The Red Deer Renegades knew heading into this season they were in for a much more difficult challenge than in 2014.
Despite going undefeated in their first three games of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League Junior B Tier II season, everything caught up to them this weekend, dropping both of their games to two top teams.
On Saturday they fell 11-9 in Calgary to the Axemen and then fell 16-9 to the Lethbridge Barracudas — the same team that eliminated them in last year’s South Final — on Sunday at the Kinex Arena.
However, this is a very different team on the floor for Red Deer. This season stands to be a struggle early as they rebuild on the fly.
“Now we have our captains straight, we have an actual built team now and it’s understanding everybody’s roles,” said Renegades assistant coach Adam Mooney. “We’re a new team and we’re playing teams that have played together for 12 years out of Lethbridge, teams that are the same size as us that don’t have a tier I team.”
On Sunday, Chase Boswell and Nicholas Scott both had two goals for Red Deer while Carson Stuve, Carter Copland-Blair, Colton Levie, Andrew Keller and Ryan Margetts all scored once.
However, they were unable to match the top end talent of their southern rivals. The Barracudas are the top level of junior B in Lethbridge, where as in Red Deer, their is one tier higher, and several of their players went up to play for the Rampage this season.
The Renegades lost their top four scorers from last season with Tyler Schumacher the highest scoring player back from 2014 and he was held off the scoreboard on Sunday.
Dropping two in a row to two top teams did not come a surprise, in fact Mooney was happy with the effort at least on Saturday. But he does expect them to bounce back strong in their next game.
“We’re a prideful team,” he said. “Games like this hurt, all the kids in there want to represent Red Deer well and they know they didn’t do that tonight. They take pride in that and they come back with a lot of vengeance.”
There is some good talent in the pool, however, for the Renegades. Mooney is expecting big things out of the likes of Travis Mears and Curtis Hallman who are taking advantage of their opportunity early on.
“They’re first years and they’re going to be phenomenal players (the roster turnover) gives them the chance to develop way faster than your average player,” he said. “As a team, by the end of the season it should be a benefit, because they’re great players.”
The veterans they do have back are more than just solid players. The coaches are leaning on them to show leadership on the floor and to help bring their teammates up to speed. This group includes captain Kane Weik, Margetts and Boswell, Copland-Blair and Cody Rush.
“They bring experience, even right now they’re talking about what went wrong,” said Mooney. “The biggest part is they bring direction for our younger players. Not every player is the best at everything on the floor, but they know their role and the veterans really help establish players in the position they should be in.”
Despite the rebuilding aspect to the season, the Renegades do have high expectations. They have made it to the South Final three years in a row and the goal is to be in that conversation again this season.
“Anything that’s not winning this year is a disappointment,” said Mooney. “You can’t deny it’s a rebuilding year, but there’s too much talent for it to just throw it away.”
The Renegades are off until May 24 when they host the Medicine Hat Sun Devils at 2:30 p.m. at the Kinex Arena.