Striking gold at nationals

Helping Team B.C. win its first junior female national lacrosse championship was amazing for Kiana Casavant.

KIANA CASAVANT won a junior women’s box lacrosse championship with Team B.C. in Halifax

KIANA CASAVANT won a junior women’s box lacrosse championship with Team B.C. in Halifax

Helping Team B.C. win its first junior female national lacrosse championship was amazing for Kiana Casavant.

Casavant, who played for the midget Penticton Heat lacrosse team this season, said strong team chemistry and great coaching were factors in their championship win in Halifax, NS. during the Female National Box Lacrosse Championship held July 23 to 28.

B.C. defeated Ontario 7-6 to earn the right to play for gold, then beat the same team 12-4 to claim national glory. Gloves and helmets flew through the air as the players screamed, charging towards their goalie.

“It was an awesome celebration,” said Casavant, 16, the youngest member of the team, who played district soccer three years ago.

B.C. finished the national tournament with a perfect 5-0 record. Casavant said their team had confidence and felt good following one day of rest.

“We didn’t have anyone badly injured on our team,” said Casavant, adding one teammate played with a broken finger.  “When we went into it, we could see that they (Ontario) were kind of gassed. We didn’t think that we had the game. We knew that it was going to be a tough battle because they were a tough team.”

While Team B.C. beat Team Alberta 12-1, New Brunswick 7-1 and Nova Scotia 13-6,   Casavant said Team B.C. was involved with close games that blew open after close first periods.

“Each team was pretty strong,” said Casavant, who finished with one goal and three assists in five games.

Blair Bradley, head coach of Team B.C., said his team was the “epitome of hard work and discipline over talent.” He watched as they emotionally and physically wore their opponents down. Leading up to the national championship, Bradley and his staff were able to sell the 18 players into a system that allowed them to fast break and forecheck.

Normally playing short man on defence, Casavant was put in offensive situations, including getting time on the second power play unit.

“I got to learn quite a bit from that. Playing with a bunch of girls that were such a high calibre, it was nice to learn from one and other.” said Casavant, who brought a physical element from playing with boys. “From the coaches, I just learned different styles of how to do things.”

Now she feels she can play an offensive role for a team. Bradley said Casavant was their most improved player over the two months.

“Her play in the national tournament was awesome,” said Bradley. “She caught my eye early in the selection main camp. It was obvious that she had raw talent and athletic ability, but yearned for technical direction and discipline on defence.”

As Casavant became a national champion after just two years in the sport, her father Kim Casavant watched from the stands.

“It was an awesome experience. It meant the world to me. I kind of broke down in tears when I first saw her at the airport too,” said Kim, who also enjoyed some sightseeing with Kiana. “It gave me the chance to bond with her for 10 days by ourselves. To see her play at that level, was amazing. There were huge crowds that she’s probably not used to playing in front of. For some of the Ontario, B.C. games, there was up to 500 people in the stands.”

Casavant thanked her sponsors for their support because without it, she wouldn’t have been able to compete.