Sports

Team eyes post-season return

Two years ago, it looked like the Langley Thunder had turned the corner, finally qualifying for the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs with a young and up-and-coming nucleus of talent.

But after the team took a step backwards, missing the post-season in 2010, the senior A lacrosse is poised to get back into the dance.

“Last year, we didn’t improve, whereas everyone else did,” said Gerry Van Beek, the Thunder general manager.

Langley never recovered from an 0-4 start to the season, finishing 6-12 and in sixth place of the seven-team senior A WLA team.

In 2009, they had qualified for the playoffs with a 10-7-1 record.

The goal for Langley and its new coaching staff is to return to the 2009 form the team displayed.

“There is excitement in this room ... to prove we can play well in this league,” Van Beek said. “Our team is out to prove we can do this.”

“Basically, the team is going to be bigger, faster, stronger,” he added.

“We have added talent in areas we thought we needed to add talent.”

Some of the added talent included Kerry Susheski and Athan Iannucci, who are both known for their offensive prowess.

Susheski is a former rookie of year and league MVP and has 221 goals and 225 assists).

Iannucci broke lacrosse legend Gary Gait’s single-season scoring record in the NLL when he notched 71 goals during the 2008 season. He also won the 2007 WLA scoring title and in 84 career WLA games, has 154 goals and 167 assists.

The pair should help pick up the slack with last year’s leading scorer Garrett Billings (26 goals, 37 assists) and Stephan Leblanc (20 goals, 40 assists) who are set to join Ontario’s Six Nations Chiefs.

Billings, a Langley Minor Lacrosse product, also helped the Toronto Rock win NLL title on Sunday. He scored two goals in the championship game and was second on the team with 31 goals and 44 assists in 15 games.

Rod Jensen takes over behind the bench, and he brings a wealth of coaching experience. Last season, he helped Coquitlam win the Minto Cup, the Canadian junior A championship. And at the WLA level a few years ago, he took an underdog Adanacs team to the Mann Cup, Canada’s senior A championship.

Jensen has also coached at the National Lacrosse League level. He will be joined by Darcy Rhodes, Shaun Springett and Fred Kloomp.

To be successful, it is as simple as the players carrying out the game plan.

“Our players have to fulfill their commitment to follow the program the coaching staff has put forward to them,” Van Beek said. “Everything is there for them, they just need to execute.”

2011 season

The Thunder season begins tonight (Friday) when they play in Victoria. They also face Maple Ridge on Sunday.

The team’s home opener is Wednesday (May 25) at the Langley Events Centre against the Coquitlam Adanacs at 7:45 p.m.

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