Chesapeake Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle is running out of superlatives to use when discussing the phenomenal performance of attackman Lyle Thompson.
Already this season, Cottle has described Thompson as the “consummate teammate, a tremendous competitor and a true winner.” Cottle has noted that Thompson “hustles nonstop and plays with great energy and effort.”
When asked about Thompson’s penchant for scoring highlight reel goals?
“Lyle is one of the few guys who, when he scores, all the other players look at each other like, ‘Wow!’ His imagination and creativity are really quite impressive,” Cottle responded.
Asked again on Friday for a comment about Thompson, Cottle chose to offer the ultimate compliment.
“Right now, Lyle Thompson is the best lacrosse player in the world,” he declared.
Thompson has been nothing short of spectacular, leading Major League Lacrosse in scoring with 25 points. The two-time Tewaaraton Award winner has scored 18 goals in every way imaginable – off wicked sidearm crank shots, lightning-quick behind-the-back deliveries, flip finishes from the doorstep and acrobatic diving moves into the crease.
“It’s greatness on display game after game,” Chesapeake offensive coordinator Tom Mariano said. “Lyle is one of the few guys in the game who, whenever he touches the ball you become breathless because you’re thinking ‘What will he do this time?’ Almost every goal is something special.”
This marks the first time since Thompson began playing Major League Lacrosse that he’s been with a team since the start of the season. In the previous four seasons, the super-slick and highly skilled attackman missed a handful of games while playing indoors with the Georgia Swarm of the National Lacrosse League.
Major League Lacrosse pushed back the start of its season from April to June so Thompson has been available since Game 1. It has made a major difference as the former University of Albany All-American has been catalyst of the offense since the opener when he totaled four goals and two assists to lead a 14-11 defeat of the Dallas Rattlers.
“Lyle was able to participate in training camp for the first time and develop some chemistry with his teammates,” Mariano said. “He’s the type of player who has no ego and just wants to just blend in. I think in years past when he joined the team after four or five games, he didn’t want to show up and take over.”
Thompson amassed seven points in a road victory over the New York Lizards on June 15 and led the Bayhawks with six points in losses to the Atlanta Blaze last Saturday and the Denver Outlaws on Thursday night.
At his current average of just over six points per game, Thompson is on pace to pile up 100 er the course of during the regular season. New York Lizards attackman Rob Pannell holds the MLL single-season scoring record after totaling 78 in 13 games in 2018.
“I think Lyle has a chance to set some records this season,” Cottle said.
Thompson is a Native American of Iroquois descent and grew up in the Onondaga Nation of upstate New York. He became a US Lacrosse All-American at Salmon River High after exploding for 120 points (66 goals, 54 assists) as a senior then followed his older brother Miles to Albany.
In 2014, Miles and Lyle shared the Tewaaraton Award that is presented to the most outstanding player in college lacrosse. Lyle Thompson repeated as the Tewaaraton winner as a senior in 2015 after setting the NCAA Division I record for career points with 400.
Thompson, who is also a two-time Turnbull Award winner as the nation’s top collegiate attackman, was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 MLL Collegiate Draft by the Florida Launch. Chesapeake acquired both Lyle and Miles Thompson in a March, 2017 trade.
Through four seasons of Major League Lacrosse, Thompson has never played in more than nine games because of his indoor professional commitments and injuries. He now has 138 career points just four games into his fifth MLL season.
By contrast, Thompson has amassed 367 points in four seasons with the Swarm, earning the NLL Most Valuable Player award in 2017.
Thompson earns a decent living as a full-time lacrosse player between the indoor and outdoor leagues along with endorsements, appearances, camps and clinics.
“Lyle is as serious about the game of lacrosse as anyone I’ve ever been around,” Mariano said.
While Thompson has a well-earned reputation as a pure scorer, those who have coached the 26-year-old call him a complete lacrosse player. Cottle raves about Thompson’s playmaking ability, vision and passing skills. Mariano ranks Thompson alongside former Syracuse attackman Michael Powell as a tenacious rider.
“Lyle is an incredible teammate who is all about the team and winning,” Mariano said. “Anyone who rides as hard as Lyle does is totally unselfish and willing to do whatever it takes.”
Thompson is slight in stature at 6-foot and 180 pounds, but plays with a level of physicality that is surprising. He is adept at leaning into defensemen to gain leverage and is much stronger than it appears.
Cottle and Mariano were commenting during the flight home from Denver on Friday morning how Thompson does not draw anywhere near the number of penalties he should.
“They don’t call fouls against Lyle because he’s so effortless and bends with the contact,” Cottle said.
“Lyle takes an absolute beating and somehow defenders get away with it,” Mariano bemoaned. “If any other attackman got physically slashed the way Lyle does there would be flags flying. Lyle doesn’t get calls because he makes it look so effortless.”
Attackman Steele Stanwick is considered the offensive quarterback of the Bayhawks, routinely running the offense while operating behind the net. It is a role Stanwick has held at every level of his career, from Loyola Blakefield to the University of Virginia to Major League Lacrosse.
However, Stanwick knows the Bayhawks are better when the ball winds up in Thompson’s stick at some point on every possession.
“Lyle is just a really special talent and the complete package,” Stanwick said. “It’s such a rare combination of speed, quickness, strength, power and skill.”
Stanwick is a former Tewaaraton Award winner himself and has authored his own share of sublime plays. However, the Baltimore native and assistant women’s lacrosse coach at Johns Hopkins is truly entertained by Thompson.