Two years ago, Orillia’s U19 women’s field lacrosse team was Ontario’s best – gold-medal champs in the toughest division in the Ontario Women’s Field Lacrosse League.
Last summer, the team “under-achieved” and still brought home a bronze medal from the provincial championship.
But this year, the rebuilding team is looking to find its footing, to forge a new identity and, hopefully, another winning formula.
“We have lost seven key players – the heart of our team – from last year,” said Lady Kings coach Pat Morris. “Every one of the new players replacing those seven are Grade 9 girls. Most of the teams we play against are comprised mostly of Grade 11 and Grade 12 kids. We only have three Grade 12 kids this year.”
Despite that “devastating” loss of star offensive and defensive players, Orillia heads into this weekend of action with a respectable 5-3 record. It’s an encouraging mark – especially considering the injuries the young squad has had to deal with.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries to overcome,” said Morris, noting the club has had to play without high scorer Kassidy Morris and veterans Paige Stachura and Hannah Morris. All three could be back this weekend.
“I am pleased with how the team has performed, with the way they are picking up the offensive and defensive systems we put in place,” he said.
After their two games this weekend, the squad will have a bye week. But they will do anything but rest.
“We are going to Gill, Massachusetts to play in the Northern Rise event,” said Morris. “This is a heavily scouted event featuring the top American clubs. There will be a lot of collegiate scouts there looking for young talent.”
Morris said he believes the tournament will be a good test for his players.
“It’s an opportunity to see the game played at a different level,” said the long-time local coach. “It’s also an opportunity to see different opposition and it’s fun. It’s a team-building exercise as well.”
In past years, Morris has taken teams to Baltimore and Albany to participate in high-level tournaments. It’s a way, he said, to push the team to be better and to play at a higher level.
Despite the youth of his team and their inexperience, Morris demands much from his troops. He admits he’s had to adjust his coaching this year.
“I do have to temper my expectations in terms of tactics and try to involve more individual mentorship and coaching,” said Morris, noting former team leader and defensive stalwart Annie Lloyd has been a welcome addition to the coaching staff. “She is a quiet leader and she is an absolutely outstanding coach.”
With the season at the half-way point, Morris and Lloyd are working on small things that can be big things against top-level opposition.
“We’ve come a long way and it will really help to have our injured players back,” said Morris, noting their leadership and communication were dearly missed.
Morris said he hopes the team can finish in fourth place and do some damage in the playoffs.
“It will be tough to finish fourth, but that’s our goal,” he said. “And in the playoff (tournament) who knows what can happen? That’s what we’re working towards.”
Morris thanked Roy Micks of Orillia’s Re/Max for sponsoring the team, providing funds for uniforms and to help defray travel costs to the U.S. “We couldn’t do it without support from sponsors like Micks,” he said.