The Charlotte Hounds went from nearly winning the Major League Lacrosse championship in 2013 to having its worst season ever in 2014, finishing a league-worst 4-10.
Now, after an off-season full of trades and roster changes, the Hounds begin preparations for their fourth MLL season Saturday when training camp opens at Charlotte Country Day.
Here are five questions the Hounds face entering the 2015 season, which begins April 12 against the Rochester (N.Y.) Rattlers at Memorial Stadium:
1. Who’s gone?
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The major moves involved four of the Hounds’ key players during their surprising 2013 postseason run.
Matt Danowski, Charlotte’s scoring leader the past two seasons, was traded to the New York Lizards for its first-round pick in the 2015 MLL draft, which the Hounds used to get Duke defender Will Haus.
Ryan Young, a 30-goal scorer in 2013, and starting goalkeeper Adam Ghitelman were traded to the Boston Cannons for their second- and third-round draft picks.
Geoff Snider, one of pro lacrosse’s best faceoff specialists, was traded to the Denver Outlaws for veteran midfielder Terry Kimener.
2. Who has to step up?
The trades will mean a number of players will take on bigger roles on the Hounds this season, most notably Justin Ward, Mike Sawyer, John Haus, Pierce Bassett and Brendan Fowler.
Ward, who had a team-record 21 assists last season, will take on the quarterback role that Danowski held the past two years, while Charlotte native Sawyer and Haus will become Charlotte’s 1-2 scoring punch.
Bassett will get the start in goal with Ghitelman’s departure, while Fowler will take over the faceoff duties with Snider’s trade and the retirement of starter Tim Fallon.
3. Best offseason moves?
The Snider trade for Kimener could pay dividends for the Hounds, as will the additions of Garrett Thul and Joe Cinosky.
Kimener is a proven scorer and distributor (73 career goals, 59 assists), while Thul – picked up in the MLL supplemental draft – has 24 goals in just 14 games.
But the big addition is Cinosky, who played for the Hounds in 2012-2013. He’s the shutdown defender Charlotte sorely lacked last year.
4. Best draft pick?
While Will Haus will help bolster Charlotte’s defense, the best pick was North Carolina attacker Joey Sankey in the second round.
The 5-foot-5 Sankey is tough to stop close-in (91 goals, 66 assists in three years at UNC), much like Young was for the Hounds during his breakout 2013 season.
5. How can the Hounds do this season?
Much better than last season, considering that most of Charlotte’s lineup will be intact during the early part of the season.
The key will be avoiding the slow starts the Hounds had in most of their losses, and winning games on the road. Charlotte did not win a road game last season after going 3-4 in 2013.
Hounds Training Camp
9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Practice session at Charlotte Country Day (1440 Carmel Road)
5-7 p.m.: Meet the Hounds at Buffalo Wild Wings (400 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.).
9 a.m.-noon: Practice session at Providence Day (5800 Sardis Road)