Lacombe hosted the 2015 Provincial Field Lacrosse Championships this past weekend, with the Lacoka Gators coming through with a number of medals and high placements.
The Novice team received gold, the PeeWee Gators got bronze and the Bantam team received gold as well. Additionally, the Midget team placed fifth overall and the U19 team received a bronze medal.
“Our field lacrosse season was great. Our numbers were up massively this year. Our field lacrosse program has only been going for three years but we had five teams this year – a Novice, a PeeWee, a Bantam, a Midget and a U19 team. We’ve done very, very well,” said Lacoka president and coach of the Bantam field lacrosse team, Mike Wood.
“We showed really well and played very well. We have excellent coaches and had wonderful volunteers. Hosting provincials this year was an honour.”
According to Wood, 129 games were played over the course of the three-day tournament. Teams travelled from across Alberta, including Edmonton, Calgary, Okotoks, Red Deer and more to take part in the tournament.
“Even with the terrible weather, and how cold and rainy it was, spirits were high. There was definitely a lot of hunger out there to go in and get the medals and win the games, which was really cool to see,” Wood said.
Wood said there was a large amount of growth in the amount of players this year, and he’s very happy to see the club progress. The Lacoka Locos box lacrosse team has been operating over a decade, but the Gators field lacrosse program is still quite new.
He said he was pleased to see the growth, as it meant he and the Lacoka crew were doing something right.
“Expansion and retention are the two best ways of knowing that you’re successful as a team. It doesn’t matter how many games you win or how many games you lose, it’s about keeping the kids interested and having them return to keep playing,” he said.
The games were held either at ME Global Athletic Park, or on the soccer pitches at the École Lacombe Upper Elementary School and the École Lacombe Junior High fields. Wood said he was excited the volunteers and members of the community came together to provide an excellent playing space for teams.
“ME Global is probably the best field in Alberta, so to be able to showcase that field and play a few games under those lights for the tournament was really exciting,” he said.
“With using the Wolf Creek school fields and building our own fields, we had volunteers from Lacombe and Red Deer come out to help us clean that up very well and make sure that they were cleaner than when we arrived. It’s nice to know that if we do get the opportunity to host this event again, the City will be on board to help us out.”
He said the participating lacrosse associations had expressed gratitude and were impressed by the organization of the tournament. He explained there is a rumour that Lacombe will be asked to host again next year.
“It sounds like most of the associations are putting in a bid for us to host the provincials again, but we’ll see. Generally, people were quite happy with the way things went and how well it came together. People are asking us to host it again, but I don’t know if we will or not. It’s a lot of work,” he said.
The team will be taking to San Francisco as part of their winter program to compete in the Encore Lacrosse annual tournament.
“We run a winter program, where we’ll be travelling to San Francisco this year.
We’ll be looking at three different age groups to do that trip – a youth age group (U13), a U15 and a U17 team. Last year we went to Las Vegas, where our U15 was tied for third,” Wood said.
“This year, we want to go to San Francisco, which is an Encore Lacrosse tournament, so there are different scouts there and people like that.”
The scouts are present at the games to provide an opportunity for exceptional athletes to be recognized by team scouts and for scholarships.
Wood said this year, he was exceptionally proud of the Bantam team he coached, as they overcame their Red Deer rivals for gold.
“It’s just exciting for me. Last year, we lost to Red Deer kind of in overtime for the gold medal, so to see a lot of the same kids get past that and push themselves to pull a one-goal win against Red Deer was exciting. Red Deer is a great association and it’s a great rivalry so it was really exciting for the kids,” he said.
He gave a big thanks to event supporters and donors as well.