Major League Baseball has the Cy Young award, presented to the best pitcher. The NHL has the Art Ross trophy, awarded to the player with the most points. Now the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) has the Paul Cantabene Faceoff Man of the Year award.
Every season this new accolade will be awarded to the best faceoff athlete in the new league, whose six teams are the Atlas, Archers, Chrome, Chaos, Redwoods and Whipsnakes.
The PLL noted that Cantabene, who is Stevenson University’s associate athletic director and head men’s lacrosse coach, is one of the most intense and hard-working lacrosse players while also being known for his durability, toughness and will to win.
While Cantabene was an All-American during his time at Loyola College (now Loyola University of Maryland) and an all-star in both indoor and outdoor professional leagues, his career at the faceoff position started much earlier.
Cantabene explained that the first time he ever took a faceoff was in eighth grade on his middle school team. He volunteered himself for the job when no other player was willing to face off against the biggest kid on the other team. After winning the faceoff, Cantabene said he never looked back.
The coach noted how it was a great honor to have an award named after him in a professional sports league. He added that he appreciated that the PLL and Paul Rabil, co-founder of the league and Atlas midfielder, took the time to recognize him. Cantabene noted that it meant a lot to him and his family.
Cantabene also explained how having this award named after him was up there with a lot of the other things he’s accomplished through his lacrosse career — “maybe top five,” he said. He added how honored he was to be associated with many of the other all-time greats who had awards named after them in the PLL.
Cantabene and his family are big supporters of the new league that has recognized him as one of lacrosse’s best faceoff athletes of all-time and that is striving to make the sport of lacrosse even more popular. The coach added that his family has managed to get their whole neighborhood to start following the PLL.
He said that his 10-year-old son is a big Atlas fan, partially because the team started the season with two Stevenson alumni in Callum Robinson and Mike Simon, the latter of whom has since moved to another team. As a family they even got to attend some of the games when the PLL traveled to Baltimore and played at the historic Homewood Field at Johns Hopkins University. All six PLL teams travel together to play in various cities.
Joe Nardella (Whipsnakes LC) and Trevor Baptiste (Atlas LC) are the two nominees who are being considered for the Paul Cantabene Face Off Man of the Year award this year. Both athletes have impacted their teams in different ways, with Baptiste leading the league in faceoff win percentage and Nardella leading the league in points among faceoff specialists.
Cantabene noted how Baptiste has had and is currently having a tremendous career, from when he played at the University of Denver to dominating now at the professional level. He also mentioned how impressive it has been to see Nardella compete after coming back from a knee injury just a few years ago.
The winners of the league’s 14 inaugural awards will be announced Sept. 19 in Philadelphia.