Waterdogs Training Camp Recap

Waterdogs Camp Recap: High Intensity and a Wakeup Call for the Champs

By Wyatt Miller

Jun 4, 2023

Waterdogs LC decided to dial up the intensity in training camp this season. According to head coach Andy Copelan, the defending champions started contact drills early and attacked weaknesses from last season head-on. 

Offensively, Ryan Brown’s presence can’t be replaced, but his attackman role has been filled by Jake Carraway while veteran Kieran McArdle was named captain in his stead. On defense, the Waterdogs have been focusing on communicating their slides better, which hurt them early on last season.

During the team’s final practice on June 2nd, Robert Crosse said that the sliding issues were something they didn’t figure out until midseason. By addressing that now, the team hopes to avoid falling into an early rut as they did last year. 

Repeating as champions is “one of the hardest things to do in sports,” Copelan said. Championship hangovers are real, and the Waterdogs want no part of it. So, the team dug deep for four-straight days before getting an off day on June 1st. But a poor showing in the team’s first live action made it an eventful camp for the top dogs. 

Championship hangover in action

With eight players unavailable for a variety of reasons, the Waterdogs didn’t have the freedom Copelan would have liked in terms of drills.

“[Other teams] had 30 healthy bodies which allowed them to approach practice a little differently, doing some full-field stuff,” Copelan said. “I’m not sure that we had that and we felt it a little bit.” 

And during the Waterdogs’ scrimmage, it showed. Cannons LC shot out to an 8-1 first-half lead, leaving the ‘dogs in the dust. Then, some solid halftime adjustments led to an 11-7 defeat, and then Copelan went back to the drawing board with those in mind. He called it a “wakeup call.” 

“It’s one thing to talk about not having a championship hangover, it's another thing to really see it in full force,” Copelan said. “I think we approached that game far too nonchalantly.” 

The Cannons went 1-9 last season to place last in the league. And while they have an entirely new coaching staff and lots of new players this season, Copelan expected to put up a much better fight. 

“I’m hoping that we have kind of the maturity and professionalism to maybe handle ourselves a little bit better than we did in that scrimmage,” Copelan said. “And I’m confident we will. Sometimes a little bit of a reality check and a little bit of humble pie is good for you.”

Sowers and McArdle leading the charge

At the beginning of camp, Michael Sowers had some rust to shake off, Copelan said. But his production has soared in the past week as he’s gotten back to form – and so has he. 

In the team’s first practice after the Cannons loss, Sowers looked like the Lamar Jackson of lacrosse. He flew around the field and leapt through the air, as he does so often, to score at the crease consistently. He also made pin-point feeds from X, including a pass that split three defenders and ended practice on a high note for the offense. 

“I think [Sowers] can have an MVP-caliber season,” Copelan said. And, honestly, it’s hard to disagree after seeing him live in camp. 

Meanwhile, McArdle was named the second captain of the Waterdogs in his 10th season. After both Brown and Steven DeNapoli retired following last year’s championship run, only one captain remained, and Copelan said it felt like McArdle had earned the title. McArdle’s leadership style is more low-key than Brown’s was – he’s a calming presence and leads by example.

The Waterdogs’ two top scorers from last season will, once again, lead the attack. But adding Carraway’s incredible range and athleticism to the mix – both of which have impressed Copelan thus far – will certainly take some pressure off the leaders of the pack. 

Rinse and repeat

This camp was all about starting fresh while retaining the same selfless identity. 

The Waterdogs locker room is “known for” their team mentality, said Charlie Hayes, and they show it through their play on the field. Ranking second in the league in assists last season, the Waterdogs will continue to make the extra pass. 

But the championship run wasn’t without its ups and downs. The Waterdogs started the regular season 0-3 and finished it 5-5. So along with leaving the championship victory in the past, Copelan wants to set the tone early this time around.

“Last year we were pretty desperate in week 4, so we’d like to avoid that feeling,” Copelan said. “We just want to have a maturity about us where we’re not thinking about last year.”

Despite returning most of last year’s squad, Copelan isn’t just handing roles back to previous starters. Personnel decisions will be made based on who puts the team in the best chance to win each week. 

The ability to make adjustments and still maintain unity put the Waterdogs at the top last season, and that’s how they plan to get there again.

“The margin between being great and being average in this thing is honestly pretty slim, so we just have to keep the focus on being as connected as possible as a team,” Copelan said. “At the end of the day, we gotta treat this year like it’s completely different than last year and that’s been our approach.”

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