B.C.’s 16U Male lacrosse team played exceptionally well at the North American Indigenous Games earlier this month.
The team was fast and fierce on the field. They placed second in the finals, after an incredible five-game winning streak.
Defenceman Caelen Cross returned to his hometown of Cranbrook with a silver medal in hand.
“All my knowledge I’ve learned in the past kind of just came all together and I felt I had a really good tournament. Everything just clicked,” he said.
The 16U team was made up of players from across B.C., including Kamloops, Langley, Surrey, Port Coquitlam and Maple Ridge. They played a series of games between July 17 and 22.
They started off with a game against Saskatchewan on July 17. The prairie team provided stiff competition. Cross said they had a slower start to the game, but they ultimately triumphed with a 9-7 win.
They beat down Wisconsin 25-0 and roasted Nova Scotia 17-0 in front of a full stadium of local Halifax fans. They advanced to the quarter finals against Eastern Door, a team that included Quebec First Nations and Inuit, and they emerged from this game in good spirits after a 13-7 win.
They faced off against Alberta in the semi-finals on July 20 with an 11-6 win, and continued on to the finals on July 22, which brought them head-to-head against Ontario.
It was an riveting final game. Ontario and B.C. kept pace with one another for the first two periods, but Ontario advanced quickly towards the end of the game and overtook B.C. by one point. B.C. lost 6-7.
“They had a kind of quick little burst where they scored a couple, three in a row, and we tried to come back late and got within a goal [of winning] and kind of had a chance at the end but couldn’t quite get there,” assistant coach Jake Elliott recalled.
“It was a tough game to lose, but kind of looking back on the week as a whole, it was a very successful week overall. The boys came away with a lot of good memories and probably a few life lesson to go along with it, on how to handle adversity and what it took to commit and dedicate themselves,” he added.
The 16U boys were not the only provincial lacrosse team to medal. The 19U Female team won gold and the 19U Men took home silver. Elliott said this was the first time all three teams played in the finals. They all faced Ontario opponents.
“Usually it comes down to B.C and Ontario in a lot of national competitions. They’re the two strongest provinces when it comes to box lacrosse.”
Cross powered through the games with two shoulder injuries. One was sustained in the game against Nova Scotia, and the other was an old flare-up. He maintained a determined attitude throughout and focused on the end-goal.
“You’ve got to keep your emotions in check, even if it’s a big win, or else you’ll lose your focus for the next game and not play your best games,” he said.
Both Cross and Elliott said the players had amazing chemistry and offered full support to one another.
“As a team they really kind of gelled and came together. For kids that didn’t really know each other going into this, they have have lifelong friendships coming out of it. I have a pretty good feeling these guys will stay in touch with each other for a long long time,” Elliott said.
“Indigenous people are some of the most generous and caring, just beautiful human beings that walk this earth,” he added. “… No matter what language or what part of North America or Turtle Island that they come from, they are all one people and they all accept each other for who they are.”