C/O McMaster Baseball
After a major collision, two varsity athletes have faced months of recovery time
The 2021 season was supposed to be a good one for the Marauders baseball team. They had championship aspirations on their mind and a team with a chance to do it, featuring the reigning Cy Young winner (awarded to the best pitcher in the league), Julian Tymochko, the reigning (and now back-to-back) most valuable player, Nik Motruk, the 2021 rookie of the year, Josh Kalmin and four players who would be named to the 2021 all-star team.
Having finished with an OUA silver, many would suggest the season to be near perfect, but a major collision changed the whole story.
On the weekend of the qualifiers, McMaster needed to win just two games to secure a spot in the playoffs. Oct. 9, the first day of games, was not what they expected when they lost both games. They would eventually win both games on Oct. 10 to earn their spot in the playoffs and many of the team members credited a newfound motivation after a very scary moment in their second loss.
It was a standard baseball play; a shallow fly ball to left. Left fielder Mark Zanette ran in, attempting to get to the ball before it dropped. Shortstop Nicolas Velocci, realizing just how shallow the ball was hit, began ranging back to make the play. With the ball in no man's land, neither felt they had a clean play and when nobody called it, both ran at full speed to try and get there in time.
At the last moment, Velocci goes to make a desperation play, diving for the ball. Instead of making the catch, Velocci’s head would collide with Zanette’s knee, leaving both players with severe injuries.
“I went into a full on dive and everything from there on is just black. I don’t remember anything. I remember for a few seconds getting loaded onto an ambulance and that’s where it all hit me . . . I didn’t have time to gather my thoughts, but I knew that something was wrong. Seriously wrong,” said Velocci.
Following the play Velocci would lay there unconscious. Ambulances quickly made their way to the field, the first taking Velocci and a second (later arriving) to take Zanette, who soon realized he could no longer hold his weight.
“As the ball was about to hit my glove, I felt the impact on my knee. I did a flip in the air [before landing] and wasn’t really sure what happened . . . I think adrenaline was going, so I didn’t feel that much pain in the moment,” said Zanette.
Zanette originally believed that he was relatively unscathed and had gotten lucky. It was only after a few minutes that he would realize how badly he was injured.
The outfielder would later be diagnosed with an intermediate grade partial thickness tear of the ACL, a complete tear of the proximal PCL, a grade one MCL strain, a radial tear involving the posterior root of the medial meniscus, an impaction fracture at the medial femoral condyle and several other less significant injuries throughout his leg.
It has already been three months since the incident and, although Zanette has gone a long way, there is still a long path ahead with several more months of recovery.
“I avoided surgery, which helped a bunch. In terms of a [recovery] timeline, I’m not really sure . . . By the end of the school year, I won’t be back to normal, but pretty functional again,” said Zanette.
As bad as that may sound, Zanette may have actually gotten the better of the two. Zanette may have a longer recovery period, but Velocci had a much more difficult time thus far, with his site of injury being his head.
Velocci would incur fractures and breaks to his nose, jaw, orbitals and cheekbones, while also dealing with a concussion. He would spend 14 days in the hospital in a time when hospitals were trying to get people out as quickly as possible due to the pandemic.
In the recovery process Velocci would have his jaw wired shut with screws and elastics for three weeks, causing a 30-pound weight drop. He also needed a breathing tube inserted in his throat (tracheotomy) and went through two surgical procedures.
“I can say whole-heartedly that it was the biggest challenge of my life. In the beginning I didn’t even know if I was going to be alive — it was that big a shock to me. I remember asking the doctors while half out of it if I was going to live . . . It was traumatic,” explained Velocci.
Velocci described the early days of the injury with a very dark tone, elaborating as to just how terrible an experience it all was.
“It was bad. It was so painful that I kept passing out. I wasn’t even awake,” said Velocci.
Through the interview, Velocci continuously brought up the number 53. This was the number of days in which he called the recovery period. This is the timeline from the day it happened to the day he was finally able to function somewhat normally and unassisted.
He hopes to begin training with the team again before the winter is over as he is already doing much better and hopes to be fully recovered over the next month or so.
The event was very traumatic, not only for the players involved, but also for their teammates who witnessed it all. They would soon develop the hashtag #DoItForNicolasandMark, which helped inspire their playoff run.
