Matt Kavanagh Clutch
Photo courtesy of Nick Ieradi.

New Chapter For Matt Kavanagh, Same Old Story

By Grant DelVecchio

Jul 15, 2023

Matt Kavanagh has always had a flair for the dramatic. He’s made a career off of playing his best lacrosse in the biggest moments, when the game is on the line. 

That’s why when he caught a pass from Asher Nolting with less than two minutes to play against Chrome in week three, toe-dragged underneath Ryan Terefenko and sent a bouncer past Sean Sconone to seal the Boom Squad’s first victory in more than a calendar year, no one was surprised.

That’s what Matt Kavanagh does. It’s what he’s always done.

Which is why it was surprising to watch Kavanagh struggle to contribute last season for the Redwoods.

A career 28% shooter, Kavanagh shot a paltry 17% in 2022. He scored less than 10 goals in a full season for the first time ever.

“It was the first time in my career where I struggled and really didn't have any answers. I've always been a guy who is leaned on heavily to produce and when that didn't come last year, it was all around awkward and uncomfortable,” Kavanagh recalled.

“I remember getting traded the first week that the trade window opened up and then there wasn't a trade the rest of the offseason, so I felt like it was just throwing out the garbage and getting rid of me.”

As the saying goes, one team’s trash is another team’s treasure. Getting traded, while humbling, allowed Kavanagh to refocus and reflect on what made him one of the deadliest attackmen in the world. 

“I didn't see it as the end of the road whatsoever. I just thought of it as a new opportunity and a time to prove the people who wanted me and believed in me right and also to prove people wrong and show that I could still play at a high level.”

Now at the midway point of the 2023 season, Kavanagh is already one point shy of his season total from last year. Last weekend against Atlas, he put together one of the most impressive individual performances across the league this season.

Three goals, four assists, two caused turnovers and two ground balls. That’s a stat line that only a select few players in the league are capable of putting up. 

Kav has scored multiple goals in three of four games this season. He’s also tied for the league-lead among attackmen with 11 ground balls.

The increased production isn’t necessarily the result of a surge in opportunities, either. Kavanagh is averaging right around the same amount of passes and touches per game this season as he did last (a difference of less than three in both categories). 

It more so has to do with the veteran southpaw playing with a renewed belief in himself and his abilities. 

That’s where the Cannons new coaching regime comes into play. After Kavanagh shot 0-4 against Chaos, Cannons head coach Brian Holman and offensive coordinator Jim Mitchell responded by making it a point to get Kavanagh more involved in the following game plan against Chrome. 

“Confidence is a funny thing,” Coach Holman said after the Cannons win over Chrome. “You can be one of the greatest players in the world, and then you start losing that.

So my work with Kav was on that side of things like, ‘Hey, I got you, I got your back. You're on my team, and I'm here for you. So you don't have to look over your shoulder, I'm not yanking you out of a game, you just got to play.”

After last weekend’s performance, it’s safe to say Kavanagh has his swagger back. If the Chrome performance was a glimpse of what’s to come, the Atlas game was Kavanagh’s reminder to the league that he’s still one of the best lefties in the game.

Kavanagh’s tale of re-emergence is one a lot of his teammates on the Cannons can relate to. Guys who are writing new stories on a Cannons team that is trying to do the same. Players like Marcus Holman, Cade van Raaphorst, Jeff Trainor, Matt Rees, Max Wayne and Kyle Hartzell – all of whom were on different teams a season ago.

“At first, I thought it was the end of the world and I wasn't going to be able to play on the team that I started with and that a lot of my friends from college were on. But, it's opened up a new door,” Kavanagh remarked.

“It’s just another chapter in this ride and in my career. I'm really happy that I ended up in this situation. I feel like a lot of guys on the team are in that same spot with a lot to prove and building on a new chapter in their career. To be on that journey with them, I think, is pretty special. “

The journey continues for Kavanagh and the Cannons tonight at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 as they try to secure a third consecutive win in a rematch against Chrome.

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