Cannons Lacrosse Club Training Camp Outlook
The 2023 season has been shaping up to be a year of discovery for the Cannons Lacrosse Club. After a 1-9 campaign in 2022, a brand new coaching staff and 16 total roster newcomers is what the Boom Squad brings into the new year that began this weekend in Albany with the start of training camp.
If the Cannons’ roster overhaul and coaching makeover failed to pique the curiosity of lacrosse fans heading into this season, news of Lyle Thompson’s leave of absence surely turned heads. On May 15, Thompson announced on social media he’d be taking a personal leave from the PLL for the summer, with plans to return to action in 2024. From a lacrosse standpoint, that means a team that ranked toward the bottom of the league in scoring offense (12.3) and total assists (55) last season will be without the reigning Eamon McEneaney Attackman of the Year and a perennial MVP contender this season.
Losing Lyle Thompson is not ideal, full stop. But, it does open up possibilities for younger players to step up and veteran guys to show off more of their game. Sure, a Lyle Thompson-sized void on offense is not easily filled, but his (many) touches will now have to be spread around a renovated roster. There’s an excitement to that.
With the 2023 season opener less than a week away, lets explore two of the main points of emphasis the Cannons underlined in the offseason to help get the squad back to its winning ways.
Marcus Holman and Matt Kavanagh are the newest howitzers to join the Cannons artillery, and both need no introduction. Holman reunites with his father, Cannons Head Coach & GM Brian Holman, after a successful career with the Archers. Entering his 11th season of professional lacrosse, Holman has scored 277 goals and 411 points in his career.
Kavanagh is seeking a resurgence after an uncharacteristically meager offensive output last season to close the curtain on his Redwoods career. That being said, the former Notre Dame standout brings elite scoring ability, unrivaled toughness and a championship pedigree to a team that will benefit from continuing to develop all three of those traits at a team level.
Holman and Kavanagh will be playing on the same side for the first time in their careers this season, after many battles as opponents in recent years and with the MLL. The two played against one another in back-to-back MLL Championships in 2016 and 2017 as members of the Ohio Machine and Denver Outlaws, respectively, each hoisting a trophy at the expense of the other.
Asher Nolting, who was an All-Star in 2022 as well as a finalist for the Rookie of the Year award, rounds out the revamped Cannons attacking unit that should move the ball at a rapid rate this season.
So far so good, as far as Holman and Kavanagh’s connection goes.
The Cannons also added Matt Campbell with the ninth overall pick in this year’s PLL Draft, who should provide another immediate offensive spark for the Cannons. Campbell, the 6-foot-2 New Jersey product, ended his career at Villanova as the Wildcats all-time leading scorer with 154 goals and 230 points.
According to Holman, Campbell is the “perfect fit” for what the Cannons are trying to build on the offensive end. “What Matt brings is a big physical presence to our midfield and a very strong two-handed dodging presence,” Holman said.
“The thing that I liked about him, and coach [Jim] Mitchell and coach [Mikey] Thompson liked about him, is that he played attack too. He can shoot the ball really well for a dodgy midfielder. A part of our offense requires that level of ability: to come out of the box and dodge past the pole or short stick, to be able to score on the run if needed, but also to be able to feed the ball because we have some pretty slick attackmen. He does all that, so we were jacked to get him.”
Out of eleven defensive players (close D, LSM, SSDM) listed on the Cannons training camp roster, only four are returners from last year’s team. Considering how poorly the Cannons have played defensively over the last two seasons, new pieces were needed.
Now that the season has started, it’s evident that adding size and strength on the defensive side of the ball was a priority for Coach Holman and his staff in the offseason.
Four of the Cannons league-high eight free agent signings were defenders. Matt Rees, who spent the last four seasons with Chaos, adds versatility and athleticism to the D-unit. Rees, who at 6-foot-4, 220-lbs+ is the most physically imposing defender on the Cannons roster, is listed as an LSM on the roster but has also proven to be stout playing down low. The team also signed veteran and former All-Star Finn Sullivan, as well as 24-year old Christopher Newport product Max Wayne. Sullivan is 6-foot-3, and Wayne, who played under Cannons’ assistant coach Mikey Thompson at CNU, is 6-foot-4.
Not to mention, the Cannons used their second and final pick in the draft on another big defender: 6-foot-3 Grant Ammann out of High Point. Ammann is another guy who provides coaches Holman & Thompson with more defensive flexibility. Not only can he play both close and at LSM, but he’s left-handed as well. Ammann’s size, versatility, and athleticism made him an easy choice for the Cannons at #25 overall.
Through conversations between Coach Holman and High Point head coach Jon Torpey, Ammann’s plucky reputation made him even more attractive as a draft pick.
“John basically said Grant was one of the toughest if not the toughest lacrosse player he's ever coached physically and mentally. That's high praise coming from John,” Holman affirmed.
“[Grant] brings a kind of a mean streak with him. He wasn't a big time recruit, he kind of had to work his way up the ladder at High Point, and knowing what I know about Coach Torpey’s program, he coaches those guys tough and he expects a ton out of them on and off the field and that's similar to what we're gonna do,” Holman continued.
That’s four defenders, all 6 feet 3 inches or taller, added this offseason. Consistency and communication are critical to defensive success, so it may take some time for the Cannons' poles to blend. One thing’s for sure though, getting to the middle of the field unscathed won’t be easy for opposing offenses.
With so many unfamiliar Cannons on the team playing together for the first time, it’s difficult to predict exactly how all of the fresh talent will blend on both sides of the ball. If there’s a silver lining in such a situation, it’s that it makes for a lively and momentous training camp.