During the modern resurgence of women’s ice hockey in the United States, Cammi Granato was seen as the face of the game, its premier superstar. With the current rise of women’s ball hockey running parallel to that magical time, Alessandra Glista is held in the same regard.
Having stood between the pipes for the US National team for over a decade, the chronology of achievements speaks for themselves. Part of six ISBHF World Championships, along with a silver medal at the 2014 Master’s Championships, Glista, the pride of Winthrop, Massachusetts, has helped to craft a new chapter for the inspiring and heroic role of women in hockey.
Glista’s career is the groundwork that has established a solid foundation for the growth of women’s ball hockey in the United States. With the familiar number 35 donning the back of her Team USA jersey, one she has proudly worn since 2007, she is also a significant builder for the game. With her husband Jason also involved in a coaching capacity, her remarkable body of work is helping to establish the game’s viability, while emerging as a new archetype for female hockey heroes.
Sharing goaltending duties at the 2017 edition of the ISBHF Worlds with Carli Bekkering, a Canadian-born goaltender whose husband once played professional basketball in Holland (as a side note, the US team featured two Canadian coaches on its squad), Glista experienced a pinnacle. With a hockey career that has spanned two decades, including a stint with the US national roller hockey team, capturing gold in 2003, plus a lifelong love of soccer, the result at Pardubice was one that was ten years in the making.
From the outset, the US enjoyed a semifinal victory against Canada, the two-time defending gold medalists. Although Glista did not play in the emotional match, a 3-2 final, she possesses no shortage of experience against the powerhouse team. At the 2013 edition of the ISBHF Worlds, she was named the US Player of the Game following their match against Canada.
As Bekkering faced 30 shots, while Rebecca Dobson scored the most famous goal in program history, logging the game winning tally against Canada, Glista’s positive attitude and acumen helped to instill confidence in the team that a win was possible.
“The win over Canada was something that confirmed so much for our team as well as our program. We have so much respect for the Canadian team. It was an amazing back and forth battle.
We never quit, believed in ourselves, and were resilient. It shows how hard our team worked in preparation both physically and mentally for this event.
For me personally, it was something our program has strived for over the last 10 years. I think it is a testament to how much this program has grown and improved. Each USA team from 2007 on, has been a stepping-stone and has paved the way.
After the Canadian win, I wanted time to slow down for a moment and really take in what had happened. When you prepare for the games, you focus on what you can control and not who your opponent is. You focus on your job. When it was over, we realized what we had accomplished. You need to believe anything is possible.”
With the US advancing to the gold medal game against the host Czech Republic, a hard-fought 4-3 loss provided the US with its first-ever podium finish. Although silver may not have been the desired color, the achievement is destined to be a source of motivation for future US teams, while definitely serving as the crowning achievement for a jubilant Glista, reaching a personal and athletic nirvana.
Considering that Bekkering was recognized as the Player of the Game for US, Glista was like a proud big sister, watching her fellow goaltender provide a valiant performance. Undoubtedly, the silver medal affirmed Glista’s status as a world-class competitor, assuring her place as a ball hockey legend.
Considering that the US endured a fourth place finish at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds in Zug, the chance to be part of the first-ever podium finish in program history brought with it tremendous joy for Glista. Reflecting philosophically on the ability to bounce back from a heartbreaking 2015, Glista does so with a positive outlook on the power of renewal.
“The one thing I have learned from playing with Team USA since 2007 is that each team is its own entity, you always try to build from the last Worlds but the dynamics change a lot from team to team.
Experience is always great, I think the players from the 2015 Team had a better understanding of how to prepare for Pardubice, to get the most out their training, for their position, and what they wanted to improve upon as an individual from 2015.
In preparation for the 2017 ISBHF World Championship, our coaches did an amazing job to bring individual athletes together at the few camps we had, so our preparation, though short, was very meaningful to set the team atmosphere.”
Statistically, she ranked fifth overall in save percentage (.933), posting a solid 1.50 goals against average. Of note, she would start the first game of the tournament for the US, displaying nerves of steel in a tense 2-1 shootout victory against an ambitious Italian roster. Akin to her presence at the 2015 edition of the ISBHF Worlds, Glista was named an alternate captain for the US, with the A proudly adorning her jersey.
