NATIONALS DIGGING IN FOR PLAYOFF DRIVE
7/15/11 10:00 AM
(Hamilton, July 15)... With the race for the final two playoff spots tightening up in Major League Lacrosse, the Hamilton Nationals can create some separation with a victory Saturday night against the Chesapeake Bayhawks. The winner of the 7:00 p.m. contest in Hamilton will take over sole possession of third place and move one step closer to the playoffs.
“It will certainly be a huge game. We don’t have a lot breathing room because Long Island’s right there with us,” said Head Coach Regy Thorpe on this weekend’s match-up and being neck-and-neck with the Long Island Lizards.
The Nationals and Bayhawks own identical 4-3 records and have a two-game lead on the fifth-place Lizards (2-5) with five games to play. Hamilton is 4-3 lifetime against the Bayhawks with Saturday being the second of three meetings this season between the two teams. Chesapeake won the first game 14-10 back on May 19th. The teams will meet again on June 30th in Annapolis.
“I believe in my guys. I know the coaches, organization and owners do too. I think we’re going to battle right to the end there. If we finish first, second, third or fourth, as long as [we] can get in there, [we] have a chance to win the Championship,” said Thorpe. “We’re just trying to go forward and you can’t help but look over your shoulder at Long Island. We’re taking it one game at a time.”
Hamilton can set its franchise record for consecutive wins with a victory over Chesapeake. The contest at McMaster University’s Ron Joyce Stadium will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com. The Nationals are riding a three-game winning streak after stringing together consecutive wins over Rochester and their most convincing victory of the season, a 15-9 win over Long Island, on July 1st.
Joe Walters has been on fire lately with 19 points during the win streak (7+1+11). The Nationals’ midfielder has moved into fourth place on the MLL’s point list with 27. Walters not only brings the most assists in the MLL to the field (13) but also a winning attitude, having won MLL titles in his last two seasons in the league (2008 and 2009).
“Joey has done a lot for us. He’s having a good year but he’s also accepted a leadership role. He’s young, but we consider him a veteran player,” said Thorpe. “He’s the one working the hardest at practice and we want to keep developing his leadership role. He’s a typical goal scorer but he’s had a lot of assists and makes great plays.”
After Saturday, the Nationals embark on a two-game road trip. The first stop is in Boston against the first-place Cannons (6-1) on Saturday, July 23rd at 7:00 p.m. The final leg takes the Nats to Chesapeake on Saturday, July 30th for a 7:00 p.m. showdown with the defending champs. The games could determine Hamilton’s playoff fate.
“Keep our fundamentals and our principles,” said Coach Thorpe on what the Nationals must do to secure a playoff spot. “Our defense is getting better and better and I hope we keep it going Saturday night.”