Two Chilliwack Mustangs box lacrosse players are set to play in the biggest tournament of their lives.
Kobe Bonato and Jacob Challman have been selected to represent the Fraser Valley at the B.C. Summer Games, which run July 19-22 in the Cowichan Valley.
The Mustangs made the Fraser Valley roster after impressing at a tryout in Langley.Their zone includes everything from Chilliwack to Ridge Meadows, and there were more than 30 players fighting for 18 roster spots.
The local lads didn’t know what to expect heading into that tryout.
“There were definitely a lot of kids I’ve never played against, so I just tried to stand out with my speed and physicality,” Challman said. “I tried to beat everyone to the ball and, defensively, make sure no one was getting open for a good shot.”
Challman made his biggest impression in the 20 minute scrimmage that closed the tryout, scoring two goals.
“Both were give-and-goes where I passed off the ball, cut through the middle, got it back and shot,” he recalled. “One was a five-hole shot and the other was top corner.”
Bonato’s strength is his defensive play, and it’s not always easy to put together a highlight reel of D. But the coaches knew what they were looking for and the teenager stood out.
“We did a lot of one-on-one and two-on-two drills, and lots of times I stopped my guy or forced him to take a bad shot that missed,” Bonato said. “I was glad the coaches saw that because that’s what I’m good at.
“They had a lot of offensive guys already picked and they were looking for defenders, so I just wanted to show them how aggresive I can be.”
The Mustangs didn’t have to wait to find out if they made the team. They hung around for about 15 minutes after the scrimmage, then got called one by one to speak with the coaches.
“Going into it, I don’t know if I expected to make it,” Bonato said. “But I tried my hardest and had my hopes up and when I made it I was happy and excited.”
Challman described the moment finding out he’d made the roster as “unreal.”
“I never tried out for a higher-level team before and I wasn’t expecting much from it,” Challman explained. “I walked in there just trying to give it my best, and when the coaches told me I was on the team it was just butterflies.
“A great moment.”
The B.C. Summer Games will pit their team against six other zones.
Aside from the matches, part of the fun of being a B.C. Summer Games athlete is participating in the opening and closing ceremonies and being involved in the pagentry of the event.
The boys are split on whether that’s a good thing or not.
“I’d rather just play,” Bonato said.
“I think the opening ceremonies will be pretty cool,” Challman countered. “Being introduced and having the anthem just seems professional.”
The Mustangs won’t have much time to get to know their teammates, with only one or two practices before they launch into action, but neither player seems concerned.
“It’s definitely not easy, but you just have to take the time, make the best of it and try to get to know everyone that’s there,” Challman said. “It’ll be a little different and something I’m not used to, but I think I’ll be fine with it.”
Neither seems to be feeling any pressure to perform either.
“I’m just going to play how I play and do what got me onto the team in the first place, and I’ll probably do well,” Bonato said. “If I work my hardest and we win some games, it’ll be a success.
“And have fun, because that’s what it’s all about.”
— The Mustangs are sending two other players to the B.C. Summer Games.
Jordan Sloan and Nathaniel Leroux have made the Fraser Valley roster for the field lacrosse competition.