Though they’ve only practiced together once, attackman Joey Sankey said he is feeling a different vibe from his Charlotte Hounds teammates.
That could be a good thing for the Hounds, who will open their Major League Lacrosse season Saturday night against the Boston Cannons.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. at American Legion Memorial Stadium.
Sankey was one of Charlotte’s few bright spots during a disappointing 3-11 season, the team’s worst finish since joining the league in 2012.
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After joining the Hounds following his senior season at North Carolina, where he was a three-time All-American, Sankey was named MLL Rookie of the Year after leading the Hounds in assists (11) and points (34) despite just playing the final nine games.
“The vibe was kinda low when I got there last year,” Sankey said. “They had already lost a good amount of games, and they kept losing. Guys weren’t really as excited and optimistic.
“But at (this season’s) training camp, there was a completely different vibe – everybody’s really optimistic about this year, about the coaching staff and players we have.”
Charlotte’s biggest offseason move came on the sidelines. After Mike Cerino was promoted to general manager, he added two former MLL coaches of the year – coach Jim Stagnitta and defensive assistant Tony Resch.
Stagnitta has plans on how to use Sankey, who began drawing coverage from opponents’ best defenders after a five-goal, three-assist performance in his MLL debut against Boston last season.
“Joey’s going to be a big part of what we do,” said Stagnitta, who will miss Saturday’s game because of his current job as an assistant coach at Penn. “He has the ability to draw a lot of attention, and really has the ability to find the open guy, too.
“He’s going to be more of a target now, but we’re going to put him in situations and positions to be successful not only as a scorer, but as a facilitator in finding other guys to score.”
That’s fine by Sankey, who said he’s ready for the challenge.
“I’m pretty excited about the coaching staff, the players we have and the draft class we have coming in,” Sankey said. “Our goal is to do well and win games.
“(But) we don’t just want to improve off last year, we want to make the playoffs and make a run at the championship, hopefully.”
Boston Cannons (0-0)
at Charlotte Hounds (0-0)
American Legion Memorial Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
The Hounds open their Major League Lacrosse season at home for a fifth straight year. They are 0-4 in home openers, losing to the Denver Outlaws in 2012 and 2013, to the Ohio Machine in 2014 and the Rochester Rattlers last year. …The Hounds went 3-11 last year, the worst season in franchise history, but one win came against the Cannons (12-11 in Boston on April 26, 2015). … The Cannons were 8-6 last season, advancing to the MLL playoffs but losing to eventual league champions New York Lizards in the semifinals. … Boston is 6-2 all-time against Charlotte, but the Hounds have split the past two season series.