As Team Italia continues to rise in prominence among the competitive nations of women’s ball hockey, ambitiously aiming towards a podium finish at the 2017 ISBHF Worlds in Pardubice, Czech Republic, optimism reigns. Among the players that represent such bright potential, goaltender Mary-Beth Bellissimo embodies such an optimistic essence.
Having debuted with the national team as a teenager, Bellissimo holds the potential to be a key building block between the pipes, providing a combination of youthful enthusiasm and a steadily improving confidence that exemplifies maturity.
Bellissimo is among a handful of members on Team Italia’s roster that were raised in the Greater Toronto Area, contributing to a growing legacy in team history, in which all are proud of their Italian heritage. Of note, Bellissimo brings a strong sporting breadth, having competed in ice hockey with the Etobicoke Dolphins program, combining proficiency in taekwondo and an enjoyment of soccer.
Prompted by her father, an encouraged Bellissimo took the next step in her career. Attending a Team Italia tryout staged in the Greater Toronto Area, it would prove to be the springboard towards the opportunity of competing at the international level. Escaping her comfort zone, summoning the courageous confidence to attend the tryouts, it represented a positive experience that saw Bellissimo gain the privilege of donning the Team Italia colors at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds in Zug, Switzerland, while emerging as one of the youngest competitors in team history.
“My encounter with Team Italia first came when my dad told me to go to the tryout. At first I was reluctant to go as I was very busy with balancing school, work, ice hockey, and Tae Kwon Do.
As the date neared towards the tryout and my dad kept encouraging me to go, I finally decided that it might be a good idea to tryout. It turns out that this decision was spectacular and I have loved every moment I have had with Team Italia.”
Among her teammates included the likes of Nicole Corriero, the NCAA’s single season record holder for most goals in one season, along with a pair of CWHL standouts, featuring Kori Cheverie, the all-time leading scorer in Toronto Furies history and Brampton Thunder veteran star Liz Knox. Led by team captain Christina D’Ambrogio, the squad featured a contingent of proud Italian-Canadian players, of which Bellissimo was one. In reflecting on the opportunity of donning the Italia jersey for the first time, it was an emotional moment that represented the next stage in her ball hockey career, while getting in touch with her proud heritage,
“The first time I wore the Team Italia jersey it felt absolutely awesome from a spiritual view. On the other hand, from a physical view the jersey did not fit like a glove because the manufactures messed up. But other than that it was a wonderful feeling to put on a jersey from a country where my roots have come from.”
Joined by veteran backstop Trina Pirone (who ranked tenth in tournament play in save percentage), the two formed an admirable duo. Statistically, Bellissimo compiled an .870 save percentage, ranking eleventh overall, while facing 85 shots. She also ranked among the top in goaltenders for minutes played, pacing all rookie netminders with 184 minutes played,
Displaying great confidence between the pipes, Bellissimo provided a steady presence for an Italia squad that improved on their performance from the previous Worlds. Part of a determined effort to keep their podium hopes alive in Zug, Bellissimo contributed towards one of the most admirable and valiant performances in tournament lore.
Taking to the court against the traditionally dominant Czech Republic, a consistent contender for the gold medal, Bellissimo faced an endless barrage of shots, preserving a scoreless tie, resulting in a significant milestone for both team and goaltender alike. Displaying the poise of a veteran in such a pivotal game, the courageous play of Bellissimo contributed to one of the most important results in team history, simultaneously serving as her coming-out party while affirming her status as a rising star on the biggest stage for ball hockey.
“I would have to say my most favourite moment of my ball hockey career, would have to be the game against the Czech Republic. What a game I have to remember. I honestly don’t think I have ever played a game so well in my life.
The Czech Republic was dominating and was coming at us with full force but Team Italia stood strong. I don’t know if it was the food I ate before the game, but I stood tall and ended up getting my first shutout of the tournament that game.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from: http://zug2015.com/en/teams/women/group-5/ita-italy/