Some people might wonder just what it takes to become a national champion, but three youths from here can explain the difficulties – and joys – first hand.
Josh Rex and Spencer Pyke won a place on the Ontario peewee lacrosse team that won the Canadian championships in a tournament held in Whitby in August. The Ontario team went undefeated during the week, but nothing came easily in defeating British Columbia, but Ontario prevailed in the gold medal game.
Just getting onto the Ontario team was a feat in itself.
Josh Rex’s dad, Sean, explained there were 170 players trying out for the provincial club. The first area tryouts were held in Fergus in May, and the second was held in Guelph. Those that impressed the coaches were invited to a third tryout in late June in Whitby, and Josh and Rex survived all of those and made the provincial squad.
They were familiar with several of the players, because they play against them in regular league play. But Josh Rex knew someone else on the team. His cousin, Zachary Rex, was a bantam goalie from Brampton and made that squad.
Then came the hard part. The 18 players and two goalies were able to hold “only three or four practices” before the tournament that started Aug. 2 in Whitby.
But, as Sean Rex noted, those practices lasted anywhere from four to six hours each. The coaches were determined to have a squad ready to battle right to the end.
It worked well for Josh Rex and Pyke. They finished the ten game tournament over nine days with 15 points each, and Sean said Josh was second in the tournament in that category. Both boys play the crease position in the offensive zone.
Pyke said his experience in trying out for the team the previous year was invaluable, and he and Josh both harbor some ambition to play in the National Lacrosse League some day.
They now have an idea of how much work it will take to get there after their experience at the nationals.
Both boys play rep hockey together, too, and they said they also enjoyed playing with players from Ontario that they have faced in area and zone competitions.
Sean Rex kept track of all the games the boys played in. They opened the tournament with an easy win over New Brunswick, 19-1. That was followed by an 11-2 win over Alberta, and a 23-0 win over Manitoba.
Ontario then beat Iroquois Nation 12-2, Saskatchewan 21-0, and British Columbian 7-4.
That game was the toughest the team faced the entire tournament. It went on to beat Nova Scotia 14-0, and Quebec 18-1.
In the gold medal game against British Columbia, Ontario again won by three goals, 6-3.
A first for girls
Taryn Collins not only made the first ever Ontario bantam girls lacrosse team and helped it win a national championship, she was also named team captain.
As with Rex and Pyke, most of Collins’ competition for a spot on the provincial squad came from areas well known for their lacrosse leagues and play. Only one other area girl tried out for the provincial team and she did not make it.
But Collins made it – and loved the experience.
“It was exciting,” she said, adding, “It was great being on the first [girls] team.”
Collins said she started her lacrosse playing against boys because of a shortage of girls teams, but that might have ended up helping her because she was able to handle strong competition at the provincial level. After the tryouts, there were 15 players chosen from Peterborough and area, one from Toronto, one from Wallaceburg, and Collins, from Elora.
Again, Ontario won every game, but there were not as many games or teams involved.
The bantam girls played seven games against New Brunswick, Alberta, and British Columbia.
They won them all, but Collins noted that every game against British Columbia, was a one-goal win, including the gold medal game, which went into overtime before Ontario claimed the title.
Her parents said those close contests made the games particularly exciting.
It was quite a week for Collins, who helped to lead her local team to the Ontario B championships on Tuesday morning, completing a four game sweep, and then starting the national championship in Whitby that same night.
“We went 11-0 [won-lost] for the week,” she said.
The champions’ parents thanked all the sponsors for their support of the players. The parents had to take holidays for the tournament, and the players were provided accommodation and meals. Elora and Fergus Minor Lacrosse and the Elora Mohawks, as well Zone 8 (the local area of play) and Marj’s Village Kitchen in Alma helped with expenses for the trio.
They noted that while over 700 players were converged on Whitby for that national championship week, there was a similar midget division tournament being held in Brampton.