After missing out on the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, the Kelowna Raiders are looking to get back to the dance in 2015.
The Raiders, with a year of retooling and rebuilding under their belts, will open the new Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League season on Saturday night in Kamloops against the Venom.
Travis Wray, who is back for his ninth year as the head coach of the program, said most of the Raiders’ growing pains should be behind them heading into 2015.
“We were young, last year was a rebuilding year, maybe more than I expected,” said Wray. “This year we have a good returning corps and some good rookies coming in. We should have a better year.”
The Raiders will be led this season by veteran netminder Tristan Parece, along with 20-year-olds Tre Mason and River Lafferty. Mason is returning to Kelowna after playing junior A last season in PoCo.
Wray will also be relying on a solid core of 18-year-old players, including Chase Bremner, Quinn Johnson-Plant and Markan Katinic.
The top five graduating players from Kelowna midget lacrosse all headed for the coast to play junior A this spring, but the Raiders still managed to retain some talented local rookies, including Kristian Beech, Brandon Gaucher and Kieran MacKay.
Based on several close games at the Icebreaker tournament earlier this month, Wray expects the top three or four teams to be reasonably well-matched in TOJLL this season.
Vernon is the defending champion, while Amstrong, Kamloops and South Okanagan round out the five-team circuit.
Each team will play 16 regular season games, with playoffs to start in early July.
The Raiders home opener is Thursday, April 30 against the Armstrong Shamrocks. Face off at Memorial Arena is 7:30 p.m.