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KNIGHTHAWKS LOOKING FOR RARE DOUBLE
08/21/2013 - 11:16am

By Craig Rybczynski -- Winning back-to-back National Lacrosse League Championships was certainly a challenge for the Rochester Knighthawks. How about winning two professional lacrosse titles in under four months? Sound impossible? Don’t say that to four members of the Rochester Knighthawks.

“It feels great to be so close at the end. It shows our hard work and determination has been working,” said Knighthawks and Nationals star Stephen Keogh about Hamilton’s quest for a MLL title. “Winning both championships is a dream of mine. To win both of them in the same year would be unbelievable.”

This weekend, Keogh, Joe Walters, Cody Jamieson and Sid Smith will travel to Philadelphia to take part in the Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend, presented by Smartlink. Hamilton (9-5) enters the two-day event for the third time after completing the 2013 regular season with the most wins in team history. If Hamilton wins the MLL Championship, the quartet of Knighthawks will accomplish something that only five players have achieved in their pro lacrosse careers: winning an NLL and MLL title in the same year. But it’s something that Walters is not even thinking about as he prepares to fly to Philadelphia on Thursday.

“It is important to take it one game at a time and play our best lacrosse this weekend,” said Walters, who is entering his fifth Championship Weekend.

The Nationals will battle the defending champion Chesapeake Bayhawks in the MLL Semifinals at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 24th. The other semifinal features the Denver Outlaws and Charlotte Hounds. The winners will advance to Sunday's Championship Game at 3:00 p.m. at PPL Park in the Philadelphia Area.

Walters will try to add a third MLL championship ring to his collection. The former University of Maryland star won the 2008 MLL title with the Rochester Rattlers and captured the 2009 title with the Nationals. He was also a member of Hamilton’s 2011 club that lost in the MLL Finals. In 2013, he is back in the league’s final four after leading the MLL with 26 assists and finishing tied for fifth in the league with 48 points.

“I have been on both sides, winning on Championship Weekend and coming up just short,” said Walters. “It’s a challenge potentially playing two games in less than 24 hours, but we have to play our best game against the Bayhawks.”

Walters has experience in playoff runs, having won back-to-back Champion’s Cups (2012-13) with the NLL’s Rochester Knighthawks. In the 2013 Finals, he capped off a six-point night by scoring the game-winning goal in an 11-10 win over the Washington Stealth.

The captain of that team was Nationals teammate Sid Smith, who now has three professional lacrosse titles to his credit, including two straight championships with the Knighthawks. The last time he appeared in MLL Championship Weekend was in 2009 when he helped the Nationals defeat Denver 9-8 in overtime to win the league title. He was fresh off back-to-back NCAA Championships with Syracuse University when he played in his first, and only, MLL Championship Game.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Smith, who rejoined the Nats this season to play in eight games. “In 2009, I was a rookie and it has a little different feeling coming back five years later.”

Jamieson and Keogh are making their second trips to the postseason and are gunning for their first Steinfeld Cups. During the NLL season, “Jammer” notched a career-high 61 assists and 89 points to rank fourth and sixth in the NLL, respectively. For the second straight season, he saved his best game for last. Jamieson recorded six points in the 2013 NLL Championship to earn MVP honors for the second straight season, becoming just the second player in NLL history to accomplish that feat.

Jamieson now enters the MLL Playoffs after finishing fourth on the Nationals in points (23) and collecting a career-high 13 assists. He ramped up his game in his final five games of the season, scoring seven goals and dishing out nine assists. During that stretch, he registered a career-high six points on July 20th in a 13-12 win over the Ohio Machine. The Nationals should not have been surprised by his late season success, which has become Jamieson’s trademark.

“We talked about it being a playoff game. I pride myself on taking it up notch in the playoffs,” said Jamieson. “I think hard work rubs off, and if they see me going hard they will go hard.”

Keogh has followed Jamieson’s lead and has also had a productive summer, tallying 20 points on the strength of 16 goals and four assists. He is back in the MLL Championship Weekend for the second time in three years. With the Knighthawks, Keogh averaged two points per game in the regular season and notched five points in two playoff games. With the 2013 NLL title, the former Syracuse attackman added back-to-back NLL Championships to his back-to-back NCAA Championships. Adding an MLL ring would cap off an amazing summer, and give him titles in both professional lacrosse leagues.

“You have the same goal on any team you play for: To be the winners when it's all over,” said Keogh. “It would be an awesome way to complete the summer.”


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