Twenty-four Canadians will be representing the country at the 2022 World Lacrosse Men’s U21 World Championship in Ireland, with the only three B.C. players on its roster all hailing from Victoria.
The event will happen over a period of 10 days, kicking off on Aug. 10. Of the 23 teams, Canada has been placed in Pool A along with England, Australia, the United States and Haudenosaunee — a confederacy comprised of six First Nations in North America.
Of the entire roster, three players from Vancouver Island will be representing both the province and the country. Casey Wilson and Noah Manning both currently play for the Victoria Shamrocks Junior A team. Levi Verch plays for the Nanaimo Timbermen’s Junior A team.
A ‘SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM’
Verch, who plays defence for Team Canada and for the Saint Joseph’s Hawks Lacrosse team — a school based out of Philadelphia — first had the opportunity to try out for Team Canada when he was 18 years old. He remembers feeling a “shock” to his system when he first tried out, but after spending time playing down south, he’s more confident in his ability to represent his country.
“After playing a year of actually playing university, I’ve played [with] a lot of the guys that will be on this team…that’s definitely helped me with confidence and I’d say skill as well,” said Verch.
(Levi Verch/Courtesy: Sybil Verch)
For Noah Manning, this opportunity fulfils a lifelong dream.
Picked up by Team Canada as an attackman, the sophomore at the University of Denver grew up with a love of box lacrosse after watching his first Victoria Shamrocks game at just three years old.
“It hasn’t really quite set in yet, but it’s something I’m going to remember forever,” said Manning.
(Noah Manning/Courtesy: Nichola Manning)
Wilson earned his position as the defensive midfield for the national team at just 19 years old. First growing up playing box lacrosse, Wilson initially focused on academics and lacrosse at the University of Victoria before making the switch to move down south to play alongside Manning in Colorado.
“I actually wasn’t even invited to tryout coming out of high school there for the U19 team,” said Wilson, “So it’s kind of a cool story to not even be invited to the first tryout and come make it the second time around.”
(Casey Wilson/Courtesy: Mark Wilson)
The World Championships was originally scheduled for 2020, but the pandemic delayed it. Had the event taken place as scheduled, they boys may have not qualified to join Team Canada but officials decided to expand age limits and the number of training camps for its athletes.
It was added time that the boys say helped prepare them for the world stage.
“It’s pretty neat how two years kind of changes everything, because if it wasn’t for COVID, I wouldn’t be on this team and I wouldn’t have this opportunity,” said Manning.
— Team Canada Lacrosse (@CanadaLacrosse) August 6, 2022
A FRIENDLY RIVALRY
Through the age difference and playing for different teams, the boys have built a friendly rivalry.
The three spent much of the summer playing through Vancouver Island’s Junior A teams and practicing drills with each other. Ahead of the event, a two-day training camp was held in Toronto for the Team Canada roster. The boys have learned their strengths and weaknesses and how to improve as a team.
“There’s always a little rivalry, but at the end of the day, we’re good buddies,” said Manning.
The three players have known each other for a few years and have grown together as close friends and as rivals. They say they’ve learned their strengths and weaknesses, and how to improve as a team.
“Being able to go and play for our country together will do nothing but bring us closer together as a group of three,” said Wilson.
NOT A SOLO ACHIEVEMENT
The opportunity to represent Canada wasn’t an easy one to gain, the players say. Through countless practices, games, late night workouts, and numerous trips, their parents and coaches are who they credit their success to.
“All the early morning practices and the what not, the late nights, far drives, a lot of it is due [to my mom]. I’m super thankful for that,” said Manning.
Verch and Wilson both attended Claremont Secondary School in Cordova Bay which they say helped expose them to national and international recruiters.
“Coach Chris McKay and Darren Reisig at Claremont have done so many good things for me and other people,” said Wilson.
Wilson adds that his biggest influence, however, was his older brother Max.
Team Canada’s first game is set for 4 a.m PST on Wednesday, Aug. 10 against Team USA. The games are being broadcasted on ESPN and the Lax Sports Network. A full schedule, live standings, and more information on the event can be found here.