Double identity

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One Ryerson athlete is helping the women’s hockey team reach varsity status while playing another sport for the enemy. Alan Hudes and sports editor Sean Tepper report

After three seasons with Ryerson’s women’s soccer team, Tessa Dimitrakopoulos was fed-up.

Between 2006 and 2008, the team boasted an unimpressive 15-21-10 record and always found themselves in the middle of the pack, fighting tooth and nail for a playoff berth. While the team was average, Dimitrakopoulos certainly wasn’t. In 45 games with the Rams, Dimitrakopoulos, who now plays hockey for Ryerson’s women’s hockey team, scored a staggering 29 goals and was consistently near the top of the league in scoring.

She was an elite player on a mediocre team and Dimitrakopoulos realized something would have to change if she ever wanted to win an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship. This fall, she joined the Varsity Blues’ soccer team.

“I knew this was going to be my last year playing soccer and I wanted to play for a team that I thought would go a little further in [the playoffs],” admitted Dimitrakopoulos. “I don’t want to offend Ryerson when I’m saying this, but I wanted to do better in the standings and maybe push for some sort of title … I really like their soccer program and I thought this would be the year that I could do it — the only year I could do it.”

Since every university athlete is given five years of eligibility by Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS), Dimitrakopoulos still had two years of eligibility remaining despite the fact that she currently plays for Ryerson’s women’s hockey team and has since 2007. This is because the Toronto Stingers, Ryerson’s women’s hockey team, don’t become an official CIS team until next fall. With her eligibility clock ticking, Dimitrakopoulos took a look at U of T’s lineup and decided that now was as good a time as ever to join the Varsity Blues.

“I was going to do it after I finished graduating at Ryerson and my plan was to go to teacher’s college at U of T and then play soccer at the same time,” Dimitrakopoulos said.

“But there were a lot of fourth-year and fifth-year players this year, so I thought this would be the best time to play for them because they had a bunch of veterans on the team.”

In terms of senior representation, U of T boasted the deepest women’s team in the OUA. Not including Dimitrakopoulos, the Varsity Blues’ roster featured nine fourth and fifth-year players, more than any other team in the league. The Stinger’s jump to the CIS next year was imminent and Dimitrakopoulos knew this was the last year that she could play soccer.

But while Ryerson allowed her to still play for the Stingers, Dimitrakopoulos was told to keep the two teams separate.

“Tessa and I made an agreement [that] when she is with our team, it’s all about Ryerson,” said Stephanie White, the Stingers’ head coach.

“We don’t talk about that other team. I understand why she needed to make some decisions [but] we always want her to be a Ryerson athlete and student and I think that Ryerson really is in her heart as an athlete.”

As the only remaining member of the women’s hockey team’s inaugural 2007-08 season, Dimitrakopoulos has become an integral part of the team, as she has assumed a leadership role both on and off the ice.

“I remember when our team entered just one tournament, and had a couple practices here and there,” Dimitrakopoulos said.

Now, the Stingers are playing in their final year in the Golden Blades Women’s Hockey League at York University and preparing to enter the CIS next season, where they will play at Maple Leaf Gardens.

In addition to being third on the team in scoring with nine goals and four assists in 14 games, the lone fourth-year veteran has embraced a more significant role among her teammates with the expected jump to the varsity level.

“Rookies look up to you to see what’s expected,” Dimitrakopoulos said. “They’re not used to becoming a CIS team — they’ve never been on [one] before.” After playing four seasons of university soccer, Dimitrakopoulos has one year remaining in CIS eligibility. With the opening face-off at Maple Leaf Gardens only nine months away, Dimitrakopoulos has no hesitation regarding her plans to return to the ice for next year.

“I’ve been with [the Stingers] since the beginning,” Dimitrakopoulos said. “To stick with them all these years and then finally when it becomes a CIS team, to just leave, I couldn’t do that.”

Photo: Chelsea Pottage

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