FRISCO, TEXAS — Most observers believe the Chesapeake Bayhawks have the best attack in Major League Lacrosse, and that certainly seemed to be the case in season opener, Sunday, June 2, against the Dallas Rattlers.
Lyle Thompson, Steele Stanwick and Colin Heacock combined for 15 points as Chesapeake rallied from an early deficit and took control down the stretch to beat Dallas, 14-11, at the Ford Center.
“It was a tough, gritty win. We dug deep and made plays when we needed them,” Chesapeake Offensive Coordinator Tom Mariano said. “We started to impose our will in the second half by getting the ground balls and being a little more physical on defense.”
Mariano directed Chesapeake in the absence of Head Coach Dave Cottle, who had a death in the family. As offensive coordinator, Mariano was pleased about the production of the attack.
“We have an excellent attack and I think what you saw today is just the beginning of what they can do together,” he said. “Lyle, Steele and Colin complement each other really well and as a group they are very difficult to stop.”
Thompson was able to play in the season opener for the first time in his Major League Lacrosse career and appeared to be in top form, scoring four goals and dishing off two assists. Thompson took over in the second half and notched several unassisted tallies off impressive individual moves.
“That first game is always the toughest for me to transition from indoor to outdoor,” said Thompson, who plays for the Georgia Swarm of the National Lacrosse League.
Thompson, whose indoor commitments had previously forced him to miss the early portion of the MLL season, agrees the attack unit will only get better. “We’re still trying to get a feel for each other, a feel for the system and a feel for our middies,” he said.
Stanwick flourished as the offensive quarterback operating behind the net and dished off five assists to go along with a goal. Heacock added a hat trick, routinely getting wide open by working hard off the ball.
Midfielder Brendan Bomberry scored both of his goals in the final 3 ½ minutes, including the eventual game-winner.
“We did a much better job of finishing our shots in the second half,” Mariano said.
Faceoff specialist Kenny Massa was a big reason why the Bayhawks eventually wore down the Rattlers, dominating the draws to repeatedly give the visitors possession. Massa, who played for the Ohio Machine as a rookie in 2018, captured 18 of 29 faceoffs.
“Kenny is a tough kid and a real competitor. We felt he was one of the better returning faceoff guys in the league and just needed an opportunity,” Mariano said. “Our wing play was very good today.”
Long stick midfielders Sean Mayle and CJ Costabile teamed with short stick defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen to scoop 11 ground balls.
Following a shaky start, Chesapeake’s defense locked down in the second half and held Dallas to just four goals. Goalkeeper Niko Amato finished with eight saves.
Dallas jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before Nick Mariano scored Chesapeake’s first goal of the 2019 campaign. Thompson spotted Mariano cutting to the cage and delivered a perfect pass that enabled the left-hander to finish from out front with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.
Mariano then scored off a sidearm crank shot from the right wing off a feed from Stanwick with 1:09 to go in the opening period then returned the favor to start the second stanza. Mariano used a nifty toe drag to beat his defender then fired a cross-crease pass to Stanwick, who used a quick-stick from the doorstep to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Mariano had a hat trick before halftime after slipping past a defender then shooting and scoring while diving across the crease. Thompson then scored his first goal of the season with 55 seconds left, sticking a sidearm crank shot into the top corner to finish a fast-break started by short stick defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen.
Chesapeake struck first to start the second half thanks to tremendous ball movement in transition. Four quick passes left Heacock wide open on the right side and he easily converted a superb cross-crease pass from Stanwick, pulling the Bayhawks within one at 7-6.
Thompson scored his second goal off an outstanding individual move, sweeping through the Dallas defense and firing a long crank shot while on the run to make it 8-7. Chesapeake then tied the score for the first time with 4:18 left in the third quarter as Stanwick found Heacock all alone out front.
The Bayhawks took their first lead of the game with 1:14 remaining as Davis-Allen scored his first career professional goal off a give-and-go with Thompson. Davis-Allen passed to Thompson then set a pick for him and peeled off. Thompson flipped the ball back to Davis-Allen, who dropped down and fired low-to-low to give the ‘Hawks a 9-8 lead heading into the final frame.
Heacock made it a two-goal advantage almost five minutes into the fourth quarter when he took advantage of a defensive mix-up while operating behind the net. Two defenders went with the pick man, leaving Heacock all alone to turn the corner and score off a short bounce shot, making it 10-8.
Thompson answered a Dallas goal with a spectacular move, using a shot fake causing his defender to fall down. Thompson pulled his stick and continued to the cage, faking once then firing five-hole and Chesapeake led 11-9 with 8:18 to go.
Dallas scored back-to-back goals to tie the score at 11 before Stanwick and Bomberry connected for the game-winner.
Stanwick was operating behind the cage when he made a brilliant pass, putting the ball right into the stick of Bomberry on the crease. All Bomberry had to do was quick-stick a short shot past goalie Christian Carson-Bannister to put the Bayhawks ahead to stay, 12-11.
Thompson used a stutter step move to beat his defender and score his fourth goal off another sidearm shot and Bomberry added another insurance goal off an overhand crank from the left wing.
“We’re still trying to grow and learn together. Any time you can do that and still get a win is great,” Mariano said.