You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Nolting Goes From Overlooked to Overachiever in First PLL Season

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 6/23/2022 Ben Pickman

The Cannons rookie shows promise and poise while playing alongside longtime idol Lyle Thompson after dropping to the College Draft's second round in May.

View the original article to see embedded media.

It didn’t take long for Cannons rookie attackman Asher Nolting to make an impact on the professional level. Only 38 seconds into his debut during Week 1 of the Premier Lacrosse League season, Nolting received a pass from star teammate Lyle Thompson just inside the two-point arc. He darted left, then cut back toward the goal, and fired a shot past Waterdogs netminder Matt DeLuca for his team’s first point of the year, and the first goal of his career. 

“A really good thing happened really quickly,” Cannons coach Sean Quirk says. “These [two] guys connected.”

It was the first in a pair of goals Nolting scored during his team’s opening-weekend win. In the two weeks since, he has added two more goals and logged three assists, emerging as one of the league’s most productive rookies thus far. To Nolting and his Cannons coach, such success is not necessarily a surprise—Nolting finished his collegiate career at High Point ninth in total points in NCAA history. But after falling in the 2022 College Draft, it has served as a reminder of what the league’s other seven teams passed up on.

"It ended up being the best thing for me," Nolting says, "and it dropped me to a team that I love, with a bunch of guys I love and a coaching staff that I love; A team that I’m really happy to play for."

Nolting watched the draft from his home in Colorado alongside family and a few friends. “Draft night,” he says, “was tough.” In college, Nolting, who stands at 6-foot-2, was highly productive for the Panthers but played a largely ball-dominant role. That usage might have played a factor, Nolting says, in his slide (the Cannons selected him as the second pick of the second round). But Quirk says he had observed Nolting also showcasing his passing prowess at High Point. In conversations with the school’s coach, Jon Torpey, he had also come to understand Nolting didn’t exclusively need the ball in his stick to thrive.

Nolting's immediate impact on the Cannons comes as no surprise to his former and current coaches. Liam Murphy/PLL © Provided by Sports Illustrated Nolting's immediate impact on the Cannons comes as no surprise to his former and current coaches. Liam Murphy/PLL

Early on this year, Nolting has shown he can succeed in a multitude of situations. In the season’s first week, he played primarily off-ball, complimenting Thompson, who was voted as the PLL’s third-best player this offseason. But when Thompson missed the season’s second weekend due to an upper-body injury, Nolting took on more of a lead ball-handling role.

“He’s said, ‘Coach, I’ll do whatever you need. I wanna be a part of this. I wanna be a part of winning and I’ll do whatever it takes,’” Quirk recalls.

It has certainly helped Nolting’s transition to be around Thompson. Nolting says he had once idolized the two-time Tewaaraton Trophy winner, and twice remembers, as a high schooler, watching Thompson star in NCAA tournament games for Albany. The two had not met prior to this season, but Nolting says that he “quickly learned what an unbelievable guy [Thompson] is, off the field, on the field, and how competitive he truly is.”

“It’s been really, really exciting to get to know him, and to be his teammate,” Nolting says. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s been a dream come true. It really is. To think about maybe 10 years ago, I’d be playing on the same professional team as Lyle Thompson, I would have laughed at you a little bit.”

Nolting notes his rookie season has been a "dream come true" as Lyle Thompson's teammate. Chris Frezza/PLL © Provided by Sports Illustrated Nolting notes his rookie season has been a "dream come true" as Lyle Thompson's teammate. Chris Frezza/PLL

Quirk observes that he’s seen Thompson, 29, being more vocal this year and watched as he constantly teaches teammates about both nuances of the sport, and its history. 

“I think the Cannons is an attractive place to lure players to come to because they want to play with Lyle Thompson,” Quirk says.

Quirk also says that the confidence “is there both ways” between Thompson and Nolting, adding that it’s apparent “with the rest of the offense with the team” as well. Defensively, however, there is clear room for growth; The Cannons allowed a league-worst 20 goals last week to Archers and double-digit goals in all three of its games.

Like with the team, more broadly, Nolting recognizes he has plenty of room for personal improvement. And he still finds himself adjusting to life in the PLL, which consists of players spending half their week away from the team, a major shift from the collegiate lacrosse routine. Still, he’s poised to continue to frustrate opposing defenses and make his imprint felt, no matter his role.

“When he’s gonna hit adversity or failure, he’s gonna work through it,” Quirk says. “He’s hungry to be the best.”


More from Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon