Three Orillia Lady Kings (OLK) lacrosse players are taking their talents down south to play Division 1 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) lacrosse.
Orillia's Kassidy Morris and Emma Torkoff joined Ryan Bionda this week in realizing long-held dreams to earn a scholarship to play at the highest level in the United States.
Bionda, a 17-year-old attacker from Huntsville, has signed her national letter of intent to play lacrosse for Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.
Bionda comes from a prominent lacrosse family as her grandfather Jack Bionda is in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. However, the Everest Academy student didn’t get her start in the game of lacrosse until she was 12-years-old as she and her family lived the early years of her life in Panama.
“When we moved back to Canada both my parents are from Huntsville so we moved there, but there was no girls field program in Huntsville and Orillia was the next closest program,” Bionda explains how she ended up with the OLKL program.
The top Ontario prospect has had the deck stacked against her from the beginning of her career, she’s had to adapt to long car rides to and from games and practices where she had to time manage in order to balance homework and school with her passion for pursuing a career in lacrosse.
“It’s definitely taken a lot out of me, the extra hours spent in traffic and the late nights after rougher practices and games, you get mentally and physically tired, I had to learn time management at a very young age,” Bionda said.
The aggressive left-hander says the OLK program helped her develop quickly as a late bloomer to the sport.
“Without the Lady Kings Program, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play women’s field lacrosse at all,” Bionda said.
“The Orillia Lady Kings program really made me realize my love for lacrosse and once I made the U-19 team I really learned to push myself to the next level, I honestly owe it all to them," said Bionda.
Bionda credits her U-19 coach Pat Morris and her parents for putting her into a position to succeed at the next level down in South Carolina, which is something she is still trying to wrap her head around.
“It feels surreal right now. In just nine months I’ll be packing up my life, moving down to the States and dedicating every second of my days to the sport. I’m really excited to start my life down there,” she said.
Kassidy Morris, a 17-year-old attacker, has signed her national letter of intent to play lacrosse for the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
Morris started playing with and against boys in the local minor lacrosse program when she was just four; today she is a key contributor on and off the field to the Orillia Lady Kings program.
Morris has been a top goal scorer and one of the best players in Ontario at every level. Morris was the captain of Team Ontario last year when they won the U-18 Festival and also played on Team Ontario’s U-19 squad which won a national championship.
The Grade 12 Patrick Fogarty student has dreamt of playing in the NCAA for much of her life.
“It’s been a long time coming and it means everything to me,” Morris said.
“I started making my list of schools where I wanted to go in Grade 7. I’ve made athletic resumes and portfolios and sent them out to coaches, it’s been a lot of hard work," she said.
To make the dream even more special, Morris will get to play lacrosse and attend post-secondary school in the city that she’s always dreamt of living in.
“Boston has always been my favourite city in the world and when I went there for my official visit, I had a feeling that this is the place I really belong,” Morris said.
Morris also credits a lot of her success to the OLK program which has helped her develop into the goal-scoring star that she is today.
“When I first started there wasn’t a girls' team and then Orillia Lady Kings evolved and there was a lot of help from the organization to develop me through the years and it helped me get to this point. I owe it all to Orillia Lady Kings,” she said.
Emma Torkoff, a 16-year-old midfielder, has made her commitment to play for the University at Albany in New York.
Torkoff has been highly touted by her coaches over the years for her lacrosse IQ and her maturity.
The Grade 11 Patrick Fogarty student has played not only with the OLK program, but also the Cobra Kai, a rep program based out of Sloatsburg, NY.
“Pretty much every winter for the past three or four years I’ve been going down to the States for tournaments and I’ve had to create highlight videos and portfolios for coaches,” Torkoff explains of her dedication to the sport.
“It’s been a long process but it's definitely been worth it.”
Unlike her OLK teammates, Torkoff hasn’t yet been to her future school for an official visit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m really excited because I made this decision to commit during COVID, so I haven’t been to the school. I’m excited to meet everyone in person instead of over Zoom,” she said.
Torkoff still has a year to go before she signs her national letter of intent, but her successes to this point have been exceptional and she credits a lot of it to the OLK program.
“The Orillia Lady Kings gave me a foundation to learn the game of lacrosse, all the coaches have been so influential in getting me to this point in my career,” she said.
Pat Morris is delighted to see three of his players moving on to pursue their lacrosse dreams.
“This is what we are here to do, whether it’s the NCAA route that these ladies have chosen or a Canadian college or university, we want to help all the ladies in the program get to this spot,” Morris said.
Morris says all three of the players who have agreed to terms with NCAA schools are more than deserving of the honour and their hard work has gone beyond the field of play.
“In order to get a Division I scholarship, it isn’t just about lacrosse. It has a lot to do with your attitude and your academic standards. These girls have done really well and have met the NCAA standards,” he said.