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Stacey Colarossi: Seven special years, in the blink of an eye

No one is suggesting it will ever be easy for Stacey Colarossi to set aside the frustration and disappointment of how her seven year run at the helm of the fledgling Laurentian Voyageurs women's hockey team program came to an end.

So many unanswered questions. So understandable to migrate to the thoughts of how things were allowed to fester, financially speaking, at the institution that would give the 45 year old native of Georgetown her first crack at the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) head coaching ranks.

Still, occasionally, between the tears, time is alloted to ponder over all that was good about the experience. In spite of a final destination that Colarossi would just as soon forget lie the memories of a journey that produced countless special moments.

"When I look at the progression from where we started, thinking of those players that we had that first year and what they have accomplished now, seeing the notes that they have sent, it's heart-warming," said the woman who would spend nine years as an assistant coach with Dan Church and a very solid York Lions program.

Quickly, the thoughts turn to the what ifs, even those that are not necessarily personal in nature.

"It's disappointing not to finish what the vision was," said Colarossi. "It's so disappointing for the next generation who won't have this opportunity."

And so we look back, back on the initial lure of the north, gut feelings that were validated upon arrival.

"One of the big pieces for me when deciding to come up here was the sense of community," said Colarossi. "People still open doors for you and say hello and make eye contact when they pass you on the street."

"That has run throughout my entire time in Sudbury. It made an impression before I got here, and it held true to that."

The chance to follow her coaching dreams would come in a setting that is not necessarily enjoyed by each and every one of her counterparts across the province.

"It's easy to hand someone a program of your institution which outlines the programs that are offered, but tougher to get them to understand the sense of community," suggested Colarossi. "Even though we're 150,000 people, it still has the feel of a small community that truly supports sport."

Which is not to suggest, in the least, that her time as a Voyageur was devoid of challenges.

With more than 55,000 students, York ranks as the third largest university in the country. At less than one-fifth that size, it might be esier to find Laurentian on that list by flipping it upside down.

"I think you need to have an understanding of the process within each individual institution as quickly as you can, learning how things really work," said Colarossi. "York has boatloads or support and resources. At Laurentian, you are far more on an island by yourself."

Yet both on and off the ice, she can clearly see signs of progress.

"I am night and day different as a coach. I think I've matured. I've also had a child as well, which teaches you a different level of patience and time management," Colarossi stated with a smile.

"I think I certainly have evolved in a positive way."

Local coaches Willy Montpellier and Wayne Drabick contributed significantly to that evolution. "They were perfect for what we needed at that time," said Colarossi. "They pushed me and challenged me."

Yet through it all shone certain moments - some more hockey related than others.

"Making the playoffs and coming within a post of pushing Guelph out - there were a lot of games where we beat those hard teams, and those wins were pretty special," said Colarossi.

"But so were the random dance parties in the dressing room - even ones that included me, with the players laughing at me. We would get these kids from the GTA that don't know how to drive in the snow."

"They would send out a text that said nothing me than "stuck here" - and suddenly there are 17 people in eight different cars that show up - and before you know it, there's a snowball fight on the side of the road that has broken out."

"It's those memories that build the foundation of a program, the foundation of a team."

"We had to really sell the idea that we were family centric - and I really believe it," Colarossi continued. "There were far more laughs and jokes to remember, and the intensity of those games which is why we play."

"I'm a pretty passionate coach and I care a lot about the people I work with every day."

And while each and every one of the dozens of players that passed through her room will invoke some type of vision in her mind, there are certainly some whom will linger longer than others, especially when someone opens with a specific personal trait of some sort:

High Energy: Nicole Vigilanti - and her impromptu dances; Megan Arnott - "once she got in the room and it was game day, she was fired up"; Brooklyn Davis - "which is kind of funny because she never spoke - just her routine"; Samantha Morell - "especially in her later years"

Leadership: Ellery Veerman - "a little older, but so more mature and so well rounded"; "we often operated more by collective leadership" - Jessica Staats, Annie Sheridan, Korissa Hoskin, Morgan McCann

Best Skaters: Elissa Bertuzzi, Natalie Lamarche, Marie-Pierre Pelissou, Payton Bray

Natural Hockey Ability &/or Athleticism: Julie Hebert - "the most naturally talented hockey player we had"; "and then there were great athletes": Emily Toffoli-Henderson, Julia Giannitsopoulos, Jaimee MacDonald, Chi Suzuki, Laura Deller, Elissa Bertuzzi, Myla McCormick

Goaltenders: "they are definitely a special group, the goalies we've had - we've been fortunate to have such great characters, and all different types"

"There's been a lot of reflecting in the past three weeks," noted Colarossi. "I'm proud of what we have done."

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