Three players on the Okanagan Wild lacrosse team will have a little something extra to play for on Sunday — as the match is the only time this season the Wild will be playing in Merritt.
Fred Ware, Tom Girard and Anthony Tulliani make up the trio of Merrittonians on the regional intermediate lacrosse team. The Okanagan Wild are playing their inaugural season in the B.C. Intermediate Lacrosse League as the only franchise east of Maple Ridge.
“Many times in the past — the leagues been around for more than a decade, maybe closer to 20 years — there has been multiple applications from the Interior,” explained Martin Gardner, general manager for the Wild.
As an intermediate league, the BCILL provides a bridge between players who age out of midget lacrosse at 15 or 16, before they enter junior lacrosse (generally aimed at players between 18 and 21), said Gardner.
“The options to play lacrosse were quite limited in the Interior. You either played down in the Lower Mainland — which you would typically have to be billeted or have extensive travel, or you have to jump up to junior lacrosse,” he said. “The Okanagan Wild definitely fills that gap. Sixteen and 17-year-olds can play against other elite 16 and 17-year-olds from across the province.”
As a regional squad, the Wild’s ranks include the three Merritt boys, as well as players from Kelowna, Penticton, Kamloops, Vernon and Salmon Arm. The wide geographic distance between the players’ hometowns means that arranging travel and training has come with challenges, which Gardner said his players embrace.
“Some of our boys have to travel two to three hours just to get to practice once per week,” said Gardner. “Travel and logistics become a little bit of a challenge. But overall, it’s been just fantastic. To see those boys play at that level, and most of them would never have had that opportunity to play lacrosse this year.”
And while the Wild find themselves near the bottom of the standings partway through their inaugural BCILL campaign, Gardner said his team is aiming to be in the playoff hunt in the latter half of the season.
“We’re coming around. We’ve got a couple Ws, but we’ve been faced with a lot of injuries and adversity around travel,” said Gardner.
Sunday’s game at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena could be a big one for the Wild. It will be the second half of a back-to-back with the Richmond Roadrunners — the team sitting one spot ahead of the Wild in the BCILL standings — with the both games contested in friendly Okanagan territory. On Saturday, the Wild will square off with Richmond in Kamloops, before heading down the Coquihalla to continue the series in Merritt.
The game is set to begin at 1 p.m. More information about the BCILL and the Okanagan Wild is located at http://www.bcill.ca/index.html.