The novice female Cowichan Thunder at the Dorothy Robertson Memorial Tournament in New Westminster. (Jason Gallaugher photo)

The novice female Cowichan Thunder at the Dorothy Robertson Memorial Tournament in New Westminster. (Jason Gallaugher photo)

Female lacrosse rising in the Cowichan Valley

Peewees off to provincials, novices dominate Island play

It’s been a banner year for female box lacrosse in the Cowichan Valley, and it’s not over yet.

The female peewee Cowichan Valley Thunder won their Island league and playoff championships, and the female novice team also had an outstanding season, and would have had some hardware to show for it, too, if there was a title to contend for.

The peewee girls had already claimed their league title when they squared off against Nanaimo at Fuller Lake Arena last Tuesday (June 26). A 5-3 victory that night gave the Thunder their second banner of the season.

Both Cowichan and Nanaimo had already qualified for the provincial tournament, and the greater Victoria entry didn’t declare for the postseason, so the final was anticlimactic in some ways, but the Thunder players still dug deep and found a way to win.

Trailing 2-0 after the first period, Cowichan rallied in the second. Molly Shea scored the Thunder’s first goal of the game on the powerplay, which pleased head coach Naomi Walser.

“That was cool to see,” she said. “Everything we’ve been working on all season came together in that moment.”

Rookie Hailey Main scored the next three goals to give Cowichan the lead.

“She’s a first-year player,” Walser said of Main. “But she’s the second top scorer on the team. She’s really into it.”

Elora Waardenburg added an insurance goal right after Main completed her hat trick.

“That was solid confirmation of the win,” Walser said.

Waardenburg serves as the team captain, with assistance from Shea, Grace Shephard and Lola Owen. Goalie Anikka MacDonald also played a vital role in Cowichan’s victory.

“I’m pretty sure we outshot them,” Walser said. “Both teams played really hard. It could have gone either way.”

This was the second year for the peewee female team, which included 12 new players for 2018, five of whom were aged-down bantams new to lacrosse who were not able to play in the playoff game. To help make up for their absences, the peewees called up two players from the novice squad: Ryley Gallaugher and Rylee Wing. The peewees ended up with 11 runners altogether for the playoff final, a far cry from the 18 they are used to.

Despite having a dozen newcomers this year, the peewees were able to build on everything they accomplished last season.

“This year, even with 12 new girls to the team plus the five — six including the goalie — from last year, we were able to pick up where we left off last year and develop more as a team,” Walser commented. “I feel they are stronger than they were last year.”

The peewees will head to the provincial tournament in Surrey on July 12-14. This will be the team’s second consecutive trip to provincials, and the goal is to improve on last year’s performance.

“We want to challenge ourselves playing against the top teams in the province,” Walser said.

Walser also coaches the novice female Cowichan Thunder, who didn’t have an Island championship or provincial berth to play for, but still had an outstanding season.

“If there was a banner, we would have won it,” the coach stated.

The novice team rarely lost to other Island teams this season, and went undefeated as they won the Travis Bateman Tournament hosted by Juan de Fuca in May. They also went 2-2 at the Dorothy Robertson Memorial Tournament in New Westminster in May, the first time the Cowichan novice girls have travelled to the Mainland to play.

“We got a lot of experience,” Walser said. “We were able to compete with the top teams.”

This was the third season for the novice female team, which has grown and improved significantly since the first season. That year, they had players as young as mini tyke age, some of whom are still on the team, including goalie Paige Gallaugher. Gallaugher started in novice when she was still eligible for mini tyke, and is still only tyke age with another two years of novice eligibility.

“That’s why there’s so much cohesion on the team,” Walser said. “A lot of our strength comes from our first-year novice players. Next year, we’ll be in good hands.”

The female box lacrosse program is playing out as Walser dreamed it would.

“I imagined it, but to see it unfold was pretty exciting,” she said. “We had some big losses the first couple of years. We had fun, the girls kept coming out, and it happened. It’s all about growth.”

Cowichan Valley Citizen