The victorious Yellowknife U19 softball team after winning the division D at provincials in Blackfalds, Alberta. Photo supplied by Stacey Lymer
In their first tournament against other women’s teams, the Yellowknife Wolverines ended up taking home the big trophy.
Ella Skauge and Brooklyn Helyar agree that the highlight of Alberta softball provincials came in the final moments of the tournament.
“My favourite moment from the trip was the last out of the last game. It was a pretty cool moment when our whole team came together and realized what just happened,” Skauge said.
Following a close loss in their first game, the team bounced back with a winning streak that continued to the finals, where a 7-6 win over a Red Deer team handed them Alberta’s U19 women’s provincial D division title.
The division also included teams from Airdrie, Calgary, Fort Saskatchewan and Grande Prairie.
“I still can’t believe it happened. We thought that we would be competitive, maybe, but we had no idea what to expect – and then to come out and win,” said Stacey Lymer, one of the Wolverines’ coaches.
Lymer played softball for more than 20 years before becoming a coach. After moving to Yellowknife three years ago, she quickly became involved in coaching fastball and softball in the city.
“They are such great kids to coach. They are just so eager to learn and just excited to be on the ball field. And as a coach, that’s such an amazing experience when kids just want to learn and be there,” she said.
She credits the group’s camaraderie and sportsmanship for leading the team to the top of the pack.
“The one thing about being a team is you could have one great player, but that does not make a team, And the Yellowknife team is one, the girls are extremely close. They work very well together,” she said.
This tournament marks the first time a women’s softball team from the Northwest Territories has competed at provincials.
“We had no expectations. We were just gonna go down and see what was gonna happen,” said Greg Skauge, another coach of the team, adding the Wolverines had only six or seven practices prior to the tournament.
“After the first game, we were still excited about our showing. It just kept us really pumped about going into the next few games, knowing that we can play with these other girls and teams. I think we surprised ourselves a lot,” he said.
Both coaches stressed the team could not have made it to provincials without the support of Jenn Lukas, Steve Thomas and the wider community.
Following the Covid-`19 pandemic, there has been growing interest in fastball and softball in the city. The Yellowknife minor fastball program increased by 100 participants last year, according to Lymer, leading to a shortage of facilities in Yellowknife.
“I hope more women come out and play, even if you’ve never tried before. It doesn’t matter even if you have no skill set, we’ll help to develop you,” she said. “We’d like to see more successful young women and also more successful young men.”
The team’s success at provincials has bumped the team up from division D to division C. All members of the current team will remain age-eligible to play U19 softball next season.