The North Okanagan Minor Lacrosse Association is becoming a force on the provincial sporting scene.
The association has had five players named to Team B.C. squads that will compete in national championships this summer.
“That’s phenomenal,” said Chris Collard, association president.
“It just goes to show the depth of lacrosse in the North Okanagan, and the commitment not only from our players to qualify, but also the coaching and the association as a whole.”
The association has provided each of the players with $200 bursaries to enhance their nationals experience.
Netminder Troy Cuzzetto will anchor the B.C. defence at Pee Wee nationals, Aug. 4-10, in Whitby, Ont.
Shelby Connors and Amy Fox have both made the Bantam girls crew, which will travel to Halifax, July 23-28.
In the Midget division, the Legends are sending Brayden Hoggarth and Tom Landels to Whitby.
While relentless on defence, Hoggarth and Landels generated plenty of offence for the Legends. The duo attended a selection camp that included three teams of 18 runners and two goalies each competing against each other for the Midget Cup.
Hoggarth, who is wrapping up his Grade 10 year at Pleasant Valley Secondary, and Landels, a Kal Secondary student, helped Team Vancouver go 5-2-2, with losses to Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.
“I’m just looking forward to the experience,” said Hoggarth, of going to nationals.
This is the second time he and Landels have tried out for the provincial team. Hoggarth said there was plenty of good competition at the selection camp.
“It’s difficult because we play A2 and they (Lower Mainland) all play A1,” he said.
Added Landels: “I like how they just picked the best kids. It wasn’t politics of who made the team. They actually belong on the team.”
Now that they have made Team B.C., they have been traveling to Delta every couple of weeks for practice.
Cuzzetto, a Len Wood Middle School student, played up a division with the Bantam Legends this season, so he is already accustomed to facing high-calibre shots.
“It helps because I get harder shots, and I get better shots,” said Cuzzetto, who takes a rather pragmatic approach to goaltending. “I just take up my position and move if it’s not going to hit me.”
Despite playing Bantam, Cuzzetto said he was definitely tested by the Pee Wee sharp shooters at tryouts.
“It was hard; they were all really good,” he said. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it.”
Fox and Connors battled against one another on the Bantam B Legends boys teams, and are now looking forward to being teammates for a change.
Fox, who is finishing Grade 8 at Len Wood, is excited for a step up in competition.
“I’m looking forward to being on a team where I can have all the commitment,” said Fox, who also played hockey last season with the Sladen Moore Lakers Pee Wee girls Rep team.
“It pushes me to be a better lacrosse player, and not just laying back and having fun. I’m really focussing on my love of the game.”
Connors, a Kal student, racked up plenty of offence for the Legends, and will be counted on to do the same for Team B.C. Judging from the talent at team tryouts in Port Moody, Connors said she will have some great teammates to work with.
“There were a lot of good girls there; a lot of competition,” she said.
Previously, NOMLA has only had two players represent B.C. at nationals – Brett Hawrys in the Midget division, and Chelsea Weisgerber in Bantam girls. To now have five going, Collard said it is a great accomplishment for the association.
He also noted four Legends teams – one Pee Wee, two Bantams and a Midget squad – qualified for provincials.
“We’re seeing positive results, not only at the individual level, but on a team level,” he said. “That’s really what the objective is – to promote the sport in the region.”