It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Charles Dickens’ often-quoted opening line describes the Boston Cannons’ 2013 campaign rather effectively.
Entering the 2013 season, the Cannons were favorites to make a fifth consecutive Championship Weekend, something the Cannons community has come to expect. The team returned arguably the best player in the league in Paul Rabil, who had finished first in points in 2012 with 72, one of the top face-off men in Chris Eck, one of the top defenders in Kyle Sweeney, and a core of experienced attackmen.
What happened next was a shock to anyone who knows anything about Major League Lacrosse: The Cannons went 1-5 in their first six games, the team’s worst start since the 2002 season when they opened 1-6.
Poor decision-making and sloppy defensive efforts abounded. The Cannons struggled to open and close games. In that six game stretch, this was a common scenario: The Cannons would dig themselves into a hole early in the first quarter, only to make a comeback in the second and third quarters that would then be all for naught as late-game mistakes resulted in a loss.
The passion and the excitement were simply MIA. After the June 7
th game against Rochester in which the Cannons had complete control throughout only to watch their lead vanish in the fourth quarter, something had to be done. Later that week, assistant John Tucker was promoted to head coach.
The team that played in the next four games was almost unrecognizable from the one that had played in the first six. A strong draft class and a new coaching philosophy rallied the team together. The Cannons took down the Machine, the Lizards - avenging their first loss of the season - and the Hounds twice. They were playing faster, smarter, dynamic lacrosse.
Coach Tucker’s savvy infused the team with confidence and direction they desperately needed.
“Coach Tucker is one of the best to ever play the game and as a coach really knows what to do with the talent that he has,” said rookie attacker Will Manny. “His motivation and style of coaching to just simplify the game on the offensive end has excelled our production in the short time he has been our head coach.”
During the four-game win streak, Will Manny and Cam Flint won Rookie of the Week honors, a testament to the impact the Boston first-years had on the team’s success. The four-game run also catapulted the Cannons back into the playoff picture at 5-5, and with four games left the sky was the limit. Boston controlled its own destiny.
The Cannons’ sudden rise to .500 was tarnished by their equally speedy fall. They plummeted back to 5-9, ending the season on a four-game losing streak after having reverted back to the impatient, error-strewn style of play they had displayed during the first half of the season. Once again, they found themselves behind early and unable to finish out games.
While it was a frustrating way to end the season, especially after having made a very positive turnaround, there were several highlights. Chris Eck finished with two career and Cannons’ bests: a 59.8 face-off win percentage and a total of 113 ground balls, the third-most in single season by any player in the history of the MLL. Mike Stone ended the season with a career-high 34 points (25 goals, 9 assists). And, despite playing with an injury much of the season, Rabil's 54 points still place him third in the league, just one point behind the leaders.
The Cannons broke several team and league records. Matt Poskay became the Cannons’ all-time games played leader, finishing the season at 89. Rabil snagged the Cannons points crown, ending the year with 300 career points. And Ryan Boyle claimed the MLL all-time points record, reaching 422 by the end of the season.
While the season was something Cannons’ players and fans aren’t used to, the future holds a lot of promise. Rookies Manny, Flint, and Scott Ratliff will only get better after having breakout seasons. With another impressive draft and the core veterans returning, don’t be surprised if the Cannons are right back where you usually see them: At the top.
Thanks for another season of amazing support, Cannons fans. Can't wait to see you back at Harvard Stadium next spring!