In a career that has run parallel to the progressive rise of women’s Team Italia as a medal contender in international ball hockey, Annalisa Mazzarello approaches the 2017 ISBHF World Championships in Pardubice, Czech Republic, with an insatiable enthusiasm. Having graced the court with Team Italia in the preceding championships of 2013 and 2015, their first two appearances in team history, she has brought a pioneering spirit while contributing to an unforgettable time as the team has driven forward and broken new ground.
Akin to so many of her teammates, Mazzarello is a Canadian-born player with proud Italian lineage, extending her love of the game while honoring her heritage as a member of Team Italia. As the 2013 ISBHF Worlds were hosted on home soil in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, simultaneously the tournament debut for Team Italia, it resulted in the best of both worlds for many members of the roster, such as Mazzarello, providing emotions of enormous fulfillment.
Taking to the court on June 4, 2013, Team Italia’s first-ever game at the ISBHF Worlds, their opponents on this day were the United States. In spite of being on the opposite end of a 3-2 final, there was a sense of both history and achievement. Such sentiment was even more profound for Mazzarello, who scored the first-ever goal for Italia in international play. As a side note, Danielle Orgera was the starter between the pipes.
Having been able to record the first goal in team history, it was a treasured touchstone that represents a significant legacy for Mazzarello. Taking into account that she was a “rookie” in the sport, the chance to compete on such a grand stage resulted in an everlasting sense of pride, increasing her confidence as a world-class competitor while making her mark in team lore.
“Scoring Team Italia’s first-ever goal at the ISBHF Worlds was such an amazing feeling. I was especially proud because I felt that I needed to prove myself to the team. I remember joining Team Italia, not knowing anyone, and I did not know much about Worlds and the game of ball hockey in general.
Having this accomplishment of being chosen to play will always be in the back of my mind, and will always feel incredible. I still remember the play of the goal like it was yesterday. It was our first game against the United States, we had just finished being on a power play. I was along the boards with the ball and gave a pass to my teammate (Analisa Romano) and she instantly passed it back to me.
I settled the ball down, moved in and shot it, not really thinking anything of it, and the ball went in. At first, I didn’t see it or believe it but I looked over to the ref and his arm was out signaling a goal and all I could think of was, ‘Wow, I did it, I scored!.’ I remember jumping and being so pumped up, and immediately ran back to our bench to celebrate with the team.
The cheering from the bench was unbelievably loud (which is fitting for Italians). The smile on my face was from ear to ear and I was shaking with excitement. After the game, the team presented me with the ball that was used to score the first ever goal, which they had also signed. It’s now sitting on my desk in my room in a shadow box, and I look at it every day. I will always remember that moment as part of Team Italia.”
When not on the court, Mazzarello can be found competing in the Ottawa Vanier Women’s Ball Hockey League, one of the nation’s finest. With her growing international legacy, she is among a who’s who of hockey stars that can be found on the Mooseheads roster.
From the outset, Alicia Blomberg, who shall be joining Team Italia for the 2017 Worlds, is also a Mooseheads teammate, allowing for strong chemistry leading into the quest for a podium finish. Kayla Hottot, like Blomberg, also played hockey at the University of Ottawa and was a Red Bull Crashed Ice competitor.
Sara Seiler, a former competitor for Germany at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, joins the Mooseheads in 2017, providing strong leadership. Kendra Antony, a scoring legend at the University of Wisconsin, plus Elysia Desmier, a former competitor with the Brampton Thunder are among the scoring catalysts for the Mooseheads.
Three of the most prominent figures in the OVWBHL can also be found as teammates of Mazzarello’s on the Mooseheads this season. Among them are Shelley Callaghan, Lesley MacArthur and Nathalie Girouard, who captured the gold with Team Canada at the 2013 and 2015 ISBHF Women’s Worlds. As a side note, Girouard was named to Canada’s roster for the 2017 Worlds.
Having gained the opportunity to sharpen her skills while gaining valuable experience from her time with the Mooseheads, it has paid valuable dividends. In the summer of 2016, Mazzarello added an exciting new dimension to her ball hockey career, as the Mooseheads competed in the CBHA national championships.
