Lightning Women Strike Gold

Against all odds St. Mary’s University Lightning Women’s Basketball team captures first ACAC Championship in team history

On the evening of Saturday, Mar. 3 the St. Mary’s Lighting Women’s Basketball team achieved a feat that many outside of the institution may have thought impossible. The Lightning Women’s team won the Gold Medal in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Championships. In what could be viewed as a tale of David vs. Goliath, the plucky team from St. Mary’s defied all of the odds and emerged victorious for the first Championship in school history.

This is a historic and ground breaking result as St. Mary’s University is the newest, but also the smallest participant in the ACAC conference.

It is the least funded school and the one of the only universities or colleges in Canada that does not have its own gym. St. Mary’s is the only ACAC team that leaves campus for home games.

“This is a team with heart and one that truly emblematizes St. Mary’s University itself,” said Dr. Gerry Turcotte, President and Vice-Chancellor of St. Mary’s University. “This victory is truly a David and Goliath story; a story about a team with heart – at a university with heart.”

For Lightning Athletics Manager Nathan Ruff, this victory symbolizes the spirit and determination that embodies, not only the student-athletes at St. Mary’s, but the entire St. Mary’s community.
“This victory is significant for us as a program and as an institution,” said Ruff. “The fact that the ladies were able to overcome such unique adversities while maintaining their level of excellence on the court speaks to the strength of character of the individuals that we recruit into our programs.”

“Some people may have been intimated by the challenges that our athletics programs face, but our coaches and players have always believed in each other and in the program and are now beginning to see the fruits of their labour.”

Lighting Women’s Head Coach Steve Shoults acknowledges that his team may be viewed as underdogs by those outside of the St. Mary’s community but believes that the only adversities the team faces are ones that they create for themselves.

“The great thing about where we are as a program is we don’t see ourselves as team with adversities other than ones we create,” explained Shoults. “Not having a gym isn’t something we think about or use as a reason not to succeed; it’s simply something we are dealt with and out of our control. The girls we have in our program do not come with excuses, they come with work ethic and determination to be the best.”

This gold medal is the culmination of a journey that began four years ago when Shoults joined the program. The championship team features four players from four years ago who joined at the same time as Shoults and helped plant the seeds of success in those early days.

“There are four players and two coaches (including myself) still here from four years ago when we all joined the program. As a coach walking into a program with very little expectation, I was confident that we were beginning a journey as a winning program,” said Shoults.

“This accomplishment means so much to everyone within this program. We are seen as underdogs due to the size of our school and not having a gym. Walking into the dressing room before our first playoff game, I witnessed a team come together and at that moment I knew we were about to take a special journey together.”

“We have been termed as the ‘Cinderella Team’, but no one in our dressing room doubted what we could accomplish. We’ve used the phrase ‘What is Next’ to guide us and by focusing on that, no matter what adversity we faced, we were able to achieve the acronym with that phrase and WIN!”

The Lightning Women’s team will now travel to Sackville, NB to compete in the Canadian Collegiate Athletics Association (CCAA) National Championships, which will mark their second trip to the National tournament and first as ACAC Champions.