Missing the playoffs last season didn’t sit well with anyone wearing the colours of the Kelowna Raiders.
With a 2-0 start to the 2013 Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League campaign, the Raiders have made it clear they have no intention of being on the outside looking in for the second year in a row.
The Raiders’ early-season momentum will face a stiff test Thursday at Memorial Arena as they play their home opener against the Kamloops Venom.
The Venom are the defending TOJLL champs.
“Our guys are definitely fired up to play them,” said Raiders head coach Travis Wray. “Teams from Kamloops have always been big rivals of ours and they’re the champs, so it’s not hard for us to be motivated.”
Last season, the Raiders finished a disappointing 4-10 to miss the playoffs for the first time since their inaugural TOJLL season of 2000.
After a long off-season to mull over their playoff exclusion, Wray had a hunch his club would come out of the gates a different and more determined team in 2013.
“It’s something the guys have been talking about for a long time,” he said. “It was disappointing to miss (the playoffs) last year and the guys were quite upset. They made it their goal to get off to a good start, pick up points at every chance we have and get things going the right way. It’s been good so far.”
The Raiders pushed their record to 2-0 Monday night in Penticton with a 14-10 win over the hometown South Okanagan Flames.
For the second game in a row, veteran Brendan Urban led the Raiders’ offensive charge with five goals and now has 10 on the season.
“Brendan is proving he’s one of the premier goal scorers in the league,” said Wray. “He’s taken the team on his back at the start here and has shown leadership in every way.”
Urban is part of a committed group of 20-year-old players who Wray says have stepped up early in the season to ensure there is no repeat of last season’s letdown.
The head coach also points to Scott Renner, Andrew and Patrick McMillan and Tre Mason as other key veteran players who are helping to lead the club in the right direction.
“The guys are a bit older and a bit more mature this season. We have a good group of leaders and they’ve all stepped up with the right attitude.”
On the other end of the scale, seven rookies have joined the team from the midget level and have also made key contributions early in the season.
“That team won the midget C provincials last season and they were coached by the McMillan (Andrew and Patrick) brothers, so they were well groomed coming into the season,” Wray said. “They’ve come in and played well for us.”
The Raiders and Venom will face off at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Arena.
The Kelowna Raiders look for their first win of the Okanagan senior C lacrosse season Friday night when they take on the Armstrong Shamrocks. Face off at the Nor-Val Centre is 7:30 p.m.
The senior Raiders are 0-2 after back-to-back losses to the Kamloops Rattlers to open the season.
Kelowna’s next home action is Wednesday, May 8 vs Armstrong.