LAKELAND - The newly-crowned Wheatland Lacrosse Association U-10 division champions will be in Cold Lake from July 8-10 to see if they can build on their title at the U10 Lacrosse Provincials.
The U10 North Central Wolves are a Lac La Biche-based team that was only "sampling" the Wheatland league's Lakeland division this season, says head coach Bill Britton.
Winning the overall pennant was pretty good for their first introduction to league play, he said with a grin. "The trial went pretty well."
Lakeland division lacrosse team includes squads from Bonnyville, Cold Lake, Lac La Biche, Vermilion, Fort Saskatchewan and Lloydminster.
The Lac La Biche U10 team already had an open-invitation to the provincial games, as the league allows "small community" teams to challenge the championships — but the Wolves took the tougher route, said the coach, beating teams in two provincial tournaments and earning the league banner by finishing at the top of the points ladder with 13 wins and three losses on the season.
"They won their way in," said Britton, busy last Wednesday night at the Bold Center's Performance Arena, where the young squad was practicing with a few other local lacrosse players in preparation for the big weekend. The North Central Wolves club have players competing in all age categories from U6 to U14, but due to low registration in the association after the COVID break, the U10 squad was the only full team competing at league-level this year. Other young players from the Lac La Biche region are playing on lacrosse teams from neighbouring Bonnyville and Cold Lake.
The U10 Wolves are a hard-fighting team, says Britton. He and the team's co-coaches realized their determination in practices, but going into their first league tournament at the start of the season in May - facing teams from Lloyd, Vermilion and Cold Lake - he saw their grit in action.
"They don't give up. They don't quit-ever. It's great that each of them have that same character trait," the coach said.
The Wolves came out of that first league tournament with a 2-2 record, losing close games to Lloyd and Vermilion U-10 teams. Their second league tourney was in Sherwood Park were they finished with a bronze medal, missing out on the gold medal match by just one goal
"Not bad for a team that hadn't played together for the last two years because of COVID," said Britton. "They've had zero play over the last two years. We weren't able to fulfill our obligations to our sponsors, so we suspended play until we get them back playing, which was this season ... and it's been a good one."
The team was in Cold Lake over the June 25 weekend, taking a perfect four-game undefeated run — beating Vermilion, Cold Lake, Bonnyville and Lloydminster — to take the title and the division banner.
With a few more practice sessions before the provincial weekend, Britton says the young squad are contenders — but he's not getting over-confident... even though he might want to. He knows what the team can do.
"I'm not expecting anything but for the kids to go out there and do their best — do what they can do," he said. "It's a good league, with good teams. They are a really good bunch of kids. I want them to have fun and do their best."
Another outcome from the rise to the top for the young team will hopefully be a few more local kids picking up lacrosse sticks in the next season.
"I think this will help get the word out for the sport. The local team and the provincials in Cold Lake will hopefully get people talking about this fun and fast-paced sport," he said of the official national summer game of Canada.
The Lakeland Lacrosse Association has not posted a provincial schedule by the first edition of this article. A schedule will be available when it is posted.