New coach hop­ing for straight A’s

A’s open ju­nior A lacrosse sea­son on the road

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Sports - ROD MAWHOOD

He’s guar­an­teed his team will make the play­offs.

Now, it’s time for the jour­ney to be­gin.

Steve Toll was named head coach of the St. Catharines Ath­let­ics ju­nior A lacrosse club last Oc­to­ber. Just over seven months later, the A’s will take to the floor in their 2018 sea­son opener Fri­day in Bramp­ton against the Ex­cel­siors.

With at least 16 re­turnees this sea­son, the A’s depth def­i­nitely stands out, ac­cord­ing to their new bench boss.

“The way I play is that we dress eight O (of­fence) guys and 10 D (defence) guys,” Toll said. “And we re­ally have 13 solid D guys that could be put into the lineup at any­time. It’s a good thing to have, that’s for sure.”

Vet­eran net­min­der Nick Da­mude an­chors the Ath­let­ics back end, as for­mer St. Catharines Spar­tan ju­nior B Troy Holowchuk will serve as backup.

“I’ve been im­pressed very much with our goal­tend­ing,” Toll said. “Nick is un­be­liev­able, even in prac­tices. Both our goalies are good kids, and they’re both low­main­te­nance, which is very key for goal­tenders.

“I re­ally don’t have to worry about our goal­tenders.”

La­trelle Har­ris, who’s been named 2018 team cap­tain, leads a core of de­fend­ers which in­cludes nine play­ers back from last sea­son.

Toll has high ex­pec­ta­tions for Har­ris, who just wrapped up his sec­ond year of pro­fes­sional lacrosse with the Na­tional Lacrosse League’s Toronto Rock.

“I’ve said to him since the be­gin­ning of the year, I don’t want him to be de­fen­sive player of the year or tran­si­tion player of the year, I want him to be at least nom­i­nated for league MVP,” the coach said. “He’s got the po­ten­tial to dom­i­nate at both ends (of the floor). He’s def­i­nitely where it starts with our team.”

Up front Jeff Wit­tig, en­ter­ing his fi­nal year of ju­nior A el­i­gi­bil­ity, who was drafted by the Van­cou­ver Stealth in 2017, will lead a group of tal­ented, but need to be more con­sis­tent, of­fen­sive play­ers.

“We’ll be dressing eight very good of­fen­sive play­ers, and I’ve no­ticed in the past with this group when they’re not scor­ing they try and shoot their way out of a scor­ing slump, and on this team they’re not go­ing to have time to do that,” said Toll.

“We can’t af­ford to have a guy on this team tak­ing 15 shots and only get­ting one goal. And I think that was the big prob­lem last year.”

Alex Sim­mons, who’s away at prep school in the United States and won’t re­turn to the A’s lineup until next month, is some­one Toll is ex­pect­ing big things from.

“Sim­mons is a guy that has two years left (of ju­nior A lacrosse) and his skill-wise is pretty much off the charts,” Toll said. “He’s got phe­nom­e­nally soft hands, and I think if you need a big-time goal he’s got that swag­ger to him. I’m very ex­cited to get him back.”

Sim­mons av­er­aged 4.3 points per game last sea­son, more than any Ath­let­ics player. Over a full sea­son that would have put the Smithville na­tive into the top five scor­ers in On­tario ju­nior A lacrosse.

The A’s visit Six Na­tions Mon­day af­ter­noon, be­fore wel­com­ing Kitch­ener-Water­loo on Wed­nes­day for their home opener. Game time at Jack Gate­cliff Arena is 7:30 p.m.

Wit­tig has been named a full­time al­ter­nate while Alec Ta­mas and Carter Zavitz will wear A’s at home, and Tom Whitty and Sim­mons will be al­ter­nate cap­tains on the road.

“I think the X-fac­tor for this team is be­ing con­sis­tent, play­ing with the lead, and not giv­ing up leads,” Toll said. “If you look at some of the blown leads they had last year in the third pe­riod, that can’t hap­pen.

“With this team fin­ish­ing eighth and ninth the past two years (11 team league) play­offs are def­i­nitely the real goal, and with this team and the depth and the goal­tend­ing and scor­ing that we have we should be look­ing for that sixth spot.

“I think the fans are go­ing to see an ex­cit­ing brand of lacrosse.”

A’s Acorns: Ni­a­gara IceDogs de­fence­man Liam Ham will start the sea­son with the Ath­let­ics. Ham plays of­fence in lacrosse … The A’s will host their an­nual golf tour­na­ment Satur­day, May 26, at Beech­wood in Ni­a­gara Falls. For more in­for­ma­tion email Steve Ta­mas at sta­mas37@co­geco.ca.

‘‘ “He’s got the po­ten­tial to dom­i­nate at both ends (of the floor). He’s def­i­nitely where it starts with our team.” STEVE TOLL St. Catharines A’s head coach on team cap­tain La­trell Har­ris

BOB TYMCZYSZYN THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

La­trell Har­ris, right, shown in ac­tion against Six Na­tions in this July 2017 file photo, is cap­tain of the St. Catharines A’s ju­nior A lacrosse team.

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