Team Quebec’s U15 lacrosse squad, with six of its players hailing from Kahnawake, secured the bronze at the 2023 Box Lacrosse National Championships with a 5-3 victory against Team Saskatchewan.
“For our guys, it was the icing on the cake. And it was a great way to finish,” said coach Chet Koneczny, a former pro player who is now the high performance coordinator for Federation de crosse de Quebec and founder of Laxlife Inc. He added this was the first medal in about 50 years for Quebec.
Eight provincial teams in the division went head-to-head in the August 14-20 tournament in Regina, vying for the Commissioner’s Trophy, with Team Ontario placing first, followed by Team British Columbia.
To Koneczny, the six Kahnawa’kehró:non players – Rome Delisle, Rowenhrenhatie Jacobs, Leland Lehache, Kasyn Moses, Tiohahes Morris, and Arahkwenhawe Two-Axe – were instrumental to Team Quebec’s performance in the tournament.
“If we didn’t have the six First Nations players, possibly we wouldn’t have been there in the bronze game to begin with, either,” he said, adding that although their skills were an advantage to Team Quebec, he would have like to see Team First Nation, which wasn’t part of the competition this year due to a lack of players to complete the roster.
He said that coaching an ethnically diverse team with Indigenous athletes was a “rewarding experience” for him, adding that this is the fourth province he’s coached at this tournament over the years. This year, he was joined by Garrett Cree, who has been involved in Kahnawake’s lacrosse scene for decades.
“I must say that seeing these boys compete in Regina was such an unmatchable experience,” said Iakothahitahkhe Diabo, player Kasyn Moses’ mother. “Every game was nerve-wracking, professional, rough to play and rough to push their endurance further than they ever had to,” said Diabo.
“The competition level was amazing as well, each team had so much skill and allowing our six Kahnawake boys to be a part of that and showcase their talents was the best feeling all of the moms could ask for. We are all so proud of them,” she added.
Ending the tournament with a 5-3-1 record, Koneczny said their final game was the highlight. Team Quebec had a 3-0 lead, but Team Saskatchewan bounced back and brought it to 3-3. Team Quebec ended up scoring two more goals to secure the 5-3 win, but Koneczny said it was a tight game throughout.
Another Kahnawa’kehró:non, Ryan Stacey, also headed over to compete in the championship for the Dorothy Robertson Trophy in the girls’ U17 division. She was one of three Mohawk players on Team Quebec, alongside two players from Snye.
“It was really fun. I loved it and I got to meet a lot of new people,” said Stacey, 12, who is also a AAA hockey player.
Despite feeling hesitant and nervous at first about the age gap, Stacey found her footing as the tournament went on.
“Towards the end, I feel like I grew and I got better,” she said. “I wasn’t scared anymore.”
“It was amazing. It was unbelievable,” said Stacey’s mother Teri Kirby on watching her daughter on the field at such a high-calibre tournament. “I could not miss my child’s event like this. This is something to be super proud of.”
Over the years, Kirby has seen sports build up Stacey’s confidence and seep into all aspects of her day-to-day. “This is her lifestyle. Everything she does is sports-related,” she said.
Stacey impressed on the field.
“We were short righty, so she really helped us in that department. She played on the crease of all the power plays,” Team Quebec’s U17F coach Paul Lehmann said of Stacey, who scored two goals and one assist during the tournament.
Right now, Lehmann said they’re working hard towards building a league for the girls with the goal of having four Bantam teams and four Midget teams for next year.
Although the team ended up sixth in the standings, Lehmann found the girls on his team competed all throughout the tournament, up against some of the strongest teams in the country despite being four players short on their roster.
“We would really love to see Kahnawake promote more to the girls’ side of the game for box lacrosse,” he said, adding he’s looking forward to working more closely with the community.