The Toronto Beaches hit a high-water mark for local box lacrosse this year.
Beaches fans got to see the Ontario Junior ‘A’s score a four-game winning streak in the regular season, then land their first playoff spot since 2006.
“Everybody’s been part of it, and everybody’s been pulling in the same direction,” said Beaches head coach Glenn Clark, just before leading the team into a final playoff game against the Brampton Excelsiors at Ted Reeve Arena on July 14.
The third-place Excelsiors swept the sixth-place Beaches 4-0 in the playoff series, but not without sweating a narrow victory in the first game and a second-period tie in the final.
“The hill we’re trying to climb is where they’re at, and we’re close,” said Clark.
“We were full-value for the first game. The other two we were in it for two periods, and they pulled away in the third.”
Now that the Beaches have shown they can be playoff contenders, Clark said rising to the next level is mostly about being consistent.
“You’ve got to earn everything,” he said, and small things, like running hard to the bench after every shift, become the difference-makers.
One Beaches player who enjoyed his own break-out year was John St. John, who scored 38 goals and 54 assists in the 20-game season, making him the fourth-place scorer in the league.
Next year, St. John will move on from juniors, and could be drafted by either the National Lacrosse League or an Ontario Senior A team. Likewise, Beaches’ goaltender Michael Lalani had his strongest season in his final junior year.
But several young players also had strong starts this season, said Clark, which bodes well for 2016, as does the Beaches’ season finish.
“People who are getting drafted here, and possibly free agents are now saying, ‘This is a legitimate place to come and play,’” he said.
“These guys are on track, they’re doing the right things, and it’s somewhere I want to be.”