HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
U SPORTS GOLDEN SERIES: Four Ottawa female student-athletes won U Sports championships in three different sports during the 2021-22 university varsity season. Their stories will be presented here this week. Here is Part 2 of 4:
By Martin Cleary
When you’re an athlete, you never know how a season will unfold and what challenges await you.
For the majority of her hockey career, Ottawa’s Sandrine Lavictoire skated for her various boys and girls’ teams in Rockland, ON., the Canadian International Hockey Academy U19 side and the Nepean Wildcats, rarely missing a practice or game.
The same was true when she played her first two seasons with the Concordia Stingers of the Quebec university league. She was a dependable defender and contributed in many ways during her combined 38 regular-season games, including two goals and six assists.
But the past two seasons have been unlike anything she has ever experienced – the COVID-19 pandemic, a back injury, getting COVID-19 herself (which had doctors monitor her systolic heart murmur), breaking her right thumb in a fall, and then, to top it off, living through the joy and pain of watching the Stingers win the Canadian university women’s hockey championship and not take a single shift.
“I’ve never been injured in my life,” Lavictoire said in a recent interview. “It all happened in one year.”
That one year was the 2021-22 season for the fourth-year political science student/athlete.
After the pandemic forced the RSEQ to cancel the entire 2020-21 regular and playoff seasons, Lavictoire only managed to play two pre-season games in 2021-22 as one thing after another kept her off her skates in potentially her final season at Concordia.
But as the 21-year-old dealt with her injuries and COVID, Lavictoire stayed fully connected with her Stingers teammates. She would talk to the players in the dressing room before and after the games and serve as team statistician.
“It’s such a tight group and we’re all good friends,” she added. “My biggest role was to cheer on the team. I was still part of the team and wanted success with them. I would still train and do my recovery.”
The Stingers finished second in the RSEQ regular season with 11 wins, three losses and an overtime win to place second to McGill University.
In the playoffs, the Stingers were unstoppable, winning seven consecutive games and outscoring their opposition 25-2. Concordia swept a pair of best-of-three rounds against the Université de Montréal in the semifinals and McGill in the RSEQ final.
The Stingers were at the top of the games offensively and defensively at the U Sports national championship, recording three straight shutout victories – 7-0 over the University of Prince Edward Island in the quarterfinals, 2-0 over the University of Saskatchewan in the semifinals and 4-0 over Nipissing University in the championship game.
“I can honestly say I was less stressed watching the U Sports tournament than the RSEQ tournament,” Lavictoire explained. “I was confident in our team. This was where we were meant to be. It was such a cool experience. We could show off what we could do.”
Concordia was the top-seeded team entering the eight-team U Sports championship and won its first women’s hockey title since 1999, which was also the first Stingers national title in a decade out of all sports.
“The final was definitely amazing. I was so proud and happy for them. And I was proud of myself for being a part of that group. And there was a little sadness that I couldn’t play any of the games.”
Throughout her fourth season with the Stingers, Lavictoire was happy for her teammates’ achievements, but sad she was unable to be part of the power-play unit, carry the puck up the ice or make that crisp first pass out of her defensive zone.
Togetherness, however, pulled her through a difficult season.
While she was recovering from COVID-19 and just before she broke her thumb, Lavictoire and 17 of her teammates and seven alumni took part in coaching certification courses through Hockey Canada’s Pond to Podium development series. Lavictoire completed the Coach 1 and Coach 2 online courses, which could one day be the backbone of a coaching career.
“It was definitely hard. You see your friends and team play every game and I wished it were me, too. I can do that, play and help. Mentally, it was definitely difficult,” Lavictoire reflected.
“Definitely there was some joy to live through those moments with my best friends. There was a mix of sadness, but also happiness for the team.”
Despite all the negativity of the past two seasons, Lavictoire ended her fourth women’s hockey season with Concordia achieving her ultimate hockey goal, winning a U Sports national championship.
“I’ve checked the biggest box of all,” she underlined. “I’m proud and happy.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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