Despite a no-goal outing from Mikey Powell, the Bayhawks' balanced offense used a fourth-quarter spurt to beat the Rochester Rattlers, 22-13, at Johnny Unitas Stadium yesterday.
After an assist on the first goal, Powell was held scoreless. Rattlers defender Michael Howley marked Powell, frustrating the crafty attacker into committing five turnovers and sending five shots wide.
But with Howley focused on Powell, the Rattlers' zone was compromised, creating wide-open opportunities for the Bayhawks' midfielders.
"[Howley] never helped once, so it was easy," coach Gary Gait said after the Bayhawks improved to 5-0. "[Midfielders] were getting easy goals."
With Powell running diversion, the Rattlers (0-5) could never quite adjust to the Bayhawks' offense, even in a closely contested first half. As soon as the Rattlers popped out to challenge Bayhawks midfielders like Josh Sims and Mark Frye, either Gait or Tom Marechek would punish the spread-out defense.
"[Marechek] and I had lots of goals, but a lot of times it's because of the work the middies did, drawing double-teams, opening us up," Gait said. "We're just the recipients of their hard work."
Gait finished with a game-high six goals, and Marechek had five.
When covering the Bayhawks' midfielders along the perimeter, the Rattlers' defenders always seemed a step too slow, giving the outside Bayhawks room to rip long-range shots or penetrate all the way to the crease, like both unassisted second-quarter goals from Jeff Sonke and David Curry.
Leading just 9-6 at the half, the Bayhawks recognized the Rattlers' defensive weakness at halftime.
"We said, `Look they're really tightening down on our attack, let's keep going from up top and get some goals,'" Frye said.
After the intermission, the Rattlers closed the game within one on a two-point goal by John Grant, but Paul Cantebene won the faceoff and Gait scored just 25 seconds later to help the crowd of 4,623 relax.
Sloppy play and several of Bayhawks goalkeeper Trevor Tierney's 20 saves kept the game scoreless for five minutes before the Bayhawks' midfield put its halftime strategy into action.
Sims scored three goals in seven minutes of play, the first two coming off assists from fellow midfielders Sonke and Frye, allowing Gait and Marechek to take over.
"If you look at their attack and their midfield, they have six weapons on the field at all times," Rattlers attacker Andrew Combs said.
In the fourth quarter, fatigue further compromised an already-distressed Rattlers' zone, freeing Marechek and Gait to score five of the last eight goals.
"[Offensively], we just hung in there and wore them down a little bit," Gait said. "I think we outran and outhustled them in the end."
After a two-game hiatus, attacker Casey Powell led the Rattlers with a hat trick and a game-high four assists. The Rattlers' Ryan Powell was not present, further delaying the much-anticipated matchup against his younger brother - the Bayhawks' 2004 No. 1 draft pick - Mikey Powell.
Rattlers 3 3 4 3 - 13
Bayhawks 4 5 4 9 - 22
One-point goals: R-Powell 3, Grant 2, Doneger 2, Combs 2, Shannon, BoothCassese; B-Gait 6, Marechek 5, Sims 4, Frye 2, Curry, Sonke, Cantabene, Pfarr, Cocchi. Two-point goals: R-Grant. Assists: R-Powell 4, Shannon 2, Schiller; B-Curry 2, Frye 2, Marechek 2, Cantabene, Gait, Powell, Prout, Sims, Sonke. Saves: R-Johnson 11 (60:00, 12 GA); B-Tierney 20 (60:00, 22 GA).