Just how good are the young lacrosse players coming out of the Cowichan Valley?
Good enough that both junior A teams on Vancouver Island presented their Rookie of the Year awards to Valley products.
Mat Jung was honoured as the top freshman with the Nanaimo Timbermen, while Brian Robb was named the best newcomer for the Victoria Shamrocks.
“It shows the talent coming out of the Valley is strong,” Jung said. “Lacrosse in the Valley is growing. The guys in the Valley are getting recognized.”
Jung missed time with the Timbermen at the beginning of the season, when the B.C. Junior A Lacrosse League season started before he returned home from college in Missouri, and again when he was playing for China at the Asia Pacific Lacrosse Championships in South Korea in late June, but he still made enough of an impact in the 13 games he did play to earn Rookie of the Year honours. Jung scored six goals in those 13 appearances, including two shorthanded markers that tied him for the team lead, and set up eight more.
“It’s definitely flattering,” he said.
Robb was with the Shamrocks from day one as he took a year off between high school and college — he will play the upcoming season at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina — and got off to a strong start, leading the league in scoring early on. He then missed time near the end of the season with a concussion he suffered in a game against the Timbermen. He finished the season with 15 goals and 25 assists for 40 points in 18 games, including six powerplay goals and two shorthanded efforts.
As the Shamrocks Rookie of the Year, Robb joins some impressive company, including Gary Gait, Darren Reisig, Corey Small and Rhys Duch.
“It definitely feels good,” he said. “It’s a big achievement for the Shamrocks.”
Both players are adept at putting the ball in the net, but in an interesting twist, they were both switched from offence to defence partway through the season when their teams needed bodies on the back line.
Robb’s Shamrocks made the BCJALL playoffs, winning a wildcard game over the Langley Thunder, but were swept in a three-game series against the Coquitlam Adanacs. Robb scored a goal in the lone postseason game he played, but it was a tough way to end the campaign.
“The last game sucked,” Robb recalled. “The third-years were crying. It sucked.”
Robb was still pleased with his own performance this year.
“For me, the season went well,” he said. “It was one of the better seasons I’ve played, especially as a rookie.”
Jung’s T-Men did not make the playoffs this season, and lost 14 straight games at one point, but not all was negative for the Nanaimo team.
“It was a great group of guys,” Jung said. “The main thing is we had fun. That’s the only thing you can ask for: to get to enjoy a sport you like playing.”
Another Cowichan product, Tyson Black, was named the T-Men’s Unsung Hero for 2017. Also suiting up for Nanaimo this season were Adam Golia, James Taylor and Steven Robertson, while Colton Lidstone and Colin Jeffrey saw action as call-ups from intermediate A. Cowichan’s Braylon Lumb joined Robb on the Shamrocks, and Brody Black was a regular call-up from intermediate.
For the record, the Shamrocks swept the three-game season series against the T-Men.
Jung and Robb have played together since they were four, as teammates in the Cowichan Valley Lacrosse Association, the Claremont Secondary lacrosse academy, and with Island and provincial teams, so it is strange to play on opposite sides of the floor in the junior ranks.
“It’s weird,” Jung admitted. “But you just kind of go with it.”
Robb credited Jung with some of his personal success.
“I wouldn’t have gotten this award if not for Mat and my coaches,” he said. “We’ve been getting better together, feeding off each other.”