The team would go back to the tournament after two losses, facing elimination and win both games to advance for their chance at a medal. In a past interview with the Silhouette, pitcher Josh Kalmin commented on the situation and how badly the team wanted to do it for their fallen teammates.
“Going back on that bus Sunday morning, we knew we were going to win. No one on our team ever said anything about [possibly losing]. We were going to do it for Nicolas and for Mark,” said Kalmin.
As badly as Velocci and Zanette wanted to be on the field, they were thrilled to see the success the team had. They both plan on a full return next season, where they will once again have their eyes set on the gold.
By: Graham West
On Feb. 23, Ben Zahra placed silver in the U Sports 76-kilogram wrestling championships, but for Zahra, silver isn’t quite where he wanted to be. Although his performance earned him his fourth Pita Pit Athlete of the Week, the third-year commerce student had aspirations of topping the podium in Calgary.
The second-place finish is the second time Zahra medaled at U Sports, winning bronze last year in a convincing bronze medal match. Even though the tournament just ended, the third-year wrestler is already looking forward to training hard to achieve his goal of finishing first.
“Next year I really want to win U Sport, it’s my big goal,” Zahra said. “I was hoping to do it this year, but I had a really tough competitor from Brock [University] so it didn’t really go as well as I wanted it to, but I’m still ok with a silver. It’s good progression because last year I came third.”
Injuries were something bothering Zahra on his way to capturing silver, making his journey to the podium at the national championships and improve his finish from last year that much more impressive. Battling through the mental and physical limitations of injury made his road to nationals even more difficult.
“This year it was a little different because I was struggling with injuries a little bit, I had a rib injury and a lower back injury that I was dealing with,” Zahra said. “Last year my body felt great, it was really healthy, but this year I had to adjust my practices accordingly because I couldn’t do a lot of stuff everyone else was doing.”
🤼 | RECAP
— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) February 25, 2019
One of Zahra’s main motivations on the mat is performing well for his team. Even though wrestling is an individual sport, they place as a team based on their combined performances. This plays an important role for when they’re competing, as it increases their support for each other, always being there to cheer each other on and make each other better.
“There’s this team aspect to it where if you win, you contribute to your team's overall total points and then at the end of the tournament, there's a team title for men, women and overall,” Zahra explained. “So when you’re wrestling, it’s in the back of your head and you have a lot of your teammates cheering you on, so you almost do it for them more than yourself.”
“Ultimately, it is an individual sport and you’re wrestling for yourself,” Zahra added. “But it makes the wins that much sweeter when you do it for your team and you help contribute to your team’s score.”
Zahra has been a perennial Pita Pit Athlete of the Week for the Marauder’s after he claimed his fourth title on Feb. 25. Recognizing athletes who have had notable performances every week, Zahra has regularly been named to the spotlight despite being in a sport that does not always get a lot of attention.
“It’s nice to get a free pita out of it, but I don’t really wrestle for that,” Zahra said. “It’s nice to get recognition but it’s not why I do it. I love the sport, it’s something I’ve done my whole life and those little things are nice, but overall I try not to pay too much attention to them.”
— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) February 25, 2019
Zahra knows he does not want his wrestling career to end with university athletics as the star wrestler has his sights set on the Olympics.
“[Club] Nationals this year are in Saskatoon. I’m competing up a weight class which should be good, I’m excited,” Zahra said. “It’s actually the qualifying year for the Olympics… so this year is what gets you on the seating platform for next year’s Olympic trials. It should be a really competitive nationals for us.”
Zahra has been one of McMaster’s best wrestlers during his time here and is well on the path to getting gold at next year’s championships. With possibly a trip to the Olympics in the near future, Zahra will be a name to watch in the Marauders community as he continues to dominate the mat.
The York Regional Police, based just north of Toronto, have provided a few tips to help keep you safe on the roads.
Weathering the conditions: Double-check the weather conditions before heading out. Weather can be severe and change quickly, so it’s extremely important to know the latest weather and traffic conditions, and to leave yourself plenty of time to arrive safely.
