For Bayhawks, first test occurs out West

With new face in goal, plenty of scorers, team faces Rattlers in Seattle

Pro Lacrosse

May 22, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

When the term "coast to coast" was mentioned in past seasons regarding the Bayhawks, it usually meant a crisp outlet pass from goalkeeper Greg Cattrano, a clearing run by a talented midfielder, then a feed on the break to attackmen Mark Millon or Tom Marechek for a quick-striking goal.

But this spring, a major element in that formula has changed and coast to coast has taken on a new dimension in the team's vocabulary.

Cattrano, the team's starting goalie for every game in the Bayhawks' three-year history, will no longer be protecting the cage. His wish to play closer to his New York home was granted in the offseason with a trade to the Philadelphia (formerly Bridgeport) Barrage.

For his services, Philadelphia traded the No. 1 choice in the June 3 collegiate draft, with which the Bayhawks are almost certain to select Syracuse attackman Mike Powell.

And now, Major League Lacrosse - currently an all-Eastern operation - is striving to expand its horizon to the West. To that end, the Bayhawks launch their season tonight against the Rochester Rattlers at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle. On June 13, they will introduce the fast-paced game to another Western market when they engage New Jersey at Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High.

"I believe the league is trying to get potential owner-operators in some of those cities," said Millon, the Bayhawks' all-time leading scorer. "We'll be playing in beautiful venues built for the most popular sports league [the NFL] in the world. I think the guys will be excited about it.`

"It's our Wild West tour," added player-coach Gary Gait. "The league is looking toward expansion."

Playing in an NFL facility is nothing new for the Bayhawks, which, in their infancy, played its home games at PSINet (now M&T Bank) Stadium.

"We had a full season there, so it won't be unique for us," said Millon.

What will be unique will be the new face in the goal. Sated with offensive talent in Millon, Marechek, Gait and the expected addition of Powell, the Bayhawks' chances of returning to the MLL championship game for the fourth straight year probably depend on how well they defend.

"I think we're going to probably need to put a lot of points up," said Millon. "The league is getting better. There is a fine line between us and Long Island [the two finalists in every previous season] and the others. A couple little plays here and there and Rochester or Philadelphia or New Jersey could be in the championship. The talent level is tremendous."

With the regular season opening before the college draft this time, Gait said the Bayhawks may "go in a couple of different directions" in the draft, with a goalie and a defender among the top priorities.

As for the replacement for Cattrano, he will explore "a lot of options. People will be given an opportunity to step up and develop. And [Justin] Sussman and [Rob] Scherr will be given the first opportunity.`

The Bayhawks will play at least two games without Powell, who is involved in the NCAA Division I tournament.

"He's a phenomenal athlete," said Millon. "I'm really looking forward to the chance to play with him."

Meanwhile, Millon (45 goals, 23 assists), Gait (30 goals, 13 assists) and Marechek (24 goals, nine assists) form a formidable array of veteran scorers.

Although they have shown no signs of slowing down, age is always a question. Gait is 37, Marechek is 35 and Millon is 33.

"I think us older guys are still able to be productive. It's a fairly short season and everybody keeps themselves in good shape. You know, the older you are, the better you can execute on the field. There are little subtle things you can do to get open," Millon said.

Gait likes the mix of veterans and young talent and hopes to buttress any potential problem spots with newcomers.

"I think we have a pretty good squad," he said. "We're looking to be strong again."

The Bayhawks are moving this season from Johns' Hopkins' Homewood Field to Johnny Unitas Stadium at Towson University.

"Johns Hopkins has a tremendous lacrosse history," said Millon. "But I think playing at Towson will be great. It's a little more modern, more comfortable for fans. Parking is easier. And there's the convenience of where most of the lacrosse fans in the Baltimore area live, which is nearby."

Ten Bayhawks games will be televised, with all six at home being carried on tape delay by Channel 2.

Bayhawks schedule

Date Opponent Time

Tonight Rochester-a 11 p.m.

Thursday Boston 7 p.m.

June 5 vs. New Jersey-b 9:30 p.m.

June 13 Rochester 4 p.m.

June 19 at Philadelphia 7 p.m.

June 25 at Long Island 7:30 p.m.

July 10 Rochester 7 p.m.

July 17 at New Jersey 4 p.m.

July 24 Long Island 7 p.m.

July 31 Philadelphia 7 p.m.

Aug. 5 at Boston 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 14 New Jersey 7 p.m.

a-at Seattle. b-at Denver.

MLL semifinals: Aug. 19

MLL championship: Aug. 22, 1 p.m.

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