Paul Cantabene (11 goals), have shown they are capable of winning when Millon is shut out.

Long Island's top threat is midfielder Casey Powell, the league's scoring leader with 68 points on 38 goals and 30 assists. However, the Bayhawks' biggest concern is Powell's supporting cast, which includes six players with 20 goals or more.

"We have to stop their transition as much as possible," said Bayhawks defenseman Hugh Donovan. "To do that, we have to take the body, be physical and be smarter in the guys we slide to."

Both teams' defenses, backed by superb goalies in the Lizards' Brian Carcaterra and the Bayhawks' Greg Cattrano, are largely overshadowed, but each has shown the ability to take over a game.

It will be an interesting weekend for Cattrano, who was to board a plane for Columbus yesterday with 10 of the Lizards' players. He is expected to be named the MLL's Goalie of the Year and possibily MVP in a ceremony this weekend.

As a former standout for Ward Melville High School on Long Island, Cattrano knows all about the lacrosse rivalry between Long Island and Baltimore.

And even though a couple of the Bayhawks played their high school lacrosse on Long Island and the Lizards' roster includes eight players and two coaches who went to Johns Hopkins, players insist there are still big-time territorial bragging rights at stake today.

"It has that Baltimore-Long Island flavor," said Gait. "Even before this league started, that rivalry existed, and this has continued it. Only one of us can walk away the champion."

Bayhawks today

MLL championship

Opponent:Long Island Lizards

Site:Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

Time:4 p.m.

TV:Comcast SportsNet

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