Neil Corbett/THE NEWS Alex Lidstone (left) will play NCAA softball while her friend Nicole Pahnke has a lacrosse scholarship.

Maple Ridge Ramblers duo wins NCAA scholarships

Two longtime athletic leaders at MRSS will take their talents to U.S. universities

Two of the great athletes and leaders from Maple Ridge secondary, Nicole Pahnke and Alex Lidstone, are heading to the NCAA on athletic scholarships.

Pahnke will play field lacrosse for the University of Montevallo Falcons in Alabama.

Lidstone will play softball for the Ohio Valley University Fighting Scots in Vienna, West Virginia.

Pahnke said Montevallo was the best all-around program for her, considering both the four-year, full-ride and the kinesiology program it offers.

She started playing box lacrosse at the age of 13, and soon added field lacrosse. She would hear about top girls from the Ridge Meadows Burrards moving on to play NCAA field lacrosse, and that soon became her goal.

Some of the highlights of her career were winning national championships with Team B.C. in 2014 in Ontario, and in 2015 in Calgary. She was the team captain of the latter team, and had the most points at the national tournament.

Panke said she has had great coaching and mentoring from the likes of Chris Gill, Dan Stroup and Jason McDole, and she has gone on to coach lacrosse both for the Burrards and through the school district’s after-school programs.

“She’s a great lacrosse player and a great lacrosse person,” said Gill, who has coached local girls – not to mention the WLA Maple Ridge Burrards and the NLL Colorado Mammoth.

“She has a work ethic that not many kids have,” he said, noting that in her first years of lacrosse “the kid was just a sponge for information – she just wanted to get better and better.”

The result is a player who can score with a hard shot, or challenge defenders physically.

“She’s a beast out there – not at all timid,” said Gill. “And that’s big in girls lacrosse.”

Gill said he expects Pahnke to excel, but probably not immediately – just as an American field lacrosse player would not step in the box lacrosse arena and dominate.

“There’s a big learning curve for any Canadian going down there and playing field lacrosse.”

Field lacrosse is different, but Pahnke said the box lacross stick skills and fast-paced offence translate well to the outdoor game.

“And on the defensive side, we’re known to be super aggressive,” she added.

She noted that every girl on Team B.C. got a lacrosse scholarship.

There are great scholarship opportunities for talented Canadian girls to play lacrosse in the U.S., but Gill said they have to be dedicated. They train hard all week, then give up Friday and Saturday night social functions so they can be ready to play their weekend games.

“And they work their butts off.”

Softball is a labour of love for Lidstone.

She has been playing since the fourth grade, and unlike many elite local girls who are recruited by the White Rock program, she chose to stay home with the Ridge Meadows Pride.

“I think we’re the best association for developing players,” she asserts.

“I love my team – they’ve become my family,” she said. “I’ve known some of them since Grade 4, and I love being on the field and playing the game.”

Her longtime coach has been Tom Bowen, and their team is riding high – ranked the second best team in the province this season.

“She’s a heckuva ball player,” said Bowen. “And she has been a leader.”

He said Lidstone is a left-handed hitter who is always at the top of the batting order – usually in the three or four spot – because of her discerning eye.

In the field, he plays her at shortstop and first base.

“She’s very astute on defence, as far as what needs to get done,” he said. “And she’s not afraid to get dirty – a real leader by example.”

In the recruiting process, she visited the campus, and her future teammates took her to a Fighting Scots basketball game. She felt a small-town vibe and has found a new softball family.

“It was a great atmosphere.”

She plans to study a new program called energy management and production engineering, and in future could join a large organization as an energy manager.

The two girls have been longtime friends through sports. They played metro soccer together locally, and were recruited to many MRSS sports teams since Grade 8 by coach Kira Sinow.

The athletic leadership course is generally for Grade 10s, but Sinow got both girls involved in Grade 9, so they could help organize and promote sports in the school.

“Nicole and Alex are both phenomenal athletes, well-rounded athletes and well-rounded people,” said Sinow.

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