New-look Rebels ready to roll

As the new head coach of the Valley Rebels, Jim Nishiyama's first challenge is to figure out how to fill the void left by the retirement of the team's top scoring threat.

The Valley Rebels senior B lacrosse team hosts its home opener on Friday at MSA Arena.

The Valley Rebels senior B lacrosse team hosts its home opener on Friday at MSA Arena.

As the new head coach of the Valley Rebels, Jim Nishiyama’s first challenge is to figure out how to fill the void left by the retirement of the team’s top scoring threat.

You might call it a self-inflicted wound.

Nishiyama himself was the Rebels’ highest-scoring player last season, piling up 74 points (32 goals, 42 assists) in 16 West Coast Senior Lacrosse Association (WCSLA) games. But at the age of 41, he’s decided to exchange his stick for a clipboard.

“The body’s getting old,” Nishiyama explained with a chuckle. “I know in my mind I can still play, but waking up in the morning with your arm and your hand starting to go numb, it’s just too many years of getting beaten up. It was time.”

Nishiyama is confident the new-look Rebels roster won’t have any trouble generating offence without him. The Abbotsford squad has added seven new players, and the buzz around the WCSLA is that the Rebels have the talent to contend for the league title.

“There’s always been a misconception of players not wanting to play in Abbotsford because it was so far away,” Nishiyama said. “Well, we’ve got such a good team now, everyone’s wanting to come play for us. You kind of get to a point where you have to tell people no, because you have too many.”

Bryan Poole, acquired late last season in a trade with the Ladner Pioneers, figures to be among the offensive leaders. He racked up 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in just four games with the Rebels last season.

Other key additions include Tommy Tran, a trade pick-up from the Royal City Capitals, and Ryan Hall, who returns to the Valley lineup after a one-year absence. They join a solid veteran core led by the likes of Shaun McRae and Geordie Wells.

• The Rebels host their home opener on Friday at MSA Arena against Royal City at 8 p.m.