Four years ago, Alexis Lucyshyn drove her car 36 hours from her home of Calgary, Alberta to Buffalo.
To this day, she hasn’t driven back.
Lucyshyn — UB’s star pitcher and batter — has become a pillar of consistency for a UB softball program that has struggled mightily over the past four seasons.
She started every game of the 2021 and 2022 seasons en route to back-to-back All-MAC honors. She is currently leading the team in just about every stat, from batting average (.267) to home runs (5) to strikeouts (148).
But at 10-33 (4-15 MAC), the team hasn’t shared Lucyshyn’s individual success. The Bulls are 10th in the conference and just broke a 14-game losing streak that lasted nearly three weeks.
As UB tries to find its footing for May’s Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament, Lucyshyn — cognizant of her role as a star player and leader — is trying to find any way to make an even bigger impact on the team.
“If I’m pitching, it’s my body language,” Lucyshyn said. “I think obviously everyone’s looking toward me and the circle. So I think the way I carry myself and just trying to stay calm [is important].”
Lucyshyn says she wants her teammates to take notice of the hours she puts into her craft, hoping they will follow.
Pitching coach Jody Hennigar said that Lucyshyn “takes the team under her wing” and does everything her coaches could ask of her. The younger players tend to see Lucyshyn and follow her lead, he said.
Lucyshyn was 5 years old when she followed in her older sister’s footsteps and started playing softball. Living in Canada, the opportunities to play softball in high school and college were more limited than in the U.S.
Lucyshyn said people told her that she was “never going to make it to the tier one level.”
Despite a lack of resources, Lucyshyn played on travel teams in high school and eventually worked her way up to play for the Canadian Junior National Team. Set to begin her fifth year at UB in the fall, Lucyshyn hopes to one day make the Canadian National Softball Team.
Lucyshyn even tried out for the Canadian National Team last year. She didn’t make it, but Hennigar says that having a player at that level on the team is “very exciting.”
Lucyshyn was 17 when she moved to UB. She struggled during her freshman year, which was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said being in a new country away from everyone she knew was a difficult adjustment. Her family couldn’t come to games as much as they previously did, and she dealt with homesickness.
Hennigar said Lucyshyn also struggled on the mound, but watching her improve every year has been his “most pleasurable moment.”
Lucyshyn is most proud of making it to the college level, and proving all her doubters wrong.
“Obviously there’s been big accomplishments at Buffalo,” she said. “But I think for me mentally, just hearing people trying to say that I wouldn’t make it and finally making it there was probably one of the biggest [accomplishments] that I made.”
In a year, she’ll make that same 36-hour drive she did as a 17-year-old. Except this time, Lucyshyn will return with hopes of making the Canadian National Team and becoming a physical therapist.
“I love this sport so much,” Lucyshyn said. “I could play it for however long, as long as my arm lasts.”
Amy Maslin is a sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org