Lacrosse team making mark in valley
Lacrosse is picking up momentum with both players and fans in the valley after just four years of play. For head Coach J.R. Daniels, building a lacrosse team just came natural. Both Daniels and assistant coach Alex Alviar met locally having no idea that each grew up less than five minutes away from each other in Detroit. Both played lacrosse in high school, and Daniels had 10 years of coaching experience under his belt. After several conversations between the two about their love for the game, the Ten Sticks lacrosse team was born.
“It’s really exciting to have lacrosse out here,” Daniels said. “It’s just spreading around.”
After narrowly missing the State title last season, Daniels says his team is on track and ready for victory with three seniors leading the way.
“Our goalie is a stand out player both statistically on and off the field,” Daniels said about senior goalie Ryce Hegwood, noting that not only is Hegwood amazing on the field but also their “class clown.”
Team captain Marium Branson, whom the team so lovingly calls “Bear,” has been helping to lead the way along with assistant captains Zach Schmidt and Ambrose Brown.
“They’re good leaders,” Daniels said. “And fun to talk about.”
Stats wise, Daniels own son, Zac Daniels, is making some noise averaging three goals a game with 15 put in already this season. Coach Daniels says the whole team is doing well together and that’s what he likes to see.
“They are all contributing,” he said. “All good kids.”
On Thursday Ten Sticks hosted the Big Sky Eagles from Missoula, toppling the Eagles 14-9. Zac Daniels led his team with four goals and one assist while teammate Zach Schmidt pitched in three goals. Hegwood kept guard at the net with eight saves.
Daniels is most proud of the sportsmanship award that they received last season. The award is given to the team that stands out in good sportsmanship conduct to Montana Lacrosse with official refs having a hand in choosing the most deserving team.
“Doing the right thing is really important to us,” Daniels said, stating the kids do a great job keeping their language clean and show respect for the refs, fans, and other teams.
“Sometimes things happen that are unfair,” he said. “Our kids can walk from it.”
After last year’s second place, Ten Sticks is eager to go back to State and come home as champions. Daniels believes his team is a contender for that number one spot and is working hard.
“Last year was a heartbreaker,” he said. “But we’ve learned from it.”
With games against teams from Helena, Billings, and Washington State coming up, Ten Sticks will be busy trying to creep one step closer to the State tournament hosted in Whitefish May 17-18.
Ten Sticks 14, Big Sky Eagles 9.
Goals – Zac Daniels 4, Zach Schmidt 3, Ambrose Brown 2, James Timms 2, Marium Branson 1, Robbie Erickson 1, Nathan Young 1.
Assists – Brown (3), Daniels, Branson, Erickson, Young, Schmidt.