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Meet Peyton Connolly: A role model on the court and inspiration in Mohawk women’s basketball

As a first-year Mountaineer women’s basketball player, Peyton Connolly has already established an important role as a player on the team and made strong connections with her teammates.

Peyton Connolly was born to be a leader. As a star varsity basketball player, she demonstrates exceptional skill and passion both on and off the court.

Connolly has always had an affinity for basketball. She began by playing house league from a young age and quickly transitioned to playing competitively. Now Connolly plays as a forward for the Mohawk Mountaineers women’s basketball team, repping the number 35 on her orange and white jersey.

“I’m happy to be a Mountaineer,” Connolly said joyfully. “I’ve been playing [basketball] since I was in grade two or three and then I started playing competitively for Transway Basketball in Hamilton. I loved [basketball] right away. I also played house league soccer as a kid and a few other sports, but basketball was always the one thing I really, really loved doing as a sport.”

Peyton Connolly at the Mountaineers game against the Redeemer Royals on Nov. 4, 2023.
Connolly’s positive and passionate demeanour shines through on the court.

Currently, Connolly is pursuing a one-year diploma in the Digital Health program, following the completion of a combined undergraduate degree in Aging and Society and Health and Aging from McMaster University, with the goal of pursuing a career in the medical field.

“I’m doing a diploma in digital health right now,” she said. “There’s a lot of jobs I can definitely get out of it, I’m just trying to see what I’m interested in. I’ve been looking around, and Doctors Without Borders, medical consulting and medical sales I think are the three main things I’m most interested in. Hopefully [I’ll be able to pursue] a career in that sphere.”

Connolly brings a fiery and fierce attitude to the court. She is the type of player a team needs in order to secure wins and achieve success. Those who are close to Connolly and know her well describe her as someone who has a genuine love for her team and the sport she plays. She dominates the court by taking initiative, and being exceedingly team-oriented.

Maddie Anderson is not only Connolly’s teammate, but the two are also close friends. Anderson is a second semester Massage Therapy student who decided to expand her options for a future career after completing her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology.

“[Connolly and I] officially met last year, but we’d actually played against each other in high school a lot, which I didn’t know and then kind of realized,” Anderson said while reminiscing about their high school basketball days. “We’ve gotten very, very close because we have practice together and we also became very close friends all throughout last summer. It was really nice to be able to make that connection.”

Connolly (35) and Anderson (33) at a game against Conestoga last October.

As both a teammate and a friend, Anderson can attest to the efforts and determination Connolly expresses on the court.

“She’s honestly the player who holds you accountable,” Anderson said. “She’s going to call you out and that’s what you need in a teammate. At the end of the day, I never take that personally because we all have the same goal. We all want to win, we all want to do well. It’s a good thing that our team needs to give us that fuel of motivation.”

The Mountaineers women’s basketball team has had a strong season. Connolly is proud of everything her team has accomplished and very pleased with her individual performance. The close-knit bond that Connolly shares with her teammates has a positive impact on how the women play and work so well together as a team.

“I definitely think I’m doing well [this season],” Connolly said. “But I think there’s always room for improvement. [As a team] we’re all doing incredible and everyone on the team is amazing. We’re all very good at basketball and have what it takes to get us to the next step. I couldn’t be happier that I’m here.”

“[Our team has been doing] really good,” Anderson agreed. “We were doing really well, winning a lot of our games but then we kind of ran into a slump. But I feel like those things are just going to make us that much better and help us as a whole.”

After getting knee surgery to treat an ACL tear, Connolly had to take a break from basketball but has now come back to the game stronger than ever. Her plans to play for McMaster while she was doing her undergraduate degree were shattered due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

“This is my first year back playing competitively,” Connolly said. “I took a little hiatus and now I’m back.”

“She’s hard-working and she’s going to do those little things that are needed for our team to win,” Anderson said. “She’s strong both physically and mentally. She does everything she can to get her hands on that ball or stop the other team from scoring. She is a very versatile player.”

On top of all the responsibility Connolly faces as a varsity basketball player, she is also a student who must keep up with her academics.

“It’s definitely really challenging,” Connolly said. “And I think my program is a lot harder and a lot more demanding now. We practice four, five days a week and have games. Building relationships with professors and within your classes really makes a difference because these people can help when you’re not there.

“Staying organized also helps. I’m really big into calendars and having my schedule on my phone so I know where I have to be at what time and what I have to do. I love playing basketball and I get to hang with my friends, so it’s not like ‘I have to go to practice, I’m dreading this’.”

Connolly plans to possibly come back to Mohawk after she completes her one-year degree in Digital Health for another one-year program in a related field. She believes this is a good way to enhance her education while still having the opportunity to play basketball for the Mountaineers women’s team.