Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Akwesasne Outlaws head coach Hannah Lazare, who also plays for the Women’s Major Series Lacrosse (WMSL) squad, is confident her side is capable of surprising quite a few people at the league’s season-ending championships.
The Outlaws, who managed to win just one of their eight regular season contests, will host the WMSL finals from Aug. 18 to Aug. 20.
Akwesasne is a Mohawk community that is unique as its lands are in Ontario, Quebec and extend south of the border into the state of New York.
All matches at the WMSL championships will be held in the Ontario side of the community at the A'nowara'ko:wa Arena.
Following regular season action, the Outlaws ended up in eighth place of the standings of their nine-team circuit. All nine league entrants, however, will participate in this month’s championship tournament.
The Akwesasne squad played all of its regular season matches this season with a short bench. Though clubs are allowed to dress a maximum of 20 players per game, the Outlaws frequently had less than 10 individuals available.
“We have a full roster but what happens is that we have a lot of EMTs and nurses that are on our roster,” Lazare said. “So, a lot of our league days have coincided with their work schedules and they haven’t been able to get out of it. For those that are not aware, there’s a big shortage in the health care industry right now. A lot of EMTs and nurses, they work literally non-stop.”
Lazare is hoping the majority, if not all of the players on the Outlaws’ roster, will be able to compete at the WMSL championships.
“Honestly, these league games don’t mean anything,” she said. “They really don’t. Yeah, it’s about who is the (regular season) league champion and whatnot. But at the end of the day it doesn’t mean anything because you can go into provincials, be the bottom team, and win.
“When we go to provincials, we’ll have our team. And we have talent on our team so we could take out the top teams. We have the skills and we have the talent to do so.”
The Outlaws are guaranteed to play four round-robin matches at the tournament. They have been placed into a division along with the top-ranked Whitby Rush, fourth-seeded Arthur Aces, the Grand River Attack, which is ranked fifth, and the ninth-ranked London Thrashers.
The other division includes the Mimico Mountaineers, Niagara Islanders, Hamilton Bengals and Mississauga Badgers.
The top two finishers in each grouping will advance to semi-final action. And the two semi winners will battle it out in the championship final.
“To host, it means a lot to us,” Lazare said. “We’re one of the oldest teams in the league. We’re just hoping to show everyone a good time. We always do it big. We do it better than everybody. I humbly say that.”
The Outlaws have hosted the season-ending championships twice before, most recently in 2015.
Besides having a short bench for their regular season outings, the Outlaws also had to play with little to no support in the stands.
Lazare said players only had a partner or a child travel do those regular season games. That’s why she’s looking forward to playing in front of family and other supporters.
“All these other teams have had the luxury of having family members watch them play,” she said. “We haven’t had that all season. As we know, when you have that support in the stands it means a lot more.”
Layla Moses, a 24-year-old defender who is in her third season with the Outlaws, said her squad does indeed have lofty expectations for the WMSL championships.
“Our expectations are obviously to win,” she said. “It’s home court. We haven’t hosted provincials in a very long time. So, it’s very refreshing to be able to play at home.”
Like Lazare, Moses is anticipating the fact team members will have family and friends that will be able to watch them in action.
“I think it’s going to be very inspiring,” she said. “It’s inspiring for all of our players to have our families there.”
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.