Attackman Andrew Kew capped a spectacular rookie season with the Chesapeake Bayhawks by scoring the winning goal in the Major League Lacrosse championship game.
The talented Canadian attackman picked up right where he left off.
Kew exploded for six goals to spark an otherwise balanced offense as the Bayhawks beat the Philadelphia Barrage, 16-11, in the opener of the MLL Tournament on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Afterward, Kew joked that he “wouldn’t have expected six,” but felt ready to produce despite the long layoff between when the National Lacrosse League halted play and Major League Lacrosse got underway.
“I put in some time during the quarantine, just working on my shot and working on my game. I think it paid off today,” Kew said. “My teammates put me in position to score by making great looks.”
Kew had a breakout season in 2019, ranking second on the Bayhawks with 25 goals. The Oakville, Ontario native was the No. 3 overall pick in the NLL Draft and was a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year after amassing 42 points for the New England Sea Wolves.
Philadelphia used a short stick defender to shut off Kew, a tactic that would have frustrated the former University of Tampa standout last season. With a year of professional experience under his belt, Kew found a way to exploit the matchup.
“Last year, teams shorted Andrew and he struggled with that. I think playing with (the Bayhawks) last season and scoring the game-winning goal in the championship, then playing indoor — he has a new-found confidence,” Chesapeake coach Tom Mariano said. “I tell you what: You leave Kew open on that wing, I feel pretty good that shot is going to go in.”
Kew scored of cannon crank shots from the right wing and on the doorstep after cutting to the crease. The left-hander finished fastbreaks and even created for himself — capping the impressive performance by splitting a pair of defenders then beating Barrage goalie Chris Madalon with a backhand flip using one arm.
Philadelphia was determined to not allow reigning MLL Most Valuable Player Lyle Thompson beat it. The Barrage slid immediately to Thompson as soon as he caught the ball and double-teamed the prolific attackman whenever he dodged to the goal.
They really go quick to (Thompson) and they like to double. It definitely opens up space on the back side,” Kew acknowledged.
Veteran goalie Brian Phipps had trouble stopping Kew’s shots during the two-day training camp and knew he was going to score a lot of goals during the eight-day tournament.
“With Kew — first practice you were like no sophomore slump for him. He came back and was unbelievable from the get-go,” Phipps said.
Thompson was still a factor, scoring three goals and dishing off an assist despite the aggressive attention of Philadelphia close defenseman Mark Evanchick. Attackman Nate Solomon, whom the Bayhawks picked up through the Supplemental Draft, also had a hat trick.
“Nate Solomon fit in perfectly. He’s a quick little waterbug off-ball and made his presence known,” said Phipps, who anchored a solid defensive effort with 12 saves.
Midfielder Ryan Keenan scored two goals, while attackman Colin Heacock dished off two assists for Chesapeake, which plays the New York Lizards Sunday (1 p.m.) in a game being televised on ESPN2.
Second-year close defenseman Warren Jeffrey did a superb job of covering dangerous attackman Mark Matthews, who was limited to a goal and assist.
“Warren Jeffrey proved he’s one of the best defensemen in the world right now,” Phipps said.
Greg Danseglio shifted to close defense after playing long stick midfield for the Bayhawks last season and provided superb leadership and communication. Leo Stouros, selected by the Bayhawks in the Supplemental Draft after playing for the now-defunct Atlanta Blaze a year ago, completed the close defense.
Rookie long sticks Holden Garlent, Chase Levesque and Will Weitzel all acquitted themselves well in their MLL debuts.
“We lost some really good defensemen, but we have a bunch of new poles I was super impressed with. Leo Stouros was excellent today,” Mariano said.
Added Phipps: “We kind of got used to what (the Barrage) wanted to do, and our younger guys got used to playing the MLL style of physicality you can play. We increased the tempo of the defense in the second half.”
Attackman Tom Palasek scored three goals and assisted two others to lead Philadelphia, which is coached by former Towson University standout Spencer Ford. Rookie midfielder Jon Mazza, a Davidsonville resident who played at Towson, totaled two goals and an assist.
It was a steamy hot day in Annapolis with temperatures approaching 100 degrees as Major League Lacrosse kicked off the tournament format that is replacing the 2020 season that was supposed to start in late May.
MLL became the second professional league for team sports to initiate competition amid the coronavirus pandemic, following closely behind Major League Soccer. Major League Baseball will begin its abbreviated season later this week, while the NBA and NHL will resume postponed campaigns.
The Premier Lacrosse League will play its own quarantined tournament next Saturday, July 25.
Chesapeake started slow offensively and was a bit disorganized defensively in the first quarter, falling behind 3-0 early. Kew finally put the Bayhawks on the board almost midway through the opening period and that sparked the home team.
Kew scored his second goal, while Solomon and midfielder Shayne Simpson also tallied as Chesapeake tied the score at four late in the opening stanza. It was a back-and-forth affair the rest of the way.
“It definitely took a while to get our feet under us and acclimated to the style of play again,” Phipps admitted. “Training camp is great for getting used to our own guys, but playing full-speed against some of the best players in the world is a tough task to prepare for.”
Alex Woodall, an Annapolis native and St. Mary’s High graduated, dominated the faceoffs throughout — winning 20 of 31 for the game. Jon Paige, a New Market native and Oakdale High graduate, gave the Bayhawks a bit of a lift in the second half by winning eight draws.
“Alex Woodall is excellent. He’s as good as anyone in the world. We just wanted to give him different looks and try to wear him down,” Mariano said. “We have two faceoff guys here. If one gets hot, we’re not going to take the reps away from him. Paige got better as the game went along.”
It was 10-10 going into the fourth quarter and that is when the Bayhawks steadily took over. Thompson drew a double-team and created a goal on the crease for Solomon then scored himself off a nice dish from midfielder Brendan Bomberry.
Solomon stuck a sidearm crank shot into the top corner from just inside the 2-point arc to give Chesapeake a 14-11 lead, then Kew put the finishing touches on the victory by scoring twice in the final three minutes.
“Our players and coaches bought in and really did a good job of preparing for this game. I thought after we weathered some early punches, that preparation paid off,” Mariano said.
Major League Lacrosse unveiled a significant rule change because of the coronavirus. Team benches were on opposite sides of the field, which was expected to impact substitution strategy. Mariano, who is also head coach of the Pace University men’s lacrosse program, could get used to the format.
“I’ll be honest, I loved it. I think it’s something everyone should do — high school, college. It eliminated some of the (trash-talking) between the two sidelines,” he said. “If you work hard, you’re going to get transition. With the old rules, if you sprinted off, you got no break. With this format, if you sprint off, you can gain a numbers advantage.”
MLL also debuted a brand new bright yellow lacrosse ball, which seemed to cause the players some problems on opening day. Many were overthrowing passes because the new ball is not as heavy as a traditional lacrosse ball.
“I think the ball is easier to see with the color, but it’s a little lighter so it flies out and sails on us,” said Phipps, who air-mailed some clearing passes. “We’ll get used to throwing around with it and be sharper tomorrow.”