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.