The Semiahmoo Peewee Girls Lacrosse team are B.C. champions after a 10-0 win over Ridge Meadows in the provincial tournament final last weekend in Maple Ridge.
For the 11- and 12-year-olds, members of Semiahmoo Minor Lacrosse, it was a stunning conclusion to a stunning season in which they scored 26 wins to only one loss.
All the more surprising is the fact that the 16-girl box lacrosse (arena) squad has only been in existence for four years, built from the ground up by coach Mark Betts, a Surrey firefighter and lifelong lacrosse enthusiast, whose daughter, Emma, was the team’s MVP this year.
Team manager Regan Snyder – mom of player Claire Snyder and wife of assistant coach Colin Snyder – said Sunday’s win was a vindication of Betts’ faith and the girls’ athleticism and cheerful determination, after a rocky first three years of developing skills and recruiting members.
It’s also a convincing arrival for girls lacrosse, which had previously been under-represented on the Peninsula, Snyder said.
Betts acknowledged the story – and its triumphant conclusion this year – has all the heart-tugging appeal of a movie scenario.
Going into the tournament (July 9-13) Semiahmoo was the dominant team in the division, Betts said, but a season-long winning streak (18-0) was about to end.
“In the third game of the round robin, we lost to the Ridge Meadows team 6-5 in overtime,” Betts said, adding that the game was played at 5 p.m., by which time the heat in the valley – already fierce – had risen to 35 degrees in the arena.
“They got hit in the face by the heat, and the other girls played well,” he said.
“When they lost the game they were devastated – they burst into tears. They hadn’t dealt with this kind of adversity. It took us three days of building them up, getting them to realize they were still as good.”
But the payoff was sweet, Betts said, adding that the final rematch with Ridge Meadows was played at 8:45 a.m., when heat was not yet a factor.
“They came back,” he said. “They destroyed them 10 to nothing.”
It’s a far cry from the team’s first season in 2011 in which they played 18 games – and didn’t win one.
“They were getting slaughtered, but they still had fun,” Betts said, noting that the speed and physicality of the fast-running, quick-changing game quickly wins converts, including team parents, and has drawn in many local recruits from the ranks of girls soccer.
“Every girl who plays lacrosse loves it,” he said. “It’s something different – the physicality of it, putting on the shoulder pads and helmets. They love that aspect of it.”
Building from a core group of girls that included both of his daughters (one has now moved on bantam division play) he worked on skills and encouraging players to bring in their friends.
“The next year we won a few games, and the year after after that we won a few more,” he said.
With strong athletes who had the benefit of several years experience, and an influx of six or seven girls who’d had a chance to build skills last year, he felt good about the peewees’ chances this season, he said.
“I knew they were going to be good, but I didn’t think they were going to be this good,” he said. “I knew we’d be competitive and make it to the provincials, but I didn’t see us being this dominant.”
Snyder said she and other parents were surprised at Betts confidence at the beginning of the season, particularly in light of earlier seasons’ less-than-stellar results.
“He told us, ‘be sure the girls are available for the time of the provincials,'” she recalled. “We said ‘really?’ but he was insistent this was the year.”
Not even a White Rock civic strike, that meant finding other venues than Centennial Arena for practices and games, put a dent in the winning season, Snyder said.
Betts said that for all of the excitement over the championship, the Semiahmoo peewee story is far from over – and there’s plenty of scope for younger girls who want to get involved.
“Next year we need to rebuild – most of our players are moving up to the bantam division.”
That means the team will be on the lookout for new players in Grade 5 and 6 – and the peewees also want to start a novice team for girls in Grade 4.
And for those interested in outdoor play, Betts is also involved in starting a U-12 field lacrosse team through the Surrey Warriors, for which registration is open now (www.surreylacrosse.com).