Marauders look to breakthrough in year two
Lacrosse: Okotoks Tier I team setting higher bar after inaugural season
Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014 06:00 am
The only source of knowledge is experience.
The Okotoks Marauders boasted just two players with Tier I play on their résumé last year in their inaugural season in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League’s Junior B ranks, fast forward one year and the Marauders can trot as many 15 returning players to the floor.
“This year we should win a lot of games off the bat,” said Marauders head coach John Millar. “I think we’re a more talented group than last year and all the experience we gained last year is going to help us out immensely. I expect to be firing on all cylinders right out of the gate.
“It’s a young team though. If things go rough the first couple games, we’re not going to get too frustrated, but we’re super optimistic.”
Void of the big game experience, the Marauders got a rude welcome to Tier 1 in the early parts of last season.
“The first part of the year they were completely out of their depths, they just weren’t used to the pace of the game and the roughness of the game and we adapted throughout the year,” Millar said. “We’re going to be starting this year knowing what we’re going into.
“It’s going to go a lot smoother.”
Key incumbents include last season’s top sniper Matt McKay (41 points), second leader scorer Taylor McNeill (34 points), fleet-footed transition player Devin Bablitz and physical defenders Kaleb Burnett and Jacob Gregoryk.
“A lot of us learned it’s a big difference from minor lacrosse and coming up with so many younger guys we didn’t really have as much leadership last year,” McKay said. “Now our younger guys are older so we have that much more leadership.
“I’d like to at least finish above .500 and have a winning season this year and I think we can do it.”
The Marauders held their own as a first-year franchise in the RMLL South Division to begin with, posting a 4-5 record. They would win just one of their final nine contests, to finish fifth in the South with a 5-14-1 mark.
“We took a lot of penalties and were playing shorthanded a lot last year and that kind of killed us,” McKay said. “Having a short bench compared to the Mounties and Shamrocks, they have double the amount of players.”
Pre-game discipline was also an issue at times, McKay added.
“Before games last year it was just show up when you want and how you want,” he said. “This year we should make it show up at this time, get a pre-game warm up in and be more organized before the game.”
Okotoks won’t get anything for free in an extremely challenging division.
At the apex of the South, the Calgary Mountaineers look to make it eight straight Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League championships.
The Calgary Chill have looked dangerous during pre-season play while the Calgary Shamrocks are always a contender.
The Marauders open regular season play on the road on Friday versus the Shamrocks.
“It’s a very important game for us, especially against the Shamrocks. Last year they kind of pushed us around,” McKay said.
“If we can come out in our first game and beat them it would make a big statement and hopefully get us the start we need.”
Following the season opener, Okotoks takes to the road for a pair of dates with the St. Albert Crude and Mountaineers. The Marauders’ first home date is May 10 when the Saskatchewan SWAT pay a visit to Pason Centennial Arena at 5:30 p.m.
To keep track of the Marauders results go to rockymountainlax.com