Boston Cannons vs California Redwoods 2/14/24

Why Garrett Epple chose to sign with Boston

By Sarah Griffin | Mar 14, 2024

Garrett Epple finished his fifth season with Redwoods LC at the top of his game. 

​​After earning three nominations ('19, '21, '22), Epple was finally named the 2023 Dave Pietramala Defensive Player of the Year for the first time last September. He had gotten over an individual hump, reaching the pinnacle of his position.

But eight days later, Epple returned to familiar territory. He and the Redwoods were eliminated in the semifinals after a 14-6 loss to the eventual champion, Archers LC.

A 2019 Championship heartbreak in overtime. Two semifinal losses. And a pair of quarterfinal exits. Five losses in five years overshadowed the individual accolade.

“Unless you win a Championship, it really doesn’t matter much.”

Now the 28-year-old will chase his first Championship with a new team. 

Epple signed with the Boston Cannons early last week in a blockbuster free agent signing. The league’s top defenseman brings a new dimension to a loaded Cannons defense. 

“Garrett’s a special player,” remarked Cannons attackman Matt Kavanagh, Epple’s teammate both at Notre Dame and for four years with the Redwoods. “Adding a guy who’s the reigning Defensive Player of the Year to a defense that was up there with some of the best defenses in the league last year makes us that much better.”

“He's a very physical player which brings a different element to our close defense. Jack Kielty had a phenomenal summer last year, he was a Defensive Player of the Year finalist, so Garrett just helps lighten the load on everyone.”

Whether you’re asking him to slide and support or cover an opponent’s top attackman, Epple can do it all. 

“It’s fun being on his team, not so much fun playing against him,” laughed Kavanagh. 

An instant upgrade to any team in the league, Epple had his eyes on the Cannons last year from afar - not just for their play on the field, but what they were building off of it. 

“Cannons culture” as they call it is centered upon pillars Head Coach and General Manager Brian Holman instilled on his team. For Boston, it’s not only about scoring goals and winning games. It’s about playing with humility and gratitude, and playing for the guys next to you. The idea was something that caught Epple’s attention, even from the other side of the field. 

“My view of the Cannons’ culture was really formed by seeing what they did last year. Whether it was clips of Coach Holman or just word from around the league, seeing what he preaches put into practice really caught my eye,” he explained.

“The culture they have is inspiring. You can tell a lot by how the guys speak of the team; their free agents signed back up pretty early. They have a great leader in Coach Holman who has a ton of buy-in from his players.”

Even with Notre Dame ties like Kavanagh and Kielty on the roster, it was Epple’s conversation with Brian Holman at the start of free agency that solidified his decision to play for the Cannons.

“That was one of the best conversations I had as a free agent. We talked a little bit of everything; I learned more about who they are and the culture they’re trying to build. That conversation was really one of the big things that got me to sign with the team.”

Certainly, it wasn’t an easy decision. Having spent five years with the Redwoods, it was a bittersweet move.

“I didn’t come into free agency like, ‘Hey, I’m looking for other options,’ to the Redwoods,” he said.

“I’ve formulated relationships with a lot of guys on the Redwoods. I’ve played there for five years, since the inception of the team and league. The relationship I had with the coaches and players is something I’ll always cherish. It was certainly a difficult decision to make, but I think keeping my options open was the right move for me.”

Now, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year will get a fresh start with a squad hungry to win - a similar feeling to what Kavanagh felt last offseason after his trade from the Redwoods to the Cannons.

“I’m not trying to speak so much on myself here, but it was definitely an eye-opening experience,” explained Kavanagh. 

“You pay attention a little bit closer to your offseason routine - you want to impress your teammates and the new guys that you’re playing with on what you bring to the table. I’m sure he’s feeling that and a bit of a rejuvenation and refocus on his offseason. Not to say he needs that coming off a Defensive Player of the Year season, but I’m sure he’s going to be even more extra motivated now...I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision for him to leave the team he’s been on the last five years, but I think starting new and having new goals and playing with new guys is always a re-energizing and a fun time.”

Talking to Epple, you could feel that rejuvenated energy Kavanagh was referring to. His excitement for a new opportunity was palpable, and that can be largely credited to Coach Holman. 

“The guys on this team really care about each other,” remarked Epple. “They play hard for each other and compete as a team for each other. That all translates back to what Coach Holman is trying to accomplish from a leadership standpoint.”

“Obviously we’re trying to win the Championship. But the championship-winning organizations start from the top down…I wasn’t able to win the championship in college or the last five years in this league and seven as a pro lacrosse player. So my sole goal is to do whatever I can in order to be the best teammate on and off the field in order to make that happen.”