It’s hard to find a coach who doesn’t harbour some level of optimism in the preseason.
But even by those standards, Valley Rebels bench boss Jim Nishiyama’s enthusiasm is off the charts heading into the 2014 West Coast Senior Lacrosse Association campaign.
Nishiyama is comprehensively thrilled with what he believes is a loaded roster. He said it’s the strongest the local senior B men’s box lacrosse team has ever been on paper in its history, which dates back to 2005 when the franchise moved from Surrey to Abbotsford.
“Honestly, this team is better than the Ladner (Pioneers) team that won the 2004 President’s Cup,” Nishiyama said. “I was part of that team, and I thought it was the best team I’ve ever played on. But this team is far and above. It’s ridiculous, it really is.”
Fueling Nishiyama’s optimism is the fact he’s got two terrific goalies – Matt Morehouse and Brandon Mulligan – in the fold, along with significant upgrades both on defence and up front.
Influential newcomers on D include Craig Smith and Derek Murrell, while key snipers include last season’s top two scorers in Sean Kelly (27 goals and 29 assists in 12 games) and Jordan Hernandez (24 goals and 11 assists in nine games). Curt Callard, the Rebels’ leading scorer in 2012, is back after missing last season with a broken arm.
Prompting the congregation of talent in Abbotsford is the fact that this year’s President’s Cup, the national senior B lacrosse championship, is being hosted by the Tri-City Bandits. The powerhouse Bandits have a guaranteed host berth, which leaves a spot for another B.C. team.
Nishiyama firmly believes his squad, which lost to Ladner in the 2013 WCSLA semifinals, has the inside track on earning that President’s Cup berth.
“I’ll be surprised if it’s not Tri-City and us in the league final,” he said. “Our upgrades are phenomenal.”
The Rebels open the regular season at home tonight (May 2), when they host the Port Moody Thunder at 8 p.m. at MSA Arena.