Glista’s second game between the pipes for the US took place against Canada. Opposing longtime rival goalie Nathalie Girouard (who was 42 years young), the final score was once again 2-1. Although the final was in Canada’s favor, her steady play constantly kept the US in contention for a win, as she faced 30 shots.
Prior to Pardubice, a significant turning point for Glista took place in an unlikely spot. A key tournament in 2016 took place north of the border in Barrie, Ontario, home of their eternal Canadian rivals. Standing guard over the crease at the 20th Annual World Outdoor Ball Hockey Championships, a sentinel geared to propel her team to greatness, she played one of the greatest games of her career as she backstopped USA Happy Endings (featuring numerous teammates from the US national team) to the gold medal game.
In spite of a hardfought 1-0 loss to London Norstar, a team that featured three members of Team Italia’s roster at the 2017 ISBHF Worlds (Christina D’Ambrogio, Brittany Friesen and Frances Russo), it was a watershed moment that helped instill the belief that better things were ahead for the program. Reflecting on the experience in Barrie, Glista is quick to acknowledge that it helped to set an encouraging tone en route to the apex reached one year later in Pardubice,
“Absolutely! Many of the US women played on our Happy Endings team. Anytime we can be away at a tournament together, bonds form from learning more about each other on and off the rink. There are always positives that you can take away from spending time together.”
Among the hallmarks in Glista’s groundbreaking career, the most admirable may be her empathic dedication to giving back to the game, her presence helping to cultivate its promising future. As a co-founder of the United Women’s Ball Hockey Foundation, which also involves teammates Karen Levin and Sarah Wilson, plus her husband Jason, it is a non-profit which exists through the amazing efforts of its volunteers. The objective is to support and increase the game’s impact at numerous levels, while also looking to increase participation.
Under Glista’s stewardship, such an initiative resonates more profound in the fact that this organization for women is also run by women, helping them shape their destiny in the game. Perpetually representing her devotion to the game, with its growing list of events serving as the intersection for its superstars to interact with young players eager to emulate their heroics, not only is Glista and the rest of the wondrous women at UWBHF helping to open doors, it is an opportunity to cultivate a connection for many young fans
As ball hockey in the United States continues to evolve, Glista is part of its heartbeat. With an admiration that is poised to likely increase but never fade, she has elegantly woven an outstanding career that shall serve as a source of inspiration for future generations, eager to emulate her achievements.
Undoubtedly, the game’s fascinating history in the United States runs parallel to Glista’s growth as one of the game’s luminaries. Considering that Glista was part of the inaugural Team USA from 2007, the experience of being part of such a landmark team represented the springboard towards greater things, supplying her with the inspiration to reach greater heights and a series of proud moments that are not only destined to last a lifetime, but a group of proud teammates that became like a second family,
“I think the biggest thing that stood out to me was seeing our team come together in a very short time become a lifelong family. Our 2007 team that started it all off for us is a very close-knit family to this day and that is what I see that this group has formed. It’s not only about an amazing experience of playing the sport at the highest level at the ISBHF World Championships, but doing it with people who have become part of your hockey family.
As players, we make many sacrifices in preparation for Worlds; training time, fundraising, etc. When you get to Worlds, it shows how much hard work is put in by all of the players to form a team. I know I would do anything for every single one of those girls for the rest of my days and I know that is what they got from this trip. We love the game and we love that the game has given us an opportunity that people wish for. We have come so very far since our 2007 team.
To see the program grow every year into what it has become makes me so proud to be a small part of this organization. This sport has been so great to me. I met my husband through it; I have made so many friends and travelled the world because of it. These experiences make me want to work harder to spread the word about the sport from the grassroots, to those elite athletes looking to play at the top level and represent their country. It is what we do, for the love of the game.”
To learn more about the United Women’s Ball Hockey Foundation, please visit: http://uwbhf.org/
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: (ISBHF photos) Daniel Soucek