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The evolution of Asher Nolting: From playmaker to quarterback

Asher Nolting Asher Nolting

On a sunny Saturday evening at Zions Bank Stadium last August, Asher Nolting felt the tides turn for the Boston Cannons. 

In their regular-season finale, the Cannons beat the Whipsnakes for the first time in the organization’s three-year tenure in the PLL. Boston’s victory cemented them as the No. 2 seed for the playoffs, with their ticket punched to the quarterfinals weeks before. 

As excitement filled the air, Nolting couldn’t help but feel some relief, too. Just a year earlier, the Cannons finished 1-9 on the season, missing the playoffs in his rookie year.

“It was having that relief of like, ‘Wow, we actually made the playoffs. We’re in a really good spot, we’re a great team and we’re not going home after this week.’ It was super satisfying to feel that way,” he recalled.

A large part of the Cannons’ success in 2023 can be attributed to the ascension of Nolting in his second year as a pro. As head coach and general manager Brian Holman put it, he went from a playmaker to the quarterback.

During his prolific college career at High Point University, Nolting was the guy who made the big plays in the big moments. Whether he was dodging, diving or making behind-the-back passes, he was the star of the show.

Drafted tenth overall by the Cannons’ then-head coach Sean Quirk in the 2022 College Draft, Nolting slotted in at attack on a Cannons offense without much of an identity. He had a solid first year, finishing with 23 points (14G, 9A), but it didn’t mean much with no postseason to play for. Both he and Holman knew he was capable of so much more.

“When I first started watching the film of his first year in the pros, I saw something else beyond a playmaker,” Holman said. “I saw the potential for him to be a quarterback and all-around lacrosse player, not just a playmaker.”

After Holman was named the Cannons’ new head coach, he and offensive coordinator Jim Mitchell immediately jumped into a discussion of where they’d play Nolting. 

“To be honest with you, we weren’t really sure where we were going to play him when we started,” he admitted. “Coach Mitchell and I had a bunch of conversations of potentially him coming out of the box or keeping him on the attack. We weren't sure that he could be the quarterback that we were looking for.”

All it took for Holman and Mitchell to get their answer was one day of practice at training camp last May. 

“We got back to the dorm room and Coach Mitch and I looked at each other and were like, ‘Asher needs to be back at attack,’” he laughed. “It was no cut on anybody else, that’s just his natural position, that’s where he’s comfortable. And now I see him more as a true quarterback.”

Nolting rose to the challenge and exceeded all expectations in his new role. A student of the game, he dove into learning the offense, watching as much film as possible and learning from the veterans around him. His partnership with Marcus Holman in particular is one he holds dearly.

“If we’re not talking every day, we’re talking every other day,” Nolting said. 

Nolting and Marcus’s off-the-field relationship translates to one of the best one-two punches on the field. In their first season together, the duo finished first and second in points in the league. 

Both were named finalists for the Eamon McEnaney Attackman of the Year award. When Marcus won, Nolting was one of the first people to hug him in celebration. 

In only 14 games played together, Marcus’s best shooting percentage since 2019 has come off shots assisted by Nolting.

“He’s so easy to play with,” Marcus said after the Cannons’ win over the Whipsnakes in Charlotte this past Saturday. “I know if I’m working hard without it [the ball] he’s going to find me or he’s going to find the open guy and make the right play. Then you know when teams plan for that off-ball action, he’s able to get to the rack and score.”

Nolting set a career high with six assists in the 13-9 victory. Coach Holman viewed it as the perfect example of the continued upward trajectory of Nolting’s game.

“Sometimes you know players like that, if they’re not scoring they have a tendency to retreat a little bit,” the Cannons coach remarked. “But what did he do? He just turned around and dished out six assists.”

Nolting knows he’s more than capable of taking it to the rack himself. But as the Cannons quarterback, he’s not there to play hero ball.

“I would define my role as whatever the team really needs from me that day,” he explained. “Whether that’s facilitating from behind, getting the ball movement going from the backside, or dodging a lot I’m doing whatever is asked of me.”

Though it’s still early in the season, Nolting’s already shaping up an MVP-caliber campaign. If there was any question about how he could follow up his breakout year last season, his coaches and teammates would probably just laugh. Knowing what a force he is on the field, he’s arguably an even bigger presence off it for Boston.

“He’s a big teddy bear,” Coach Holman exclaimed. “He has a wonderful personality and always has a smile on his face.”

“His teammates love him, and he loves his teammates. He takes a beating in our court sessions on the weekends because he’s so popular,” he added with a chuckle.

Undoubtedly, if there’s one thing I took away from my conversation with Nolting, it’s his love for his team and dedication to its success. When asked if he had any personal goals for this year, his response was immediate.

“To make it past the semifinals and make it to Philly,” Nolting said. “That’s the main goal. Whether I have another great season or not, if we make it to Philly, it’s going to be a great year regardless of my point output.”

Nolting got a taste of success last season. Now he wants to be the quarterback who brings his team to the top.