It has been a long wait for defence Emmett Ross and the rest of Newmarket Saints Jr. B. Lacrosse team to return to the box.
The league has been on pandemic hiatus since 2019, except for some exhibition play last summer.
But the team is practising in earnest again as it gets set to return to complete play, with its first regular-season game April 26.
“It feels good. I really miss being able to play,” Ross, a Newmarket local, said. “It’s good to be back.”
The lacrosse squad is getting set to play a full regular season for the first time in three years. Assistant coach Dan Ransom said that has meant significant turnover by necessity, with many players aging out of the junior league or moving on to other pursuits.
“It’s been a challenging start to try and reintegrate,” Ransom said. “We’re just kind of going in with no expectations at this point … It’s really wide-open this year.”
Still, some returnees are coming back, he added.
“It’s very exciting. Some nostalgia, the fact we’re back at it,” he said. “It’s kind of like a reunion of sorts to have everybody back that way.”
The team had a 6-14 record in its last season in 2019, missing out on the playoffs. But fellow assistant coach Mike Cooke said they feel they have a strong feeder system that has aged up and should be able to help the team, with a local under-17 group winning a championship before COVID-19 hit.
“Now that the pandemic has made everybody a little bit older, they become pretty core players,” Cooke said. “We do have a young group that’s coming with us, but that is looking to restart and looking to build on what they did before.”
Goaltender Brett Lassen said it takes effort to stay fit during the hiatus.
“I'm very excited to play some games,” he said. “Not being able to compete as a full team, it’s a little upsetting.”
The team plays out of the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex. It will start its season on the road vs. Orangeville and play its home opener vs. Brampton May 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Ransom said it is a great experience for the audience, with plenty of local talent on the squad.
“It’s exciting, it’s quick, they’re playing for the love of the game,” he said.
“We have a good, young core, and I think we’re going to steadily improve this season,” Ross said. “We can only really get better.”
Editor's Note, April 26, 2022: This article was altered to correct the home opener date. The article had said it was April 28, but it is in fact May 6.