Maintaining a standard of excellence for women’s ice hockey in the Ontario University Athletics conference, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks have not only experienced the glory of national championships, but the privilege of developing some world-class talents. With the upcoming 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, a pair of proud Golden Hawks hockey alumnae shall be involved in a remarkable new sporting chapter for the Games.
As women’s baseball is being contested for the first time, former Golden Hawks blueliners Katie Psota and Ashley Stephenson are not only members of the Canadian National Women’s Baseball Team, they are also among its veterans. Having both suited up for the team since 2004, these former hockey heroes have the chance to not only experience a great career milestone, they are part of a watershed moment in the sport’s nascent history.
Psota, who plays first base for Canada, was recognized as the Canadian National Women’s Team MVP in 2009 and 2010, while earning World Cup All-Star nods in 2010 and 2012. As a side note, she trained in Australia in 2012. Stephenson would also have the honor of Team MVP bestowed upon her in 2005 and 2008.
Perhaps more impressive was the fact that these remarkable women balanced baseball and hockey while providing exemplary performances in both sports. In the Women’s World Cup of Baseball (first contested in 2004), Psota and Stephenson would appear for Canada in six World Cups, earning a silver medal (2006) and three bronze medals (2004, 2006, 2012).
During her Golden Hawks career, the pinnacle for Stephenson involved the chance to win the 2005 CIS National Women’s Championship. Between 2001 and 2006, Stephenson enjoyed four OUA championships, including four nods to the OUA All-Star Team.
Her final season with the Golden Hawks (2005-06) may have been the most memorable. In addition to earning Team MVP honors, she was named to the CIS First Team All-Canadian squad, while being named to the 2006 CIS Tournament All-Stars.
After graduation, Stephenson would enjoy a seven-year career in the original NWHL and the subsequent CWHL, competing with the Brampton Thunder, Mississauga Chiefs and the Burlington Barracudas. The highlight of her career included the gold medal at the 2008 Esso Women’s Nationals. Following her seventh concussion, Stephenson hung up her skates but joined the Toronto Furies coaching staff in the autumn of 2012.
Earning a spot in the Golden Hawk Hall of Fame in 2011, there is no question that Stephenson will likely one day be the first female player to be inducted into Canada’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
Having played for the Stoney Creek Jr. Sabres, Psota was part of a remarkable dynasty in Golden Hawks hockey, winning five consecutive OUA championships. Earning recognition as a 2008-09 CIS Academic All-Canadian, her final game with the Golden Hawks took place on March 14, 2010 as she helped the squad capture the bronze medal in the CIS Nationals with a 4-0 win over the Saint Mary’s Huskies.
As a side note, Psota and Stephenson are not the only members of the Golden Hawks women’s hockey family to have experienced glories on the diamong. Goaltender Cindy Eadie, who would compete in pro hockey with the Brampton Thunder (Stephenson would play for the Toronto Furies), competed in softball at the 2004 Athens Summer Games, helping Canada to a fifth place finish.
Current Golden Hawks assistant coach Laura MacIntosh played for Team Ontario in softball at the 2009 Canada Summer Games. Coincidentally, MacIntosh also played for the Thunder.
Canada’s first preliminary game in women’s baseball shall take place on July 20, 2015 against Cuba. With five nations competing (including Puerto Rico, the United States and Venezuela), the semifinal game shall take place on July 24, while the gold medal game takes place on July 25. All games shall take place in the Toronto suburb of Ajax, Ontario at the President’s Choice Pan Am Ballpark.
Taking into account that women’s softball was removed as a competitive sport after the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, the chance for women’s baseball to be part of the Pan Am Games calendar of events is very encouraging. As softball is still part of the Pan Am Games, perhaps baseball shall be the trigger to one day welcome back softball (and introduce baseball) to the Summer Games.
Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/baseballcanada and Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks Athletics