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Director Grady Nelson aims to expand Battle at the Bridge, continue to build boys, girls programs

COURTESY PHOTO: CARLY CARPENTER - The boys 3-4 team had a strong showing at the Battle at the Bridge tournament. On Saturday, June 8, Wilsonville Youth Lacrosse hosted its second annual Battle at the Bridge tournament and the competition was, outside of a championship, a testament to the program's growing strength statewide.

The 5-6 grade team won its division, and the 7-8 grade team lost its division on a last-minute shot. The strong showings from the teams against the best in the state (and Camas) were further proof that Wilsonville's lacrosse program is on the rise. The different opponents that the Wildcats ran into also were an exposure to the styles of play.

"We had some great competition from Bend, we had players from Burns, and some from Camas, all around the area," said Wilsonville boys' youth director Grady Nelson. "It was good to play other programs that we don't typically play in our season. That was kind of the whole reason for putting together this Battle at the Bridge tournament, was to bring people together from all over the state."

There also was a girl's tournament the weekend before, and on that side of the sport the rise is going just as well. COURTESY PHOTO: CARLY CARPENTER - The boys 7-8 team lost its final game after a last-minute shot.

"The girls did very well," Nelson said. "They had a really strong showing. The girls in grades 5-6 ended up competing to go into the championship on a double overtime play. They were able to squeak out a win and get into the finals. They did very well. It was 93 degrees that day, and so it was almost like it was last year. It was exhausting for the girls to play, but they continue to grow with the boys and show strong results."

With another tournament in the books, Nelson and the rest of the Wilsonville Youth Lacrosse are aiming for bigger and better. This year the competition was predominantly intrastate; next year the competition, hopefully, will be drawn from California and Idaho as well, if Nelson and crew have their way.

"In 2020, next year, we'll have a combined boys and girls tournament that will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday," Nelson said. "We'll have teams and programs for both boys and girls throughout the two-to-three state area. We're reaching out to Idaho and we'll be reaching out to California, so we'll continue to build on what we laid out last year. It was successful, and people had a great time. We were able to put some things in place to move forward next year to make it a major event."

The desire to expand the tournament into something bigger is coupled with the desire to continue to expand the sport of lacrosse generally. Promoting positivity and teamwork generally is something that will go hand in hand with what the program wants to do.

"We want to provide a great playing opportunity to our boys and girls, and to give them the skills they need because it's not just about lacrosse," Nelson said. "It's about teammates and getting along with other players. We see that we're building our kids for whether they continue to play lacrosse or whether they step into another sport, or play multiple sports, that they know their teammates and can stand alongside one another. We really want to build the program and the community, and lacrosse is a fun sport and fun to play, so we have the benefit of doing all of that with our program."

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