UEA Lacrosse Club has continued optional training sessions over summer, hoping they can keep players fresh and hit the ground running come October.

The Men’s firsts will aim to consolidate their position in the Midlands 1A BUCS division, the second level of university Lacrosse, after promotion last term. The squad have recently arrived back from a successful pre-season trip to Amsterdam where they tested themselves against a number of local teams including the Amsterdam Lions.

Their opening competitive fixture sees them travel to Coventry to face Warwick on the 10thOctober in what could already be a season-defining fixture against another team expected to be scrapping for survival. Keep reading Concrete for a full report of that match.

A season of experience in a higher division, and the entry that allows them into the national BUCS knockout trophy, will also give the team hope they can avenge last year’s Derby Day defeat to Essex on home turf.

UEA have retained the majority of the squad which romped to Midlands 2B victory unbeaten but have lost a few key men to graduation, not least goalkeepers Chris Irvine and Jordan Read, plus popular club President Andy Bloore. The blow of those departures is softened by the retention of a number of important players, especially in midfield, as several stay to complete postgraduate qualifications.

The team have also kept a breadth of attacking options with Sam Campbell and Sean Cullum still available for selection, and Mitchell Hoverd entering his final year off the back of a summer coaching the next generation of Rob Pannells in America alongside professional player and key member of Israel’s World Championship team Max Seibald.

Travis Payne returns after a year abroad to captain the team and will be at the sharp end of UEA’s attacking threat. In his first Eagles stint, Payne was selected for the South of England representative team and has kept up his Lacrosse since, playing with the Malaysian national side while studying there and enjoying a spell in Amsterdam.

While Payne will undoubtedly be the team’s leading light going forward, another key player could well be Kurts Auza. The Latvian youth international became a fixture in the team last term and is still only about to start his second year. A good season and a few goals from the physical midfielder could well prove the difference for UEA.

For the first time, UEA will field a second Men’s team, in the regional adult Saturday SEMLA league. Captained by Tom Sanders, the aim is to give emerging players and those on the fringes of the first team squad some valuable game time against competitive opposition across the South-East.

Their first home match will take place on Saturday 13thOctober at the far end of Colney Lane, with the club inviting anyone with an interest in finding out more about university Lacrosse to come down and lend the team their support.

UEA’s Women will once again run two BUCS teams. Last season the firsts secured a respectable mid-table position in Midlands 2A while the newly-formed seconds did superbly with a mix of freshers and experienced players to place third in their inaugural season in Midlands 3A. The combined team won Derby Day by a score of 7-3, including players from both sides.

The target for the firsts this season will be to push on and look at the top half of Midlands 2A, plus beat Essex again (which would be some of the squad members’ third successive Derby Day triumph), while the seconds, who also start on the 10thby welcoming Leicester’s second string to Colney Lane, will hope to continue their development of new players and get more positive results like last season.

The firsts, who also start away at Warwick, will be without their star striker Emily Stoker, who netted a hat-trick against Essex. However, they have been boosted by the return of last season’s President’s Award winner Cat Stallard who has decided to extend her stay in Norwich.

Last year’s captain and the team’s most exciting creative player Phoebe Hartz will also be an important member of the squad, an expert at creating opportunities and dictating the pace of games with her mazy runs from midfield and goalscoring instinct.

Derby Day victors Michelle Ward (midfield) and Tabby Reuben (forward) will bring their experience to the roles of seconds’ captain and club captain respectively. Reuben’s male counterpart in that role is Charlie Albuery, who told Concrete Online about his summer adventures at the Lacrosse World Championships in Israel.

The Women will also benefit from the return of several players who studied abroad last term: Alex Sturdy, Fiona Smith (who played college Lacrosse for UCLA) and new firsts captain Georgie Sutton are all back in Norwich and available for selection – they will be a breath of fresh air for the team while slotting seamlessly back into the club.

UEA were boosted by some good freshers last year who were given competitive minutes in 3A and will look to progress to the firsts this year. The seconds team is already bearing fruit in that regard, especially in midfield and attack, and Ward will be hoping to bring more young players into her side.

Adela Milà-de-Puri could a key player as the firsts aim for the upper reaches of Midlands 2A. The tenacious midfielder, entering her third year, is a popular member of the club and after a good season in the firsts in 2017-18 was a late addition to the Derby Day squad following an unfortunate injury to Ellie Lynch. She even added to the rout, getting on the scoresheet with a tidy finish in the third quarter.

This season is set to be a very good one for last season’s UEA Sport Club of the Year runners-up. If the Men can stay in Midlands 1A and the seconds take to competition as well as their female counterparts did last season, and the Women’s teams push on in their respective leagues while continuing to blood freshers, UEA Lacrosse will go into Derby Day in a stronger position than ever.