For Tsawwassen resident and UBC women’s softball coach Gord Collings it just might be his most convenient recruiting class ever.
When it came time to fill five future roster spots with 2019 high school graduates, Collings looked no further than one of the most accomplished teams ever to come out of the Delta Fastpitch rep program.
The 2001 Delta Heat won the U16 Canadian championship in 2017 and earned bronze this past summer in its first of three attempts at the U19 level. Now four players have officially committed to continuing their careers with the Thunderbirds — Megan Hendrickson, Hanna Hansen, Olivia Malesku and Emily Horne.
“They are very special. Probably one of the top three teams ever,” said Collings who enjoyed plenty of success with the Heat organization himself before taking his coaching career to the university level.
“They have a skill set that fits perfectly for us. They are also character athletes and those are the kind of athletes we want at UBC. The big plus is the academics and they are very good academic students as well. They have the complete package.”
Malesku, Hansen and Hendrickson have been teammates in South Delta since their Super Mite days back at the U10 level. UBC has been the desired destination of Hansen and Malesku for some time.
“For me, I always wanted to stay in Canada,” said Hansen, who plays mostly center field for the Heat. “It was about staying close to home, getting a really good education and playing the sport I love.”
“It was mainly because of the academics,” added Malesku, the team’s starting catcher. “That’s what really interested me and I really like Gord too. He is a great coach and I wanted to try and help my own local university out.”
UBC is a change in paths for Hendrickson.
Her father Scott took his football career to the University of Minnesota before playing in the CFL. Hendrickson was heading south too before de-committing to Central Washington last summer.
“As I kid I always wanted to be like him and play in the States,” said Hendrickson who was the winning pitcher in the 2017 nationals’ gold medal game. “But it’s definitely the right choice to go to UBC. They really focus on education and softball which is the perfect equal for me.”
Making the girls’ decision easier too is the Thunderbirds get a steady diet of U.S. opponents playing at the NAIA level. So it’s a taste of U.S. college sports while attending one of the top academic schools in the country.
“We have been building the program and it’s a case of having them seeing it is a credible option playing NAIA,” continued Collings. “They had the opportunity to come watch us play and they see it is very competitive. It’s not just a matter of continuing their careers but also doing it in a competitive setting.”
The local trio also happen to be multi-sport athletes.
Hendrickson is a key member of the South Delta Sun Devils volleyball team that is trying to lock down another provincial berth. Malesku and Hansen have significant roles with the Delta Pacers basketball team that has enjoyed a very competitive run since Grade 8. Hansen also plays volleyball.
“I find the players that are most successful are the ones that are multi-dimensional,” added Collings. “They have had the opportunity to participate in different sports and get a different perspective too. It allows them to get a better feel for team sports.”