Women’s softball captains selected
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
While some outside of sports imagine captains as little more than figureheads, those within know that strong leadership is integral to the success of any team. The women’s softball team this year, with nine freshmen, knows that better than anyone. With the Royals 5-1 in a pre-season tournament and off to a 4-0 start in the regular season, it looks like they’ve found that leadership in Hillary Strelau and Jennifer McKellar.
Strelau is in her second season with the Royals after joining the squad fresh out of high school, and one could say she has a fair bit of familiarity with the game. Born and raised in Richmond, she took to softball at the age of five and hasn’t looked back. Strelau serves as a utility player for the Royals, which helps to display the versatility she’s had throughout her whole life as she’s found success in several other sports—soccer, volleyball, and basketball. Along the way she’s dislocated both her knees (due to soccer and softball), but she’s never let injuries slow her down. In terms of career highlights, Strelau cites playing for Team BC and winning gold at last year’s Canadian Summer Games, an event which also featured a key figure in her life who convinced her to play at Douglas.
“My inspiration would have to be my old coach Gord Collings. He coached me in my freshman year at Douglas and also on Team BC. He is my biggest supporter and a great human being.”
The other Royals captain has taken a roundabout trip to end up in New Westminster. Similarly to Strelau, McKellar is a BC product, though her upbringing was in Cloverdale. She also started playing at a young age (six), can play multiple positions (comfortable at second base and right field, along with being a designated hitter), and participated in multiple sports (soccer and volleyball) growing up. The fact that both are dynamite at softball aside, that’s where their similarities in their trips to Douglas end. McKellar’s post-secondary career started at Aiken Technical College in South Carolina after she landed a scholarship coming out of her grade 12 year. Her time south of the border proved fruitful, as she picked up several accolades including female athlete of the year, the college’s highest academic honour, being named an academic All-American, and receiving second team all-region honours. After completing her diploma at Aiken Tech, McKellar returned home and took a semester off before enrolling in Douglas College’s Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching program. Upon learning that one of her former rep coaches, Michelle Peters, was coaching the Royals, McKellar tried out for the squad and made it as a walk-on.
“Coach Michelle is a huge inspiration for me and has been since I was 16. It’s my dream to one day coach with her and learn that side of the game from her as I have learned so much as a player.”
While the team is mostly freshman, neither captain has any doubts about what the group is capable of.
“When you look at us on paper, you might not think we’re the strongest team or the most experienced because we are mostly freshman, but that doesn’t define us. All the girls are capable of playing highly skilled ball and have played their whole lives. We are going to be a team that is always going to battle in the field no matter what the score says because we’ve got heart,” said Strelau.
McKellar, recognized affectionately by her teammates as the “mom” due to her extra years out of high school, commented that, “I know we are good enough to make it to the championships and I hope we can live up to that potential.”
The paths the two have taken to get to this point may be different, but the one they’re on now is one and the same, and the Royals couldn’t have hoped for it to work out any better.