(February 9, 2021)… Making its Wasatch Winter Invitational debut, 3d Texas two-stepped its way to a pair of titles in Draper, Utah, the weekend of Jan. 30-31. The teams from the Lone Star state captured gold medals at the Pee Wee and Bantam levels.
"It was definitely exciting," said Kiernan Limming, coach and manager at 3d Texas. "That was our first year going to that tournament."
This year's 23-team tournament featured clubs like the Utah Sting (True Utah), Impulse, 3d Texas, Jr. Seals, and So Cal Express. The US Box Lacrosse Association (USBOXLA)-certified tourney included Pee Wee, Bantam, Midget and High School Elite Divisions. The two-day event, run by US Lax Events, serves as the state's premier box lacrosse tournament.
"It was a great tournament, and everyone had a good time," said PJ Martin, the state director for boys and girls for True Utah. "It was exciting having so many guys from different states all come together. Overall, everyone was just amped up to play box lacrosse. For so many kids, it was their first box tournament of the year.
"I believe that for some of these players, it was a cathartic experience coming through this pandemic and being able to step out and participate in something they love. They haven't been able to play box indoor because of the restrictions, and some states still have not opened up the chance to play the game."
At the fourth annual Wasatch Winter Invitational, three clubs won championships. The Utah Sting Elite, who hosted the tournament, captured the High School Elite Division, while Impulse roared to a Midget title. Only 3d Texas went home with multiple championships.
"3d Texas is a great program," said Martin. "They draw from a lot of different cities in Texas. They have a large population to pick from, and they always choose great athletes. They are really smart players. There was no quit in the 3d Texas program."
The kids from Texas finished unblemished in the Pee Wee Division, going 5-0 to capture the gold. Their most challenging game was Saturday, Jan. 30, in an opening-round game against the Utah Sting. The contest needed a shootout, but 3d Texas triumphed 8-7. The two teams would meet again in the Finals, which the Texas team won to finish off a perfect tournament. The winning squad featured the age group's top scorer in Bryce Delgado, who netted 16 goals. The Utah Sting's Easton Miller was second with 10 goals.
According to 3d Texas coach Limming, his veteran leaders were key to the championship run. The tournament success created some believers in the box game.
"Half of that team was on the Pee Wee team we had in 2020 that went to the Vegas Box Invitational," said Limming. "They did really well there. It was good to have some experienced players on such a young team."
"That first game was super exciting against the Utah Sting A team," he added. "We went to a shootout. A bunch of parents said it was so exciting. (After) the first game they were sold on box lacrosse."
The Bantam Division also went to 3d Texas, but this time it took hard work and some good fortune. After finishing with a 1-2 record, 3d Texas needed a double-digit win by True Colorado or a seven-goal effort by So Cal Express Red to secure a spot in the playoffs. In the final game of pool play, So Cal delivered the seven-goal outing, helping 3d Texas advance on goal differential.
"We had a tougher go on Saturday. We opened against Impulse and just got in because So Cal scored seven goals," said Limming. "It was exactly what we needed to sneak into fourth place."
On Sunday, 3d Texas faced top-seeded Impulse again, but this time they raced to a 7-3 win to advance to the title game. In the Finals, 3d Texas knocked off So Cal Red 4-2 to complete an incredible turnaround.
"It was awesome, especially because a quarter of the kids hadn't played in a box tournament before," said Limming. "On Sunday, instead of putting together 13 minutes, they put together a full 39 minutes. They were really happy. A bunch of Pee Wee parents left the hotel early, and we had a cheering section. It was awesome."
In the Midget Division, Impulse also made a playoff run after earning the top seed. After winning all four of their pool games, the kids from Oklahoma finished the job. In the playoffs, Impulse Lacrosse knocked off True Colorado 6-3 in the Finals to complete the tourney unbeaten. The champs were led by Conner Wheeler and Will Bogie.
Impulse entered teams in the Bantam, Midget Divisions, and High School Elite Divisions, and sent two of three age levels to the playoffs. For Impulse Co-founder and President Callum Crawford, however, the event was more than just wins and losses.
“We did not have any expectations like that going into it,” he said. “Obviously, we were proud of them for doing well out there. We were just dying to show these kids legitimate box lacrosse. We knew how they would enjoy it and fall in love with it. Not only the kids but the parents.”
Crawford and Co-founder and Director of Coaching Ryan Fournier coached all the teams, as they arrived at the rink at 8:00 a.m. and departed at 11:00 p.m. The USBOXLA tournament was the first of the year for the club based in Tulsa, Okla. For most of the players, it was their first box tournament ever.
“The majority of these kids had never played a box lacrosse game before or had any real box lacrosse coaching,” said Crawford. “One of the advantages I think we had was the kids played within a box lacrosse structure. Part of it (our success) was that we were bigger than a lot of the kids at our age. What we were most proud of was that the kids stayed within that structure and that was fun.”
Utah Sting High School Elite dominated the High School Elite Division. The host club cruised to four wins in pool play, outscoring its opponents 55-9. In the gold-medal game, the Utah Sting met the Mountain Men, who edged True Colorado 3-2 in the semifinals. The championship went to the hometown team as they completed the event with a 5-0 record.
Utah Sting High School Elite was led by Team USBOXLA selected player Blaze DeGraci, who continued his exceptional year by finishing as one of the leading scorers. The Air Force commit was fresh off leading the Vegas Box Invitational and Midwest Classic in scoring.
"We won our home event in a resounding fashion," said Martin. "Our teams all had a good showing but the elite team came to play in another level. It was good for them to have a great showing in the home event. The team is coming back together for Utah Nationals and the majority will also play together next year. We are excited for where this young group has taken their box game."
Pee Wee 3d Texas
Bantam 3d Texas
High School Utah Sting HS Elite