With the 2017 ISBHF Worlds looming on the horizon, Mazzarello can be counted on to emerge as an even stronger leader for Team Italia. In discussing what she enjoys most about suiting up for the team, representing the land of her roots, many important aspects, highlighted by a strong sense of family and unity are evident. With an appreciation of her teammates that rises to the surface, she remains humble, focused on the role of helping the team attain their best finish ever,
“I think what I enjoy most about being a part of Team Italia is the family like atmosphere. The coaching staff is incredible and every player has some unique characteristic to bring forward. Everyone loves to joke around, have fun, spend time with each other, and once it comes time to play the game every player works hard to give her all. It truly is an honor to be part of Team Italia.
A leader? Yes. I am a veteran on Team Italia. This upcoming June in Pardubice, Czech Republic, will be my third time playing for the team. However, I see myself as a quiet leader. I don’t usually say much, however, I’m always one to encourage players on a job well done, hoping to boost their confidence and calming their nerves.
I am willing to play in any situation needed, whether it be on the power play, penalty kill, even strength or any set play in which the coaches want to use me. I am willing to work hard on and off the slab, develop my skills and compete to the best of my ability to give the team the greatest chance at coming out on top.”
Reflecting on her treasured Team Italia experiences, a sense of appreciation brings with it a dual role, simultaneously providing Mazzarello with her favorite moment. With the team experience embodying unification, such realization was reached at Zug 2015 in a most astonishing way.
An impromptu postgame meal held in the hallway of the hotel that housed the participating teams resulted in more than just a team-building moment. It was one of the tournament’s most heartwarming highlights, as the daily ritual of breaking bread was transformed into a chance to get better acquainted, while fostering a sense of friendship that exemplified how teamwork extends beyond the court.
“It is definitely hard to pick just one moment during my career with Team Italia because there are really so many. There’s scoring Italy’s first ever goal, being part of the team’s first ever win, getting “Screeched In” in Newfoundland, receiving MVP against the dominant Team Canada, the chocolate factory experience in Switzerland, and boat paddling on the lake in Old Zug, Switzerland.
However, for me the moment that stuck out the most was on the second night in Zug. We took all the desks and chairs from every room and assembled a long table in the hallway. I remember sitting with all my teammates and coaching staff and thinking, ‘This is amazing! It feels like my Sunday family dinners back home in Ottawa’.
We all ate together, while laughing and talking. Of course, our meal consisted of pasta. One of my teammates (Michelle Durante) made the sauce herself and everyone else boiled the pasta in their rooms. I remember while we were eating, other players from other teams were looking out of their rooms to see what was going on. Clearly, I think they were jealous of our togetherness and wanted to be part of our Italian famiglia!”
The feeling of “famiglia” took on an admirable importance prior to Easter. Mazzarello made the commute from Canada’s capital to take part in a Team Italia fundraiser which took place in the Greater Toronto Area. It was the kind of event which helped to set an enjoyable tone for the roster, as they aim for their first-ever podium finish in ISBHF history.
Of note, there is already an impression of history for Team Italia, even before the opening faceoff at the 2017 edition of the ISBHF Worlds. The roster features a new record, consisting of four sets of sensational sisters donning the Team Italia jersey, emphasizing the theme of family which makes these wondrous women such an exceptional group.
Having assembled the most talented roster in team history, Mazzarello hopes that this extraordinary momentum continues with the first-ever podium finish in team history. With a team that has continued to progress with each successive tournament, there is a collaborative sense of mission, aspiring to be in the same conversation as Canada, Czech Republic and Slovakia among the cream of the crop in ball hockey competition.
“If Team Italia could come out from Pardubice with a medal, I think I speak for everyone when I say the feeling would be unreal- overwhelming and unforgettable. Going into a tournament, your goal is always gold.
I feel as though Team Italia is considered the underdogs (even though it will be our third appearance), but I think teams like us are the ones that are most exciting to watch. Our team has a lot of speed, skill, determination, work ethic and pride. I think we will surprise many in Pardubice and I can’t wait to put that jersey on, run onto the slab, hear the Italian national anthem and be part of this special team. Forza Italia!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
To make a donation for Mazzarello's ball hockey journey, please visit: https://makeachamp.com/annalisamazzarello