DIDSBURY-CARSTAIRS – A quartet of local lacrosse players will be facing off against North America’s best in Ontario in August. The four — Kade Kruger, Billy Hooson, Luke Hildebrand and Carson Willey — were recently chosen for National Lacrosse League (NLL) representative teams in the province.
The four are part of over 400 players on 27 youth clubs representing NLL franchises across North America. The teams will all play four or more games at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, Ont. from Aug. 25-27.
Carson Willey, a 13-year-old from Carstairs, played for the Didsbury Chargers Bantam B team this past spring. He also plays field lacrosse for the Okotoks Mustangs and travels to the U.S. for field tournaments. Willey will be playing for the Calgary Jr. Roughnecks NLL team this summer.
Rural Didsbury resident Luke Hildebrandt, 13, played this past spring for the Red Deer Chiefs Bantam A team. He will be playing for the Edmonton Vimy Jr. NLL team.
Also from rural Didsbury, Billy Hooson, 12, played for the Didsbury Peewee Bantam B team and will be suiting up for the Vimy peewee team.
Kade Kruger, an 11-year-old from Didsbury, also played for the Chargers Peewee B team and will also play for the Vimy peewee team as well.
Didsbury Chargers teams play in the Central Alberta Lacrosse League with teams from towns and cities such as Red Deer, Olds, Lacombe, Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds and Innisfail.
The four boys were then invited to try out for NLL junior teams, which would be competing at the national tournament. All four will have to travel to their respective teams’ cities to practise before heading to Oakville at the end of August.
“All the boys tried very hard at their tryouts,” said Kruger’s mother Tricia, who is the vice-president of Didsbury Lacrosse.
“There were a lot of good players there,” said Willey, who tried out and made the Calgary squad. “There were Calgary kids, Okotoks kids, Blackfalds kids, all around. It’s a pretty good team.”
The boys will be practising twice a week with their respective teams before heading to Ontario.
All four boys have played lacrosse for several years at various levels but this will be the first time for all at a national level.
Hildebrandt was able to try out for and make the Red Deer Chiefs in the spring. The Chiefs play at a higher level (A) than the Didsbury program (B).
He said the season went well and he was glad to be able to play against the tougher A level competition.
Hildebrandt enjoys the contact part of lacrosse as well. He said it’s much more physical than most other sports.
“You can kill them if they have the ball,” he said.
Like all the boys, Hildebrandt is looking forward to going out and practising with his team before going to nationals.
“I’m looking forward to the competition and the fact you can ëcrease dive’,” he said. “You can jump into the crease and shoot. In other leagues if you do that it’s called back.”
Kruger and Hooson played for the Didsbury Chargers Peewee team, which finished fourth in playoffs.
“We lost in the third-place game to Olds,” said Kruger. “I think we had a decent season.”
Kruger enjoys the roughness and competitiveness of playing lacrosse.
“I think it went well,” said Hooson about the season. “We had a lot of newer players, which improved over the year. I thought my season went well.”
Hooson likes to score in lacrosse and help his team win that way. He said he was confident heading into tryouts. He’s also looking forward to the competitiveness at nationals as well as scoring.
The boys are all hoping to perform well at nationals in front of a number of coaches and scouts from the professional NLL as well as colleges and universities. Many of the NLL players are also on hand as mentors for the youngsters.
“I want to do decent, maybe score a couple of goals,” said Willey.
“I want to play well and maybe stand out,” said Hildebrandt. “I want to have more opportunities to play different places. There’s going to be a good opportunity. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great chance to be scouted.”
“I want to score lots of goals and become a better lacrosse player,” said Kruger. “I’m looking forward to playing against better competition.”
“My goal for the tournament is to score lots and do well as a team and make some new friends,” said Hooson. “I’m excited to be able to play in front of college coaches. Being in a small town, you don’t normally get that chance.”
Kruger’s mother said the parents are all very proud of their kids for making their respective lacrosse teams for the national tournament.
“It’ll be nice to see these boys from smaller communities go play at this tournament and gain all that experience, and maybe bring it back to this town and teach the newer players,” she said. “It’s also great to get the exposure.”