Rage on the hunt for provincial glory
***NOTE: Due to weather conditions, the U-13 provincial championship tournament scheduled for this weekend in Victoria has been cancelled.
Coach Gary Staven is attempting to guide his U-13 North Island Rage lacrosse team into uncharted territory - that of a provincial championship.
The North Island Rage have never won a U-13 championship. The North Island Youth Field Lacrosse Association has only one provincial championship in its 10-plus year history. The U-16 squad won in 2013.
Staven’s squad qualified as the top seed in the upcoming U-13 field lacrosse provincials in resounding fashion Jan. 29, with a 9-1 victory over Pac Rim at the Island championship game in Nanaimo.
This weekend his mixed gender team of 17 players from the Comox Valley and Campbell River look to take that next step, at the Tier 2 provincial championship tournament in Victoria.
“I started with 19 this year, but one was overaged, so he was not eligible for the playoffs,” said Staven of his squad. “He could play in the regular season but not in the playoffs - we knew that going in. And I have another kids that’s injured.”
Staven’s team is the only North Island Rage team to qualify for the provincial tournament. There is only one other NI Rage team in the association this season - a U-18 team.
“Last year we had a U13, two U-15s and a U-18, but our registration numbers dropped immensely this year,” he said. “There is a U-11 division, but we don’t have enough players to have a U-11 team. So I have two players on my team who are actually U-11s.”
On Friday, the tournament to determine provincial supremacy at the U-13 level begins.
The eight-team tournament features two pools of four. Each pool will play a complete round robin, with the top two teams from each pool advancing to the cross-over semi-final games.
The Rage will open against Maple Ridge #2 Friday afternoon (4:15 p.m.), play Richmond Saturday (4:45 p.m.) and finish their round robin portion against Kelowna Sunday morning (10:30 a.m.)
The U-13 Tier 2 semi-finals are Sunday at 6 p.m. and the championship game goes Monday at 12:30 p.m., preceded by the bronze medal game.
“We are one of the top two seeds in the province, going into the playoffs,” said Staven, who added there are high expectations for the team.
“Especially when you consider we have had such a dominating season. I guess anything less than a medal would be considered an underachievement, but I really don’t want to put any pressure on them. I definitely said that we have to keep the momentum going. We won the Islands now we go on to our next step.”
The Rage went 10-2 in league play this season, and won a tournament in Vancouver in November, going 6-0.
The Rage has faced Richmond before, beating the Lower Mainland squad in the aforementioned tournament play, but are completely unfamiliar with both Maple Ridge and Kelowna.
Staven said the strategy going in is simple.
“Just play our game,” he responded, when asked how to prepare for unfamiliar opponents.
“I’ve taught the kids a structure, and as long as we stay focused on doing what we have been doing all season, we will be fine. And of course, I will do a little scouting when we get there.”