The University of Saskatchewan ladies softball team earned a bronze medal at the national tournament held in Regina Oct. 6 – 8. It marks the fourth time the U of S team has medaled at the national championships since the team’s inception in 2008.
“This team is the best-kept sports secret in Saskatoon,” the club’s head coach Brian Shalovelo said.
Shalovelo feels that part of the reason his team doesn’t garner as much attention as other U of S sports teams is because his team is ineligible to don the ‘Huskies’ name; a sports tag that Saskatoon locals connect with high level university sport.
Shalovelo has asked for permission from the U of S to use the moniker and been refused. The university’s official nickname is reserved for varsity sports teams — Huskie Athletics holds a copyright on the Huskies name and logo.
Shalovelo’s squad is made up entirely of U of S students, but the team’s jerseys do not display a nickname, only the words “U of S Softball.”
“Only teams that are Canada West and CIS sports [teams] have the Huskie name,” said Nicole Betker, the Huskie Athletics sports information director.
“Softball is deemed a club sport,” added Betker. And clubs do not compete in either Canada West or CIS.
The U of S boasts the motto, “We are all Huskies,” but last year the cheerleading team found itself also excluded from using the Huskies name. In June 2011, lawyers from the university’s athletics department sent a letter to the coach of the cheer team informing him that their right to use the name had been revoked. The squad was forced to return their jerseys and to stop choreographed cheering on the sidelines of home sporting events.
The team still competes at national competitions but is now called the U of S Cheerleading Team.
Despite the university’s policy on the distribution of the Huskies name, the women’s softball team is still proud of their achievement, which highlights the high skill level of women’s softball at the University of Saskatchewan.
“The team really came together at nationals. We played some tough games in the tournament but came through strong in the end,” said Kelsey Wildeman, who plays left field for the team.
The squad played five games in round-robin competition at nationals, going 3-2 to make it to the bronze medal game. In the medal game they faced off against Humber College, a post-secondary team from Toronto.
Humber had given the U of S one of their two round-robin losses earlier in the weekend and it looked like the bronze medal game would have the same outcome. Humber jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning.
The Saskatchewan squad batted in the bottom of the fourth, though, and took over the game. The team seemed to suddenly know exactly where Humber’s pitcher was going to throw the ball. The U of S went through their entire batting line up and finished the inning ahead 7-6. The Saskatchewan ladies didn’t look back after that, adding another three runs in the sixth inning and playing strong in the field to not allow Humber another point.
The U of S squad won the game and medal with a score of 10-6.
Coach Shalovelo will hang the new medal alongside the team’s gold medals won in 2010 and 2008 and silver in 2009.
Photo: Cheryl Shalovelo