Midseason Pickups Kew, Simpson, Wagner Aiding First-Place Bayhawks


John Wagner, the former Marquette star, joined the Chesapeake Bayhawks midseason and has dropped nine points in five games.

You know Lyle Thompson. You know Colin Heacock and Steele Stanwick and Niko Amato. The Chesapeake Bayhawks have a lot of star power, sending eleven players to the 2019 MLL All-Star Game.

For all the work those players have done to help put the Bayhawks in a tie for first place through 11 games, however, the additions of less-heralded midseason reinforcements have also helped a Bayhawks offense that is third in the league in goals per game.

Despite not being with the team in training camp, Andrew Kew, John Wagner, and Shane Simpson are supporting their all-star teammates and making an impact on the field.

“Having [assistant coach Tommy Mariano] in the Division II world, [assistant coach Chris Burdick] in the Florida world, and myself knowing the Division I kids has helped us,” Bayhawks head coach Dave Cottle said. “Our pickups have been really good players.”

Kew — who played for Burdick at Tampa and was originally drafted by Tom Mariano and the Florida Launch but was left out of a spot when the Launch ceased operations before the season — was signed on July 3. He played the following day against the Denver Outlaws in the Fourth of July game, scoring a goal and adding an assist. Through eight games in the 2019 season, he is fourth on the team in points (17) thanks to his 13 goals and four assists.

Wagner was signed from the Player Pool on July 17 and debuted on July 20, adding two assists in the team’s loss to New York. Through five games, Wagner has five goals and four assists.

Simpson made his debut Aug. 3 in a win against the Lizards. Through four games, he scored three goals and added two assists.

They may be small sample sizes, but Cottle brought them in to make the team better, and he hasn’t been disappointed thus far.

“In the midfield, we didn’t think we had enough punch,” Cottle said. “Shane is a long dodger. He does the dodge from where he gets a head of steam and outruns guys. … John Wagner can play inside but can also dodge.”

It may seem like Chesapeake plucked these players out of obscurity, but Cottle had been angling to bring both players in before the season started.

Cottle said he wanted to select Wagner in the 2019 MLL Collegiate Draft, but the two-time Marquette captain informed Cottle he was taking a trip to Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, in particular). The head coach didn’t want to use a draft pick on someone he knew would miss half the season, but he told Wagner if he was still interested in playing when he returned to give him a call.

Wagner did just that and was glad he did.

“There’s always the first practice you come out and have to introduce yourself. Day One, coming in the locker room, and seeing guys you’ve watched, and they come up and introduce themselves to you, they’ve made it very welcoming,” he said. “They make it feel like a professional sport. Guys made me feel at home. The organization takes care of you. It was pretty surreal, but it was one of those wow aspects, like yeah, this is a professional organization.”

Like Kew, Simpson had the eye of Mariano. When Mariano was the head coach of the Florida Launch, he reached out to Simpson about playing for the Launch, but Simpson — who lives and works Monday through Friday in Toronto — thought the travel from Canada to Boca Raton would not be beneficial for him.

Simpson not only drew Chesapeake’s attention with his speed and athleticism; the team also knew he was a winner. Simpson was part of the North Carolina squad that won the 2016 NCAA Division I championship as well as part of the 2019 Calgary Roughnecks NLL championship team.

While Chesapeake attempted to add him to the roster, his visa paperwork was submitted incorrectly, delaying his opportunity to play lacrosse in the United States.

Simpson hadn’t played field lacrosse since 2017, but the opportunity to play for the Bayhawks was too good to pass up.

“I wasn’t willing to go to an organization that did things half-assed. I wanted to go to a team that could compete for a championship and treats their players right,” he said. “I’m glad to be back out there running around. It’s something I’ve really missed.”

The star players on the Bayhawks have been working together since training camp. They’ve developed chemistry and have been one of the strongest teams in the league.

Coming in midseason can be a daunting task, especially for rookies. “I don’t think John Wagner has said three words in the locker room,” Cottle said with a laugh. Wagner and Simpson, however, said they were able to come right in and play their role without much trouble.

“These were guys like Lyle and [Brendan Bomberry] I play box with,” Simpson said. “The Maryland guys I played against at Carolina. My roommate was best friends with those guys. [Isaiah Davis-Allen] and Heacock, I can remember vividly facetiming Sunday afternoons with my roommate. It’s a lacrosse community, and I did know those guys off the field. They’re a great group. I’m sure they are willing to take any piece of the pie that gets them closer to the championship.”

“Coach Mariano and Coach Cottle put you in the right place at the right time and allow me to play to my style,” Wagner added. “You don’t get points without playing with guys like Steele and Lyle and Colin. They make it easy to get points on the board. You have to do the grunt work, cut, and get open, but they’re talented enough to find you. A lot of my points have come from their successes.”

Knowing they have the support of their teammates and coaches makes their jobs easier.

“It definitely gives me confidence,” Simpson said. “I don’t think I played as well as I can, but I’m hoping I can get there personally. The coaching staff has a lot of confidence in me. I know they watched my college career. I think they were missing that piece of midfield dodging. I’m happy to step into that role. Although I might not contribute in the score sheet as much as I want, it really matters that Chesapeake is putting the ball in the net.”

That confidence will be key for all players on the Bayhawks, as the end of the 2019 schedule is a challenging one. Of Chesapeake’s final five games, three come on the road and four come against teams in the top four of the standings, including playing the defending champion Denver Outlaws in back-to-back weekends to end the season.

Cottle wants his team to play like Simpson, Wagner, and Kew did, coming in to earn roster spots.

“I like our culture. I want us to play hungrier,” he said. “The hungry cat hunts best. Right now, we have to get hungrier. We’ve been given a tough part of our schedule coming up, ending the season with Boston and two Denvers. If we can accomplish this schedule, we’ll be where we want to be for the playoffs.”

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