April 24, 2014

MLL 2014 Preview: No. 4 Charlotte Hounds

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Ryan Young and the Hounds made a run at the 2013 finals but fell to Chesapeake. Can they take home the cup in '14? (Peyton Williams)

2013 Record: 7-7 (finalist)
Coach: Mike Cerino, 3rd season

The Charlotte Hounds have excited new MLL fans with their potential since the team was first put together in 2012. In Year Two, they took a big step forward.

Charlotte reached the playoffs for the first time and proceeded to knock off the then-undefeated Denver Outlaws in the semifinals before falling to the Chesapeake Bayhawks in the championship game.

"There's a lot of momentum from playing in a championship season," Hounds head coach Mike Cerino said.

While the Hounds did get career best years from guys like attackmen Matt Danowski and Ryan Young and goalie Adam Ghitelman, it was the team's copious amount of rookies that really pushed the team forward at the end of the season.

Seven first-year players, including offensive midfielders Mike Sawyer and Jake Tripucka, short-stick defensive midfielder Josh Hawkins and long-stick midfielder Mason Poli played large roles in Charlotte's playoff push. A big key for the Hounds this season will to make sure at least most of those players don't experience the mythical sophomore slump.

"All the guys that came in last year like Tripucka and [John] Haus were all mature players and played in very big situations in lacrosse, played in national championship games and can move beyond the pressures of being in that sophomore season," Sawyer said. "We can build on last year and not really miss a beat."

The team will get another jolt of youthful energy this season thanks to the anticipated arrival of 11 rookies from the 2014 draft, seven of which came in the first three rounds. Maryland defenseman Michael Ehrhardt was the team's top pick.

"It's [important] getting those guys to feel comfortable and giving them any info they need in terms of the travel and things to make their lives easier so they're not concerned with them come the weekend," Ghitelman said. "They can all play. It's getting them acclimated to all the other stuff."

Cerino also hopes the younger guys push the veterans.

"That competition mid-season will keep guys battling for positions," he said. "Hopefully that taste of Championship Weekend last season will motivate guys."

MVP Candidate

This article originally appears in the May 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse to start your subscription today!

A Matt Danowski

The six-year veteran stepped up as the leader of a young Hounds team last season and arguably had his finest season to date, with career-highs in goals (33) and points (49). "He played his best when we needed him the most," Cerino said. "You could've called Matt MVP last year because where are the Hounds without him last year?"

Next Best

M Kevin Drew, D Ryan Flanagan, G Adam Ghitelman, D Mason Poli, A Mike Sawyer, D Brett Schmidt, FO Geoff Snider, A Ryan Young

New Arrivals

M Davis Butts, M Mike Chanenchuk, A Joe Cummings, D Michael Ehrhardt, FO Brendan Fowler, M Pat Laconi

Former Loyola Greyhounds Sawyer, Hawkins and Eric Lusby will be reunited with championship-winning teammates Butts and Laconi, who will add more depth to the midfield. Cummings adds another dimension and goal-scoring threat on attack to Danowski and Young. First-round draft pick Ehrhardt is a physical presence that improves the defense, much like they hoped Tucker Durkin would last season before trading his rights to Hamilton.

Behind Enemy Lines

Opposing coaches thoughts on the Hounds

"Defensively they're getting better. ... They're explosive if they're playing well offensively. ... They had a good first year and last year at the end of the year they were playing awfully well. They've got all those players back and have got some new blood. They're going to be awfully difficult to beat. ... I'm going to be curious to see how Poillon leaving affects Sawyer. Now he's going to get a pole. I think his production outside of extra-man is going to be lower now that Peet's not protecting him."

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