Local field lacrosse players sign letters of intent to play NCAA
Dave Dawson/The Packet & Times Five local athletes participated in the National Division 1 Signing Day this week, inking letters of intent to play at Division 1 U.S. schools. Annie Lloyd, right, and Abbi England, left, sign letters to play at Bryant University, while two of their coaches – Pat Morris, who coached both with Orillia Lady Kings teams, and Barb Boyes, who coached them through the Edge program – look on.
Five outstanding local student athletes, who learned how to play girls’ field lacrosse in Orillia, have officially signed letters of intent to play NCAA Division 1 field lacrosse south of the border next year.
Orillia Secondary School’s (OSS) Annie Lloyd and Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School student Abbi England will play at Bryant University while a trio of Orillians now attending the Hill Academy will join them at Division 1 schools: Quintin Hoch-Bullen, formerly of OSS, will play at the University of Denver, while former Patrick Fogarty students Kaiti Van Kessel and Emily Van Kessel will play at Canisius College.
“It’s crazy – it feels like all the work I’ve put in is finally meaning something,” said England, an athletic, high-scoring midfielder. “It’s kind of overwhelming but exciting at the same time.”
England accomplished something no other player managed in the entire province last summer, winning a provincial title, a national crown and an Ontario high-school title. “I was the only one in Ontario to do that and I’m really proud of that,” said the Grade 12 multi-sport athlete.
She’s hoping that pedigree, coupled with her hard work in the months prior to heading to the Iowa school will help her at Bryant. “It’s a huge step but I hope, by the end of my freshman year, to be a starter,” said England. “I will work my butt off … I want to be a valued, go-to person on the team. I know it will be much faster and much more aggressive at the university level, but I think I will be able to do it.”
Lloyd, who has played alongside England on Orillia Lady Kings teams and with the elite Edge program, also has high hopes to make the grade at Bryant.
“(Coach Jill Batcheller) always plays everyone during fall ball, which is like pre-season, and then cuts it down to the top players who will play when the games matter,” said Lloyd, a tenacious and tireless defender in her final year of high school. “I hope I can be in that group. At a meeting with her during my campus visit, she sold me two of their captains and defenders were graduating, which opens up an opportunity. That was exciting to hear.”
While both are talented, passionate, hard-working players, the two chose Bryant, in part, because of its top-rated academic programs. “It’s always been really important to me to get a good education,” said Lloyd. “I knew I wanted to go somewhere to play lacrosse, but academics was also important. Bryant is one of the top five business schools in America and, to me, that was a big part of it.”
The two will be the first Canadians to ever play on Bryant’s top-rated Northeast Conference women’s field lacrosse team. And it wouldn’t have happened, they agreed, without the assistance of Barb Boyes, who coached both girls through the Edge program. She came to Orillia to see the duo officially sign their letters this week.
“I first saw them four years ago with the Edge program and the amount of improvement and development they’ve shown is phenomenal,” said Boyes, who felt like a proud mother at the signing. “They are both passionate about the sport, work hard and have great character. They come from great families and I have a sense that they’re going to do something good.”
That doesn’t mean it will be easy to leave their hometown, their families and their comfortable surroundings; their new home is a 10-hour drive from Orillia. “I think it will be a little easier because when I get there, I will have 40 new friends immediately,” England said of her new Bulldog teammates. “But it’s still hard to move from home because I’m pretty close with my family.”
Lloyd agreed. “It will be an adjustment not having my parents there, but I’m looking forward to it and think I will adjust fine.”
Boyes said she hopes the success of local players helps to grow the sport in Orillia, which already boasts the second-biggest girls’ field lacrosse program in the province. She said field lacrosse offers more opportunity for U.S. scholarships than any other sport.
“There are a lot of opportunities for different levels of players,” said Boyes. “There are about 100 Division 1 schools with field lacrosse, about 60-70 in Division 2 and more than 200 schools in Division 3. It’s a great way to get a post-secondary education, to travel and these schools treat their athletes like pros. And they stress academics, which should be reassuring for parents.”