Get road-ready: Ensure your vehicle is prepared for the winter. Investing in winter tires is a good place to start. Top-up windshield fluids and antifreeze, ensure you have enough gas for every journey, and update your car’s emergency kit. Clear snow and ice from the windshield and mirrors, as well as from the top of the car and from wheel-wells to increase safety for other drivers.
Buckle up: Always wear your seatbelt, and make sure all of your passengers do too. While this may seem obvious as it's the law, it’s also the most important safety consideration no matter the road conditions.
Eyes on the road: Drive slowly and be aware of other motorists and road hazards. Winter roadways can feature big snow-removal vehicles and sand/salt-trucks, as well as distracted drivers and crosswalks full of pedestrians with arm-loads of gifts! Take the necessary precautions and make sure you’re always in control of your vehicle.
Arrive alive: The holidays are all about good times with family and friends. Don’t drink and drive.
Icy roads, limited visibility, Top 40 Radio…lots of things can impact your time on the road this winter. If you are involved in a fender-bender this season, remember to contact local police immediately if your collision involves:
It is the same unfortunate story as a year ago.
Last season, head coach Brett Mosen and the women’s soccer team had plenty of reasons to be optimistic. They had a healthy mix of talented veterans, along with some fresh recruits who could make an immediate impact while getting acclimatized to the more physical style of play in the OUA. But injuries quickly ravaged the roster and young players were forced to play big minutes. Experienced members of the team were moved into different positions in order to compensate for the lack of bodies.
Mosen was encouraged because of the team’s offseason progress in 2014, saying that the squad broke fitness test records and played well within the team’s style. His optimism was short-lived.
“Out 25 players on our roster, eight of our players are injured,” said Mosen.
Some of the injuries are significant losses to the squad. Marisa Bremner, an OUA first-team all-star in her rookie season, has suffered a serious injury to her ACL. Rookie central defender Taylor McIvor tore her ACL also and will not use a year of eligibility while she is in rehab.
Another player has a concussion; one has a possible serious injury in her foot. It is too early to call it a lost season, but with the concise schedule and back-to-back games, it is not looking to be a campaign to remember.
“We’re back to square one. We started off so excited about the season and the style of play that we were going to bring forward, but now we’re into a similar scenario as last year where we are asking ‘how can we steal results?’” said Mosen.
With two consecutive seasons marred by injuries, the coaching staff has begun to look into their own practice and recovery methods. There are a variety of factors in play about why McMaster has struggled to stay healthy.
“The easiest thing to criticize is turf, then cleats come into it, and I think we need to look at those things for sure. But we need to look at our strength and conditioning program too. Are we recovering the right way? Are we doing a good enough assessment on players come in individually?” said Mosen.
“I don’t think you can just point your finger at one specific thing. But it’s got everybody’s attention because this is the second year in a row that this is happening to us.”
Turf play has become a controversial issue as people question the safety of playing on the surfaces. A study of young female soccer players published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that there was “similar” risk of acute injury on both artificial turf and natural grass.
A 2010 study found more non-contact ACL injuries happen on turf than on natural grass, but did not account for variables like the type of cleats being worn.
The CIS soccer season is also relatively condensed: teams play 16 games over the span of Aug. 30 to Oct. 19. Eight of those games come in back-to-back scenarios.
And because of that short schedule, McMaster has no time to dwell on losses, both to the roster and in the standings. Another season could come and goes quietly if the team does not rally.
A second-year graduate student was the victim of a hit-and-run on Saturday night near Emerson St. and Whitney Ave. He has since returned home from hospital and is recovering from 7 stitches in his right arm, a swollen ankle and cuts on the right side of his body.
The incident was reported to the police around 10:45 p.m. on Saturday when the victim, who wanted to remain anonymous, was walking with two friends to another friend's house on Whitney Ave.
The victim said a group in a car pulled up beside them and someone from inside the car threw an egg at him. The driver then turned the car around, pumped the gas pedal and swerved. The victim was hit by the driver's side of the car before the vehicle fled the scene. The car is described as a silver SUV with tinted windows and a broken rear window on the driver's side.
The victim is studying in McMaster's graduate physiotherapy program and has been able to return to class, though shaken by the incident.
The Hamilton Police are currently investigating the incident. Tips and information can be sent to Hamilton Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.