Chelsea Ball and Kassidy Nauboris are more than just teammates on the UOIT Ridgebacks women’s hockey team.
They both recently joined an elite club on campus.
Both women earned their respective way to the Ridgebacks 100 games club, a milestone achieved by only 16 UOIT women’s hockey players in the school’s history.
Players are honoured with a framed picture during a ceremony prior to their 100th game. One mounted plaque will be proudly hung in the players’ dressing room and another will reside in head coach Justin Caruana’s office.
What makes this award even sweeter for Nauboris and Ball, forwards for the Ridgebacks?
The two players have been best friends since childhood, when they played atom hockey on the Brampton Canadettes.
“For us to get it [100 games] at the same time was kind of fitting because we do everything together,” says Ball, a 22-year-old from Maple, Ont. who is studying forensic science.
Team captain Nauboris agrees with her assistant captain.
“Just reaching 100 games, we are both so proud of that and doing it together is a huge bonus,” says Nauboris, also 22. The Brampton native is in the kinesiology program.
There was a time it seemed unlikely both friends would get this honour at the same time. Nauboris missed a game last season and Ball, this season. The un-played games allowed them to celebrate 100 games, together.
Caruana says he is proud of both Nauboris and Ball.
“To reach the 100-game milestone is a huge accomplishment for Kassidy and Chelsea,” he says.
The coach says it’s not easy to reach the 100-game milestone. It is based on regular season games and there are 24 games each season. So, to accomplish what Nauboris and Ball did, a player needs to participate in five seasons and have some luck, with no injuries.
While UOIT’s 100 games club is relatively small, it is growing quickly.
Right after Nauboris and Ball celebrated 100 games, teammate Mariah Wilson joined them in the 100 games club. Sarah Biesenthal and Natasha Tymcio could potentially reach this milestone as well this season.
Nauboris says both women shared the same goal since age seven – to attend the same university, together.
So, half a decade ago, Ball and Nauboris chose UOIT because they felt it was a tight-knit school. Nauboris says she knew this school could reach many milestones and wanted to be a part of this growing team, now in its 12th season of play.
After five seasons of 8:30 a.m. morning practices, both women are in their fifth and final year as Ridgebacks.
The two players say they have experienced tremendous growth during their time on the ice at UOIT. Each woman has found her respective voice over time.
“We’ve definitely stepped into leadership positions, which is such an honour and so much fun,” Nauboris says.
UOIT director of athletics Scott Barker says both players are “bonafide leaders on the team and a perfect example of a dedicated student-athlete.”
Caruana says Nauboris is a very vocal and strong leader. He says one of her best traits is always being open to learning and looking to improve.
“She strives to be the best in everything she does, on the ice and in the classroom,” the coach says.
Reflecting on Ball, Caruana says she may not be the most vocal but she lets her actions do the talking, making her popular amongst her teammates.
“Chelsea is one of our most gifted players in all aspects of her game,” he says.
There are still more games to play this season but the reality for Nauboris and Ball is their chapters as Ridgebacks are coming to an end.
“At the end of five years I don’t so much mourn it [the end], I appreciate what I got from the game,” says Nauboris.
One goal is clear – the hope for the team to make the playoffs, which has eluded them since the 2013-14 season. Currently, the Ridgebacks are tied for ninth place with a three wins and an overtime loss in nine games.
The Ridgebacks are set to play the Nipissing Lakers on Nov. 17 in North Bay followed by a game in Sudbury Saturday against the Laurentian Voyageurs.