Last year, Matt Leveque and his Langley Thunder teammates had their hands all over the Western Lacrosse Association championship trophy.
And as has been well documented, the senior A lacrosse team lost in the Mann Cup championship series.
So when the Thunder won their second straight WLA trophy on Aug. 29 at Coquitlam’s Poirier Sports Complex, the players let Langley team owner Ken Buchan Jr. handle the trophy while they steered clear of it during the celebration.
“We picked it up last year,” said Leveque, who has been with the Langley team for seven seasons now, serving as captain for the past six.
“(Last year) was more about the excitement of all the hard years we had before and finally being on top.
“But of course, we didn’t win (the Mann Cup) last year, so we figured don’t touch it this year and see what the outcome is.”
Leveque was referring to the struggles of the Langley squad prior to 2011.
Since moving to Langley in 2004, the team went 30-96-1 with one playoff appearance in seven seasons.
But last year, the Thunder went 8-8-2, qualified for the playoffs as the third seed and beat Victoria in the semifinals and top-ranked New Westminster in the championship series.
In 2012, the Thunder went 12-6 to win the regular season crown, swept Burnaby 4-0 in the semifinals and then edged Coquitlam 4-2 in the finals.
“It is definitely exciting,” said Leveque of the back-to-back titles.
“It was a different feeling from last year seeing as we weren’t expected to go as far as we did (last year) and this year we were the team to beat.”
Leveque said playing as the favourite can be a tricky thing.
“It can be harder because you have all these expectations you have to live up to,” he said.
“Whereas last year we were the underdogs, so everybody was counting us out.”
Against Coquitlam in the WLA finals, Leveque said the key was sticking to the Thunder’s systems.
“If we started trying to go one-on-one, it would have played right into their system and had a different outcome for us,” he said.
“We would not have scored the game we scored.”
A big reason for the Thunder’s success was the offence provided by off-season acquisition Lewis Ratcliff, who has been to four Mann Cups and won twice.
Ratcliff was named most valuable player of the playoffs after notching 23 goals and 49 points in 10 games.
He deflected credit for the award.
“Obviously it is nice to get recognized, but realistically, our defence and our goaltending is what won us this series,” Ratcliff said.
“They did a great job and I just tried to chip in where I could.
“I thought we did a really good job as an offence in keeping the ball hot and making everyone dangerous.”