By Doug Kennedy
Ripley native Madison Beishuizen is impressing her coaches and teammates as a member of the Syracuse University women’s hockey team. (Submitted photo)
Madison Beishuizen should be enjoying the best four years of her life as a student-athlete at Syracuse University. But like many people in the world today, a chunk of her life has been put on hold.
Beishuizen’s school year ended suddenly when she wasn’t allowed to return to university after spring break, although she completed her scholastic year by finishing the final six weeks of the semester via online courses. Her freshman hockey season ended in early March when the Orange were ousted from the College Hockey America (CHA) tournament by the Robert Morris University Colonials.
Hopefully, she will head back to upstate New York in the fall for her sophomore season. There is no guarantee right now, however, given the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ripley native’s path to Syracuse started with the minor hockey program in her hometown. Beishuizen moved on to the Saugeen Maitland Lightning, where she played before joining the Kitchener Rangers junior team. It was in Kitchener where she attracted the attention of Orange head coach Paul Flanagan, and was offered a division one scholarship.
Flanagan was rewarded for the offer as Beishuizen’s 13 points during the regular season were second-highest among freshman in CHA play, and landed her a spot on the league’s all-rookie team.
Among her favourite memories from the first season were playing in her first game and hearing her name announced when the starting lineups were introduced. Beishuizen also enjoyed being around her teammates and meeting other NCAA athletes from around the United States and Canada.
Like all elite-level players, Beishuizen wants to continue improving her game next season. Gaining the confidence of the coaching staff to use her in all situations, capitalizing more on her scoring chances, and taking strides in her defensive game are at the top of her list. She is one of 13 players returning, so the Orange appear to have a bright future for the next couple of years.
Syracuse University, best known among sports fans for the men’s basketball program Jim Boeheim has led for 40-plus years, has 23,000 students on campus. It amazes Beishuizen that a school with a student body of that magnitude can manage to keep class sizes fairly small. Just as amazing for the young woman from Huron Kinloss are the amenities available to the university’s student-athletes.
A normal day for the women’s hockey team starts with an early breakfast. After, they practice from 9-10:30 a.m. Twice each week they are in the gym to work on conditioning and strength. Classes are from 12:45 to 5:30 p.m., then it is home for dinner and homework until 9 or 10 p.m.
I asked what was her favourite other sport to watch on campus. She said she loves watching the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The men’s team has the number one attendance record in U.S. college hoops, and she describes the atmosphere as one of a kind.
Another thing she likes about school life is how all the sports teams work together. All the teams are brought together by “Cuse” family rituals, such as the freshman S-Project, bringing together first-year students from all of the school’s sports programs to help them adapt to university. The S-Project also includes community initiatives like helping local food banks.
If things get back to normal, Beishuizen will return to school in mid-August, just before the scheduled start of classes. Having seen one of her games last year, I’ll very safely predict that she is going to be a top player for the Orange, and I look forward to seeing her play over the next three years.
Thumbs-up to a sports movie about a football player who beat all odds to be drafted to the NFL, only to be killed in a car accident just before he was supposed to go to training camp. The name of movie is Greater, the Brandon Burlsworth Story, on Netflix.
Thumbs-up to Phil Westman, the current general manager of the Stratford Cullitons. I forgot to mention last week that Westman was the head coach in Stratford who gave Ryker Killins the opportunity to play Junior B hockey as a 16-year-old. Sometimes, all a young athlete needs is for someone to believe in him or her, and Westman’s faith in Killins turned out to be very well-founded.