Lucas MacNeil has happy memories of his run to the 2002 B.C. high school basketball championship game with the Claremont Spartans. Now he’s a teacher at Royal Bay Secondary, but his students won’t have similar memories of high school sports because of the pandemic.
“It’s been tough, but I told them to stick with it, and if they quit now they will always live with the what ifs, and you don’t want to live like that,” said MacNeil.
The message clearly sank in, as 13 Royal Bay seniors have earned NCAA athletic scholarships to play field lacrosse in the U.S university and collegiate system, despite not having a high school season.
“We reached out to NCAA coaches, including buying a camera and recording our practices and scrimmage games, and sent out lots of highlight videos and also connected by phone,” said MacNeil, director of the Royal Bay lacrosse academy.
“A lot of it comes down to the NCAA coaches trusting the high school coaches.”
The two breakout players among the recruiting class are Alec Billings, recruited by Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore, considered NCAA lacrosse royalty, and Noah Manning, who was recruited by Denver University.
“When you see players going to bigger-name schools, like Johns Hopkins and Denver, people tend to sit up and take notice of your program,” said MacNeil.
Also headed to NCAA Div. 1 schools are Dylan Johannes (Fairfield), Joel McCormick (Stony Brook), Connor Barrett (Mount St. Mary’s) and Ayden McDonald and Ethan Kaban (the New Jersey Institute of Technology). Included in that Div. 1 group is goaltender Adam Bland, a Royal Bay alumnus up to Grade 11 who is completing his senior year at Blue Ridge prep school in Virginia, before playing in the NCAA at Hobart.
Headed to Div. II institutions are Cole Ross (Mars Hill University), Kalum LaChance (Colorado Mesa), Brett Bridges and Millan Webster (Georgian Court University) and Austin Krug and Jacob Obee (Montevallo University).
Canadian players are coveted in the NCAA because of the in-tight stick skills honed in the box version of lacrosse and the physicality and toughness players must have in box lacrosse.
“Most of these players are out of the Juan de Fuca [Box] Lacrosse Association,” noted MacNeil.
“It’s safe to say our guys who are going to the NCAA Div. 1 schools are also going to be box players in the WLA and [pro] NLL.”
It’s another triumph for Royal Bay, which, in its sixth year of existence, has made ripples, not only in lacrosse but in basketball, volleyball and soccer.
“It’s amazing how far we’ve come as a school in such a short period of time,” said MacNeil.
Although it’s playing no games in any sports, the Class of 2021 will be long remembered for what it went through, MacNeil said.
“You’ve got to give the student-athletes from this class credit and a pat on the back.”