Youthful Raiders on learning curve

Kelowna's Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League team in the process of rebuilding with many 16- and 17-year-old players

With youth and inexperience comes growing pains.

At the same time, it can also make for an exciting future.

That’s precisely the attitude Travis Wray is employing as head coach of the Kelowna Raiders early in the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League season.

With 12 players having graduated from last year’s squad, the Raiders are by far the youngest of the league’s five teams.

The Raiders are off to a 0-4 start, but Wray, who is back for his ninth season at the helm of the junior team, is exercising patience early in 2014.

“This is the youngest team I’ve ever seen in my time here, there was such a big turnaround of players, we knew a bit of a rebuild would be necessary,” said Wray. “It’s a pretty big learning curve right now, but the guys are just getting their feet wet and finding out what it takes to play at this level.”

In a league where the upper age limit is 21, the majority of the Raiders’ players are in the 16- and 17-year-old age bracket.

Given time, Wray expects his club will acquire the experience needed to be competitive on a nightly basis in TOJLL.

“A lot of the new players are coming from other systems and haven’t played for me before,” said Wray. “It’s just a matter of them implementing what we have in place and the way the Raiders play. Once they learn that, I think we’ll be fine.”

With a young team taking to the floor on a nightly basis, Wray will look to veterans such as Kevin Hogan, Chase Bremner, Jaman Heslop and keeper Tristan Parece to lead the way this season.

Once the team hits its stride, Wray expects the Raiders to challenge for one of four playoff spots at season’s end.

As for Wray, the former Raiders’ player seriously considered stepping aside as head coach at the end of last season, but couldn’t resist returning to an environment he has grown rather fond of over the last decade.

“For as long as I’ve been involved, it was tough to leave,” Wray said. “I love the game, but really it’s the people that draw you back. It’s fun we have, whether we win or lose, that makes me want to keeping doing this.”

Wray and the Raiders return to action Thursday night when the host the Kamloops Venom

Face off at Memorial Arena is 7:30 p.m.

 

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