Newmarket lacrosse goaltender Griffin Bakker said a provincial title was a long time coming.
Most of his U17 box lacrosse team had played together for years in the local ranks, he said, never quite making it far in provincials. But that changed this year after the team earned gold at the Ontario Lacrosse Provincials U17 Division C Aug. 7.
“It’s been a long time in the waiting for this,” he said. “It’s great to win it with these kids I’ve been playing with my whole life.”
The team came out victorious after a weekend of play, securing the title with a 4-2 win over the Barrie Bombers.
The season was challenging, coach Kenny Hamilton said, with the team often not having enough players, and running a small bench as a result.
“We had such short numbers. We couldn’t get everybody out,” he said, adding things turned once they got more of the team together. “We really started to understand everyone’s role and responsibility. Everyone excelled at what they needed to do on the fly.”
Player Hank Heider said the short bench did condition them well for long stretches of play.
Much of the team has been coached by Hamilton for a long time, Heider said. That includes during the COVID-19 hiatus, when Hamilton helped run house games in lieu of cancelled league play.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “Getting him the title … Four of five kids stopped playing over COVID, but if he hadn’t done that, a lot more probably would have.”
Getting to the finals was not an easy path for the squad, with a couple of comeback victories needed. The semi-finals went into double overtime and was a 6-5 win, but required a penalty shot save from Bakker.
“It was very scary,” he said. “I was very nervous and excited.”
This is the second provincial title for most of the players this season, with many also earning a win in field lacrosse in the spring. Hamilton said it was a strong team from season start to end.
“Everybody on the team contributed, and everybody on the team gave it everything they had,” he said. “That was kind of how we took the whole season. We always had to make sure we were the hardest working team, and we were.”
“They’re like family to me,” Bakker said of his teammates. “If I need anything, I’ll go to them.”