The Strathmore Venom spent all year exceeding expectations and pushing themselves to be greater, and that hard work and effort all payed off with a bronze medal in last weekend's provincial tournament!
While the team was hoping for gold, Head Coach Lucas Bobbit said winning bronze is still a great accomplishment.
"It's not the result we wanted, but to be the third best team in the province is pretty special, especially with the way the boys rebounded back during the tournament. Strathmore hasn't had a representative in provincials since 2010, so after 12 long years of fighting and struggling we got there, so I'm pretty proud of the boys," Bobbit said.
This season was a story of overcoming years of adversity to finally make it to provincials and put Strathmore on the map. After years of being towards the bottom of the league, the Venom came out firing on all cylinders and proved they're a force to be reckoned with.
"There was a kid on Sylvan lake, we overheard him say 'I'm surprised Strathmore is even here, normally they suck,' so to hear that and then to come to this tournament and to come third and show the whole league what the Strathmore program has done and how much we have improved over the last year, and that we're no longer a team that sucks. We're only going to get better as the years go on," Assistant Captain Chase Tweit said.
While the end result of a bronze medal is fantastic, there was no shortage of adversity early on, as the Venom opened the weekend with a 9-6 loss to the Cranbrook Outlaws, before dropping the next one against the Sylvan Lake Yetis 14-9. Losing two in a row is never fun to deal with, but Bobbit explained that it wasn't just the losses that was challenging to deal with.
"The first game was such a hard game, it took so much out of us, and then on top of that during that game we lost our leading scorer and captain to a broken hand. The energy in the room was pretty negative."
Down 0-2 in the tournament, losing your captain, and missing out on a chance to win gold is a scenario that would have many feeling defeated. But not for the Venom, who spent this entire year proving doubters wrong. Their third game was against the Lloydminster Extreme, who were 2-0 in the tournament. Not only that, but the Extreme beat the Outlaws, who were undefeated up to that point. Against all these odds, the Venom responded with a game to remember, winning 8-5.
"Our captain Riley (Gallant) stuck around on the bench and he got the boys a bit riled up and got them going and by the second game on Saturday, our first win. I went in there in the dressing room and just told the boys 'we just have to have fun. Take all the mental side out of it,' and those boys responded so well. They just went out, they were playing the best lacrosse we played all year."
Tweit said it was a team effort to beat the Extreme. Everyone stepped up to provide offense by committee, which was even more important than usual with Gallant sidelined. Tweit added the win against the Extreme gave them momentum heading into their bronze medal match against the Yetis, who they lost to earlier in the weekend.
"After beating the Extreme, who we knew were 2-0, that gave us some confidence going into Sunday's bronze medal game. And I think on Sunday we just gelled together and played as a team. Everyone had their moment this weekend; on Sunday everyone came to play and we got the outcome we were looking for."
"We wanted to prove ourselves by beating them (the Extreme). If we beat the Extreme, then we can beat any team in the league."
The Venom followed up their impressive win with some revenge against the Yetis, beating them 10-7 to earn the bronze. Bobbit said the Yetis' comment earlier about the Venom sucking definitely gave them extra motivation to prove them wrong.
Looking back on the season as a whole, Tweit is incredibly proud of the team's accomplishment.
"Everyone was happy and thrilled, we were all proud of ourselves, and it wasn't even just the tournament alone. It was just an accomplishment of the entire year. The bronze medal, looking back, it just shows how far we came this year and how happy everyone was at the end of the year to get bronze. I think it's just super exciting." Tweit said.
As for what's to come, both Tweit and Bobbit are looking forward to the future. The same group of players is returning, so Bobbit is confident the team will build off their success.
"After our first couple games this year I told this group that this year was provincials or bust. But next year, with everyone returning, we're going for that gold. I told them 'getting that bronze wasn't the sweetest but it felt pretty good, but next year we're turning it gold,'" Bobbit said.
"We're only going to get better. This is a special group, and I'm incredibly proud of what they've become as players and as men."
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