The 2014 Alberta Summer Games in Airdrie were full of victories and defeats, as is the nature of competition.
For the Bantam lacrosse team which represented the Central Alberta region, there was one victory left on the floor but the experience gained makes them collective winners.
The Zone Four squad, assembled from teams in Innisfail, Lacombe, Red Deer and Sylvan Lake, lost in the gold medal match against Calgary.
There was a lengthy process in order to form this team with invitations sent out and three tryout sessions held to evaluate skills. Forty players showed up with a team of 16 runners and two goalies pieced together.
A good portion of the unit was populated with players from the ‘A’ division team in Red Deer with the remainder coming from ‘B’ tiered teams.
“So we had a true snapshot of lacrosse players from Alberta where our team wasn’t just solely based off of ‘A’ calibre players,” said Head Coach Wally Genz.
But what really completed the picture was how kids from different teams managed to pull it together against some strong competition, including zone teams made up of strictly players from the top tiers, said Genz.
“Calgary for example pulls all of its players from four teams that are all ‘A’ clubs – they have all top tier players and the same goes for Edmonton.”
Bringing together a team of players from other clubs is one giant task but add in the fact the players arrive having only a handful of practices to get a sense of what is what about each other and this adds to the challenge.
“A lot of the kids have only ever played against each other and never had to play as one.
“There was no, ‘I’m from this club and you’re from that club,’ they gelled so fast it was awesome to see,” said Genz.
He said a perfect example of that team harmony was displayed by his two goaltenders, Scott Stauffer and Andrew Barnes.
“They’re both top goalies in the province and they’ve always battled each other and always try to out do each other in a game but to see the two of them on the bench together was just awesome.”
While the final didn’t go the way the team would have liked, the overall effort put out by the players was what the coaching staff was extremely proud of once the games were over.
Leading up to the final the Parkland team battled a very tough Zone Two squad which draws players from the area surrounding Calgary.
“These clubs are established and they are competitive so when it came to the games, every win was a hard-earned win so the loss that came was sort of, we just couldn’t quite find that groove.”
He explained three key players were injured and didn’t play in the gold medal match but was quick to add this was not an excuse by any means.
“Even though it’s silver, the players themselves I’m sure realize they are the best, said Genz. “They truly came together.”
He said the team was very prepared and very loud on the bench in support of each other and other people were amazed to learn the team had only been together for a couple of days leading up to the games.
“It just goes to show that here’s a good bunch of kids that had a common goal and put everything else to the side and put on the one jersey.”
Genz also says the success bodes well for the Central Alberta Lacrosse League as the game grows in each of those communities.
“The league is very strong and doesn’t get the credit it deserves.”
Well, a silver medal goes a long ways to making a statement.