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Coach: Fraser a role model for lacrosse girls, Indigenous youth

Sydney Fraser, 17, was named MVP of the women’s provincial championship lacrosse tournament gold-medal game, her truculent performance helping New Westminster defeat Port Moody 7-5 on July 10 in Coquitlam

Sydney Fraser wasn’t exactly shooting for the stars as a 17-year-old call up to the New Westminster Salmonbellies for the stretch drive of the 22-and-over B.C. Senior Women’s Box Lacrosse League campaign.

“I just didn’t want to be the worst player on the floor,” said Fraser, who is heading into Grade 12 at South Kamloops secondary. “That’s what went through my mind.”

Fraser was named MVP of the women’s provincial championship tournament gold-medal game, her truculent performance helping New Westminster defeat Port Moody 7-5 on July 10 in Coquitlam.

“I watched her hit cleanly two players and she dropped them both,” said Savanna Smith, coach and owner of the Salmonbellies. “It was one of those things where you’re like, ‘Damn, girl. I don’t want to be hit by you.’ They were both adults she knocked over and got the ball from. Without her, the game would have been a lot harder for us to come out with the win. She came up with some pretty big plays.”

Fraser was, in fact, the best player on the floor in the B.C. title tilt — and MVP honours are just one accolade of many earned this summer.

The 5-foot-9 menace, a Kamloops Minor Lacrosse Association product, won gold with Fusion West Lacrosse Club at the first annual World Cup Futures Box Lacrosse event, which wrapped up on July 7 at Loyola University Maryland.

“There’s been a lot of lacrosse for her in the last couple months where she’s excelled,” said Smith, who also coaches for Fusion West, the Lower Mainland-based high-performance club. “I wanted to showcase that. Also, you don’t always hear of someone from the Interior having all these accomplishments at such a young age, especially a female athlete like her who is also Indigenous. To be able to do this, it’s another role model for our young girls and Indigenous youth.”

Fraser did double duty at the U.S. Box Lacrosse Association Nationals, which wrapped up on Aug. 7 in San Jose, Calif.

She helped the Fusion West midget girls to a silver medal and also toiled in the women’s ranks, claiming a bronze medal with the Storm Selects, a team that featured Canadian players who have Indigenous heritage.

“I think it’s actually really important to see that if you have this heritage, you’re able to play in a whole bunch of different leagues,” said Fraser, who expects to play for B.C. at the 2023 North American Indigenous Games in Nova Scotia.

“It’s important for people to see where you can go with this sport.”

Smith is encouraging Fraser to pursue a spot on the Haudenosaunee team that will compete at the 2024 World Lacrosse Women’s U20 World Championship.

“Lacrosse was a gift given to Indigenous people from the creator,” Smith said. “It was a gift given to us as a way to entertain the creator, but more importantly, for medicine. As a First Nations person, if we have a lacrosse stick in our hand, stepping onto a field or going to the box, it’s supposed to be medicine for us. It holds a lot of traditional ties and cultural pieces to it.”

Fraser credits her older brothers Nathan and Bryan — both KMLA graduates who played for the junior B Kamloops Venom — for helping her acclimatize to playing against boys.

“There was the odd girl on out-of-town teams, but I was the only girl in Kamloops for my teams all the way until this year,” Fraser said. “I personally didn’t think it was that bad because I grew up with my two older brothers. Playing with the guys, I always had to be super tough and strong. I rely a lot on the physical aspect of my game, especially since I started playing against the women.”

Fraser’s goals include playing field lacrosse on scholarship in the NCAA ranks in the United States.

“I’m not really picky about which school, I just want to keep playing lacrosse and get a good education,” she said.