Interest in the Thompson Okanagan Selects U18 field lacrosse team from U.S. colleges and universities has grown.
That will happen when the team made up of players from the Okanagan, Shuswap, Thompson region goes undefeated at a major U.S. tournament.
The Selects, coached by Penticton’s Chris Danby, with North Okanagan Minor Lacrosse president Kari Gares running the select program, went 6-0 at the Adrenaline Blackjack Classic – a U.S. Nationals qualifying tournament – in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson.
“The team sure did perform beyond our expectations,” said Gares, whose son, Zack, is one of three Vernon players on the roster. The others are Kaden Doughty and Thomas Mackiewich. Other players come from Salmon Arm, Penticton, Kamloops, Kelowna and Merritt, and one player from Surrey was added for the tournament.
Interest in Salmon Arm’s Drew Bannister, who plays box lacrosse in the Thompson Okanagan Junior League for the Armstrong Shamrocks, along with Doughty and Zack Gares, from U.S. schools started as soon as the team arrived home from the tournament.
“We are so incredibly proud of these boys and all of the boys from the Interior,” said Gares. “We were the unknown contenders that swept a very prestigious tournament, knocking out some of the best elite teams the West has.
“This is huge and we want to use this a way to promote the game and show all Interior boys that we have talent and that we can showcase this talent across North America.”
Gares and Selects assistant coach Martin Gardner developed the field lacrosse Interior program 18 months ago. It’s a year-round program – though Gares said they go out of their way to accommodate box players during the indoor season over the summer months – with a goal of playing several international tournaments a year to improve the program and get players more college exposure.
“We want to go to tourneys that are strictly priorities for the colleges and universities,” she said. “There could be as many as 50 schools attending.”
Thompson Okanagan also tries to line up exhibition games with counterparts from the Lower Mainland.
The Selects program has also started U15 and U13 teams, and both went to the Blackjack Classic.