By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/24/13
In their first playoff appearance in club history, the Charlotte Hounds stormed to a big lead and stunned the previously-undefeated Denver Outlaws, 17-14, today in the first semifinal of Championship Weekend presented by Smartlink at PPL Park.
The fourth-seeded Hounds advance to the Championship Game on Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN2) against the winner of the Hamilton-Chesapeake game.
The first quarter started with an explosion of offense from the low seed of the tournament. Charlotte scored eight of nine points after falling behind, 1-0, and led, 8-2, after the first period. Mike Sawyer led the attack with five points (four goals) while Matt White added three goals and Matt Danowski had two three points (two goals).
Denver’s attack sputtered as the Hounds owned the ball and got great defense from its backline, which featured All-Star Brett Schmidt (Upper Dublin) and Mason Poli (Downingtown East).
Denver later rallied and drew within two goals, 14-12, in the fourth period behind Eric Law (nine goals), but Charlotte went up 17-12 and held on for the surprise win.
“We were the underdog and everyone knew it,” said Schmidt, a former University of Maryland All-American. “Everyone was talking about Denver being undefeated and no one was mentioning us coming in.
“Toward the end of the season we were playing great ball. We wanted to come out and play Hounds lacrosse, and we did. We were more consistent (today) than we were in the past games. We let them back in a little, but we put our foot down at the end.
“We couldn’t be more proud. We’ll stay with this win for about 10 or 15 minutes and then look to tomorrow.”
Contrary to the play of Denver, Charlotte was able to distribute offensive opportunities throughout the scoring sheet. The Hounds had six different players score goals in the first two quarters of play.
Despite being down 13-7 headed into the third quarter, the no-quit attitude of the best regular season team in the history of MLL helped carry the Outlaws back into the contest. Denver inched back to bring the game within two and a score of 14-12 with 8:24 remaining in the game but Charlotte would add three more insurance goals and go on to win.
While offense may have been the story of the game, Charlotte faceoff man, Geoff Snider was the hero. Snider absolutely dominated the faceoff “x” winning 17-25 draws, and with 2:37 remaining, the specialist delivered what would ultimately be the goal that ended Denver’s perfect season.
Denver goalie Jesse Schwartzman, the recipient of this year’s Warrior Goalie of the Year Award, never got into a rhythm that allowed the Outlaws to remain in the game. While on the other end of the field former Virginia graduate Adam Ghitelman was a star. In his first playoff start as a professional, Ghitelman stopped 17 shots.
“Last time we saw them was in late June and we’ve grown a lot,” Schmidt said. “Our rookies have all stepped up. We are a really young team. It was a matter of us meshing and playing 60 minutes. We were getting closer and closer each week and today we did it.”
Poli said the Hounds shocked the Outlaws.
“Going into the game everyone thought of us as underdogs and nobody thought we belonged,” said the first-year player and former Bryant All-American. “We had nothing to lose.
“We took it to them early and they weren’t expecting that and we held them of the rest of the way.”
“It was the role of the underdog and we embrace that,” Schmidt said. “Everyone overlooks you and that gives everyone motivation. We came out and went up early and they were never able to come back.”