Alyssa Lagonia and Kale Harrison are trading in their purple and gold for red and white. But thankfully for Golden Hawks fans, it’s only temporary.
It was announced last month that Lagonia, of Laurier’s women’s soccer team, and Harrison, of the men’s basketball team, would be a part of Team Canada for the upcoming International University Sport Federation (FISU) Summer University Games. The FISU games are the equivalent to the Olympics for university athletes, holding events every two years in both the summer and winter, with this summer’s edition taking place from August 12-25 in Shenzhen, China.
“I’m just so thrilled and excited,” said Lagonia, a Kitchener-native. “Not only to represent my country but to represent Laurier and even Southwestern Ontario. There’s only three of us from Ontario going on [Canada’s women’s soccer] team, so I’m just very honoured to be representing both.”
For Lagonia, representing Canada is nothing new. The fourth-year business major has donned the red and white at the under-20 World Cup in 2008 and also with the senior national team. She returned to her studies at WLU right before the 2010 season, citing winning a university championship with her fellow Hawks as part of her decision.
In fact, this won’t even be Lagonia’s first trip to China, as she played an exhibition game against the Chinese national team with Team Canada last April.
Despite her previous international experience, Lagonia knows that the experience at the FISU summer games will be different.
“The atmosphere is going to be pretty special, something I’ve never experienced before,” she said. “It’s like a mini-Olympics, we’re going to be living in an athletes village and going through opening ceremonies, so I’m just really excited for that, I think it’ll be really special.”
Lagonia is coming off a season in which she won her third Ontario University Athletics (OUA) all-star nod, while also being named a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) All-Canadian.
Harrison will be representing Canada for the first time in his basketball career, after a season that saw him post the best season in Laurier men’s basketball history, setting the single-season scoring record, while becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer. He went on to win the President’s award as the top male athlete at Laurier.
“Representing Canada is such an honour, I don’t think I’ll really know what it feels like until it happens,” said Harrison. “That’s probably the most exciting part and then getting to travel to a place like China and getting to experience a whole other culture like that will be really fun.”
As humbled as he is by getting to play for Canada, the magnitude of the FISU games is not lost on Harrison.
“They’ve told us it’s the second biggest sporting event in terms of number of athletes next to the Olympics, so it’ll definitely be an incredible experience to just meet students from around the world,” said Laurier’s hoops star .
Harrison is also looking forward to the world-class competition the tournament will expose him to.
“In terms of the competition, I imagine the U.S. will be really tough,” he said. “They’ll have all the [NCAA Divison one] guys, guys you watch on TV, so there’ll be some great players there … Probably some guys who will be in the NBA in a couple years.”
While Laurier has consistently sent both hockey players and curlers to the Winter University Games in recent years, the school’s presence at the Summer Games has been lacking. According to WLU director of athletics and recreation Peter Baxter, Lagonia and Harrison being named to Team Canada signals how far Laurier athletics has come.
“It shows that the talent we attract to Laurier now is not just in one or two particular sports, but it’s really across the board,” said Baxter, who will also be going to China for the games, serving as Team Canada’s chef de mission.
“Not too long ago we were really just known as a football school, but by this new millennium, our athletes in every sport are showing prominence not only provincially, but nationally and now internationally …. And it’s great because not only do I get to cheer on Team Canada, but now I get to cheer on our own Laurier Golden Hawks; that’s a real privilege.”