Thursday, 16 July 2015

Ashley Stephenson leads group of women's hockey veterans into 2015 Pan Am Games

As the Canadian national women’s baseball team looks to capture gold medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games, a proud women’s hockey connection adds to an unforgettable group of characters. As this is the first-ever women’s baseball tournament contested in a major multi-national sporting event, the women’s hockey connection is testament to the potential of women in sport and their ability to excel in multiple arenas of competition.

Having played with the national team since the inaugural Women’s World Cup of Baseball in 2004, Ashley Stephenson comprises a group of five remarkable women with roots in women’s hockey. A versatile infielder who is able to play at both shortstop and third base positions, Stephenson’s strong leadership skills can be traced back to a proud hockey career that involved five remarkable seasons with the nationally prominent Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks program.

Suiting up for the Golden Hawks, her greatest legacy included the 2005 CIS National Championship. Honored as the event’s Most Valuable Player, she would graduate as a CIS First-Team All-Canadian. During 2005, she was also recognized as the recipient of the Canadian National Women’s Baseball Team Most Valuable Player Award. Following her spectacular CIS career, she went on to a seven-year pro hockey career in both the NWHL and the succeeding CWHL.

Stephenson would enjoy two seasons with the Brampton Thunder, before claiming the 2008 edition of the Esso Women’s National Championships with the Mississauga Warriors. That championship game featured three Golden Hawks alums, as Stephenson played with Cheryl Pounder. Opposing goaltender Cindy Eadie was not only a Golden Hawks alum, but she also played softball with Canada at the 2004 Athens Summer Games.

Once again, her success on the ice would be complemented by an accomplishment on the diamond. In 2008, Stephenson not only earned her second Team MVP award with the national baseball team, she earned a spot on the tournament All-Star Team following the 2008 IBAF Women’s World Cup of Baseball.

Part of the final CWHL season in Burlington Barracudas history, Stephenson contributed to a pair of significant moments in franchise history. Joined by several other Barracudas teammates, she participated in the first-ever women’s hockey tournament that Hockey Helps the Homeless hosted. In addition, the last goal of her CWHL career was a game-winning tally against the Toronto Furies. Of note, it would prove to be the final game that Burlington would win.

Fellow Golden Hawks alum Kate Psota also boasts a proud hockey legacy. Having won five consecutive OUA conference crowns, she would help the Golden Hawks capture the bronze medal at the 2010 CIS Nationals. Although Psota never played in the CWHL, two of her teammates from that 2010 squad would go on to play for the Brampton Thunder; Amanda Ironside and Liz Knox, the winner of the 2010 Brodrick Trophy.

Also a charter member of the Canadian national women’s baseball team, Psota has enjoyed an exceptional career on the diamond. Heading into the 2015 Pan Am Games, Psota and Stephenson are the only charter members still competing. Having also played in Australia, Psota has blossomed into a world-class athlete whose team-first approach has resulted in a prominent two-sport career.

In one of the most important games in Canadian women’s baseball history, Psota would log four RBI’s while Stephenson had two as Canada enjoyed its first-ever no-hitter in Women’s World Cup play. Occurring at the 2014 IBAF Women’s World Cup, the no-hitter was thrown by Heidi Northcott and Cindy Evaarada.

With proud connections to the York Lions women’s ice hockey program, Samantha Magalas and Autumn Mills comprise another pair of empowering women with success in multiple sports. A high school sporting legend in Burlington, Magalas spent three seasons on the York Lions women’s ice hockey team. During her athletic career with the Lions, she would make national news as the first-ever female athlete in North America to compete on a men’s baseball team at the university level.

Competing with Psota and Stephenson at the inaugural IBAF Women’s World Cup in 2004, Magalas carved a remarkable legacy during the nascent years of the national women’s team. In World Cup play, she would capture a silver medal and two bronze medals, while earning multiple national championships with Team Ontario.

Although she hung up her competitive cleats in 2009, she is still involved as a first base coach on Andre Lacroix’s coaching staff. Not only does her coaching tenure represent an important step forward with regards to women breaking through as coaches in the female game, it also means that she will have the chance to add to her legacy at the Pan Am Games.

One of the greatest hockey humanitarians to suit up for the York, Autumn Mills brings a heart of gold to the diamond. Having won the OUA’s version of the Marion Hilliard Award upon graduation, she was equally successful in the classroom, earning All-Academic Honors on multiple occasions.

Competing at third base for the Canadian national team, Mills’ greatest legacy with the Lions hockey program was helping them snap a five-year streak of missing the playoffs. Continuously improving on her season point totals, she was a remarkable leader who played alongside the likes of Kelsey Webster, who would represent York in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Universiade.

Having joined the women’s national baseball team at the tender age of 16, Mills is definitely one of the team’s youthful veterans. Of note, fellow York alum Magalas, plus Stephenson are instructors at the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy.

Among the five women of Canada’s baseball roster who have competed on the ice, Daniella Matteucci has enjoyed an NCAA Frozen Four championship. Having won the title with the Clarkson Golden Knights program, the victory resulted in making history twice. Not only was it Clarkson University’s first-ever national championship in any varsity sport, it represented the first time that a conference not in the WCHA won the prestigious tournament.

Currently an outfielder and bullpen catcher with the Canadian team, Matteucci also competed on an all-boys team while attending Athol Murray College of Notre Dame. Although Matteucci was also a member of its nationally prominent women’s hockey team, she would make national news when she threw a no-hitter against an all-boys team.

Recently, one of her former coaches mirrored her two sport glory. Mira Trebilcock, who played hockey and soccer at the NCAA Division III level, balanced her current coaching duties with Notre Dame by joining the Regina Riot of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. In the aftermath of her first season of WWCFL play, Trebilcock played in every game for the Riot, contributing to the club capturing their first-ever league championship. 

Possessing experience at the CIS and NCAA levels is first baseman and pitcher Amanda Asay. Having once played for Digit Murphy at Brown University, Asay was a two-sport star at Brown, also playing on the softball team. Upon graduation from Brown, she would join the UBC Thunderbirds for two seasons. Currently pursuing a PhD in Forestry from UBC, Asay contributed two solid seasons with the Thunderbirds. 

Whether it is on the ice or on the diamond, Stephenson and her teammates exemplify both class and dedication. Gracious with fans and proud to be part of an empowering generation that have brought women’s baseball into the sporting conversation, they are champions before the Games even begin.

Photo credits: Mark Staffieri
Description: (Top right) Psota earning the start in an exhibition match against the semi-pro Ottawa Expos
(Middle left): With number 12 donning the back of Ashley Stephenson's jersey, her impact in Canadian baseball is akin to another Canadian legend who wore #12, Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Roberto Alomar
(Bottom left): Autumn Mills featured on the scoreboard at Ottawa Stadium

No comments:

Post a Comment