This week has been a busy one for members of the Zone 6 softball team as they prepare to leave for the B.C. Summer Games on Thursday.
Colwood resident Devon Rees is one of those players gearing up to wear the colours of the Vancouver Island-Central Coast team. In preparation, Rees said she’s “been in the backyard a lot, hitting and fielding with my dad.”
A softball player since roughly the age of six, she’ll be playing the sport for Zone 6 for the first time. But it won’t be her first time at the Summer Games, as she played soccer back in 2012. Rees was 11 at the time and is really looking forward to her second trip.
“Now, I’m 16 and feel I’m at a better age to fully enjoy the atmosphere and appreciate being part of such a large number of terrific athletes,” she added.
Also representing the West Shore on the Zone 6 girls softball team are stepsisters Carmen Eilertsen and Jade Hadley. The Metchosin-based catcher-pitcher combo have been playing together for four years.
With Eilertsen, 16, pitching and Hadley, 15, catching, this will be their first time competing at the Games.
“I’m a little nervous (but) I’m looking forward to playing with other girls,” Eilertsen said.
“I’ve been practising every day with Jade … I’ve been going through different pitches just making sure they’re ready for the Games.”
Hadley added she likes catching for Eilertsen the most, “because I get to know her on and off the field. It’s easier to call the game.”
Knowing her pitcher on a very personal level gives Hadley a leg up on the competition and she can tell if something just isn’t going to fly in a game.
Eilertsen noted their unique relationship gives them a few extra opportunities. “We’ve been talking at home about pitches that work and pitches that don’t work in games,” she said.
Hadley is also a little nervous about competing in the Games, but is excited about working with new teammates and facing off against some new opponents. “I’ve been playing with the same girls for four years so I’m looking forward to adding diversity,” she said.
Hadley, Eilertsen and Rees, who plays shortstop, are all members of the Victoria Devils 2000 team during the regular season. The team heads to the Canadian National Fast Pitch Championships in Montreal next month. “My club team has been playing in a lot of tournaments and we just had provincials,” Rees added.
With most members of the Zone 6 team coming off similar schedules, it’s been challenging to find time to practice. But Duncan-based head coach Stan McKinlay said “if they weren’t playing, we were (practising).”
Having the girls playing in those high-level tournaments with their regular teams has also helped prepare them for the Games.
“They’re playing at that calibre all the time,” McKinlay said. “They’ve got a good attitude … Mentally, I think they’re ready to go.”
But that hasn’t stopped the team from hitting the diamond every day this week leading up to their Thursday departure.
While the team usually practises in Duncan, this week they have been working out in View Royal, which is a little closer to home for the roughly half a dozen other Devils on the team.
When asked if it was difficult to team up with players that are usually on the opposing side, Rees said, “it was at first, but now everyone is nice and friendly.”
Provincials also afforded the local girls a chance to size up their potential competition in the upcoming Games, and Rees likes their chances.
“I think we have a really good chance of winning it,” she noted.
McKinlay has been coaching the Summer Games softball team for four years and is optimistic about this year’s chances. “This team is probably the most talented I’ve had so far,” he said.
Other Greater Victoria athletes on the Zone 6 team include Sierra Gillis of Highlands, Rachel Bobroske, Gabby Freer, Emma Glawson, Kala Gyorfi and Zoe Kinakin, as well as assistant coach Bria Wilson.
One thing they all have in common is they can’t wait to get back on the field to compete in the Games.
Find more B.C. Summer Games coverage on our website under Sports.