Oldest sporting franchise in Niagara set to drop the ball on their home opener Wednesday night

St. Catharines Jr. A Athletics host Toronto Beaches at Canada Games Park. Photo Credit: Facebook/ St. Catharines Athletics 

Niagara’s oldest sporting franchise opened its 2024 season with a win.

The St. Catharines Jr. A Athletics lacrosse club, established in 1877, beat the Brampton Excelsiors 11-9 last Friday night and are set for their home opener against Toronto Beaches this Wednesday night at Canada Games Park.

“I think we’re almost there,” head coach and multi-time hall of famer Steve Toll recently told the Niagara Sports Report on Newstalk 610 CKTB.

“We have a few guys still away at (NCAA) school, but it’s a process to when you get everybody back, but we’re going to continue to build and be positive.”

The A’s, as they’re affectionately known, finished the 2023 campaign with an (8-12) record, losing to the eventual Minto Cup (Canadian Junior A Lacrosse) Champion Burlington Blaze in the first round of the Ontario Junior Lacrosse League (OJLL) playoffs.

The Athletics are returning most of their lineup from last season including National Lacrosse League (NLL) rookie from this past season with the Philadelphia Wings, 2022 St. Catharines Athlete of the Year Mitchell Armstrong, and also current Brock Badger Field Lacrosse player, Mitchell Armstrong.

“It’s still a pretty young team. I mean Whitby when they won two years ago they had 13 guys that went overage, and Burlington when they won last year they had 12, and we’ll be in that situation next year,” Toll said.

“The guys are going to have to rise to the occasion, compete every game, and see where we end up.”

Toll admits general manager Jeff Chcoski will likely tinker with the lineup before the playoffs, and expects Mimico and Toronto Beaches to be at the top of standings here in 2024.

And Toll, a 1991 Minto Cup Champion with the Athletics, can’t help but look ahead to next year when St. Catharines will host the Canadian Championships.

“I was smiling ear to ear when St. Catharines was awarded (the Minto Cup) it,” explained Toll. “It’s a huge honour, from all the guys and ladies that worked so hard on it, and continue to work on it – now we got to build a team, and I’ve got to coach a team to win that thing, but like I said we’ve got to worry about this year first.”

St. Catharines native Christian Lefebvre led the A’s in their season opening victory over Brampton with four goals and three assists, while Keaton Zavitz added the hat-trick and three assists.

In total 11 players hail from Niagara on the Athletics roster. Nine from St. Catharines, one from Niagara Falls and one from Welland.

The A’s will play 10 home and 10 away games against teams from Six Nations, Peterborough, Orangeville, Oakville, Kitchener-Waterloo and the aforementioned Brampton, Burlington, Whitby, Mimico and Toronto.

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