MLL: Reigning MLL champion Chesapeake Bayhawks chompin’ to go

Lyle Thompson and Ben Randall. NY Lizards @ Chesapeake Bayhawks. July 20, 2019. (Photo: Tracey Happold-Brown)

The Chesapeake Bayhawks are anxious to play the 2020 season on their home field at Navy Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium as the reigning Major League Lacrosse champions. They are also hoping to swoop in for a repeat championship this season.

Although a lot of fan favourites and perennially dominating players will be back, the coaching staff changed in the off season and one has to wonder if that will impact the team at all. Some people in the lacrosse community (particularly in Annapolis) were shocked when legendary head coach Dave Cottle stepped down. The Bayhawks replaced him with assistant coach Tom Mariano, who is familiar with the team but now has full leadership.

One thing that will not change is an offense driven by Lyle Thompson.

Thompson, arguably the greatest player currently in the game and one of the greatest players of all time, seems ready to go. Two days ago he posted on his Twitter account that “I’ve never been more dialed in.”  Thompson is used to going right from finishing his National Lacrosse League season and jumping head first into an already started Major League Lacrosse season. He will not have to do that this season as play ended early for all players this year as a result of the pandemic. He’s the biggest name to not to have defected to the PLL.

Thompson is a multifaceted player. He can score without looking at the goal cage; he can score with three guys draped over him; he can get passes off when he is quadruple teamed and his teammates are wide open. He gets the assist—they get the goal. However, he is more than an offensive threat. With stealth-like qualities, Thompson flies through the air and strips goalies of their impending clears. Clears that have successfully made their way out of the goalie’s stick are not safe either. Thompson creeps up on the defender who is trying to get the ball up the field and can successfully snap the ball out of that defender’s stick causing an offensive possession once again.

But you need depth to win championships, and luckily Thompson isn’t the only offensive threat in this flock. One would be remiss if players like Brendan Bomberry and Colin Heacock were forgotten on this team.

Brendan Bomberry. 2019 MLL All-Star game. (Photo credit: Laura Kupsey)

Bomberry was a 2019 All-Star who quickly fit into Chesapeake’s plan. Although he is not as flashy as Thompson, they worked together seamlessly last season. They played like they had been playing summer ball together since childhood. Bomberry patiently waits for Thompson to go in front of the goal cage where he draws the attention of almost every defender. When ready, Thompson passes the ball to Bomberry and the goalie doesn’t stand a chance.

If Bomberry isn’t putting the ball in the back of the net—look for Heacock to be doing so. Heacock can use his brute strength to push past defenders as he works his way to the goal cage. He can also rip a two point shot with laser-like accuracy. Another MLL All Star, Heacock continues to have Annapolis (and Maryland in general) fans support him. And although the fans will not be in the stadium, they will be cheering him on while watching on ESPN.

The Bayhawks are not limited to goals from these three. There are plenty of other players on this team who can score, including C.J. Costabile.

Like Thompson, Costabile is a threat in more than one spot on the field. He can take a faceoff. He can score goals. He has certainly proven his worth as a defender. Very few players can do all of these well. Even fewer players from the United States can do this. C.J., taking the faceoff with his long pole, flying after offensive players to strip a shot, or taking that coveted two-point shot to put his team up, can.

Costabile is not the only defensive threat on this roster. Nick Manis and Isaiah Davis-Allen are defensive standouts as well. Manis is the hometown boy, hailing from Annapolis. For the past few years he has been able to play at home, something rarely seen in professional sports. Quick with his short stick, he works to cause turnovers before the opposing offense can take shots. Davis-Allen does the same. He has the box experience from the Philadelphia Wings that has allowed him to transition quicker and improved his footwork. Both short sticks are returning to Annapolis and hoping for another championship to add to their collections.

Someone else returning and hungry for another championship is another Annapolis hometown favourite in goaltender Brian Phipps. Phipps, like Manis, gets to play in his hometown. Most of Phipps’ pro career has been spent with the Bayhawks. It is rare to see him without a smile on his face—except when the ball is being fired at his face during a game. He is a steady goalie who will be expected to take youngster Sam Lucchessi under his wing.

Given all of this talent and support, it is likely that the Bayhawks will fly high in the standings once again and probably have another championship in their talons at the end of the season.