Written by Claudia Parker
They are wearing red, white and blue as Chicago Ridge’s Eileen Meslar (left) Worth’s Lorissa Sernus (center) and Alsip’s Denielle Strohmier (right) will represent the United State in international ball hockey tournaments in 2015.. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Area star ball hockey players to soon find out their fate for USA team play in 2015
Three women from the South Suburbs will be anxiously waiting to find out if they will be heading to Canada or Switzerland next year.
Eileen Meslar of Chicago Ridge, Lorissa Sernus of Worth and Danielle Strohmier of Alsip have been selected to represent the United States Women’s Team at The International Street and Ball Hockey Federation’s (ISBF) 2015 World Championship. They’ll go through a final round of drills in Dracut, Mass., Saturday to determine which team they will end up on.
Team A will compete in Zug, Switzerland in June and Team B, in Barrie Ontario, Canada in September.
Not a bad deal for a trio playing in a sport that not many people are familiar with.
“Ball hockey is my favorite sport,” Meslar said. “I hadn’t played since I was 15. I was happy I found a women’s tournament where I could play again. I didn’t think it would lead to this!”
This trio of childhood athletes-turned-adult competitors said they welcome the placement on either team but hope to remain together.
They were elementary school students when they were introduced to the sport at the Southwest Ball Hockey facility located at 5801 W. 115th Street in Alsip.
Meslar started playing at age eight while self-proclaimed best friends, Sernus and Strohmier, met when they became teammates at age five.
“Southwest Ball Hockey is one of very few places to learn the sport,” Meslar said. “We each played there until we aged out at 15.”
Some may ask, what exactly is ball hockey anyway?
The American Street Hockey Institute (ASHI) describes Dek/ball hockey as being similar to ice hockey, played on smaller rinks, without ice. A small, rubber ball is used in lieu of a hockey puck.
“You don’t get to glide like you do on skates, it’s all sprinting down the court,” Meslar said.
The rink is equipped with boards, glass/fencing/netting, and an asphalt or sport court surface made of a modified polypropylene substance impervious to weather. The ISBF is the governing body of the sport that Meslar, Sernus and Strohmier said they felt was a distant memory until a carpool conversation changed their future.
Sernus said: “Danielle and I joined a women’s ice hockey team in Kankakee that Eileen was already a part of called, The Kankakee Novas. Since Kankakee is such a long commute, our coach encouraged us to carpool. During our rides, we bonded over different things; one being our mutual love for ball hockey.”
The sequence of events that followed plays like a movie.
It was a Google search of ‘’ball hockey” that lured them to a solicitation for an adult women’s Ball Hockey tournament in Leominster, Mass.
“We were so excited for an opportunity to play again — I recruited a team of 15 women and headed to the East Coast.” Meslar said.
During that tournament, like a moth to a flame Sernus said she, Meslar, and Strohmier were drawn to recruiters rallying players to try out for the USA Women’s National Team.
Of their group of 15, only these three were enticed enough to try out. Eight months later they found themselves in Dracut, Massachusetts for the first round of tryouts.
“There were about 200 other women. Most were from the East Coast, where ball hockey is huge,” Meslar said.
Unlike the previous ball hockey tournament, where the ladies competed as a team, the USA Women’s National Team tryouts were individually based.
“Those tryouts were the longest days of my life,” Sernus said. “It was four to five hours of grueling endurance and fun at the same time.”
Strohmier said, “Getting the call that all three of us made it through was amazing.”
Several weeks later, they each got through a second round of tryouts making them officially a part of the USA Women’s National Team.
“It all happened so fast.” Sernus said.
Apparently dreams coming true don’t knock upon arrival — they barge in the door.
“Recently I found a little note my mom kept from my second grade memorabilia where I said I wanted to represent the USA playing Hockey in the Olympics.
“This is pretty close.”
“During tryouts, we saw some fierce athletes,” Strohmier said. “There were Division I college players and Olympic ice hockey player, Hilary Knight was on my line!”
While Ball Hockey isn’t considered an Olympic sport today, in January, the ISBHF made a presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In addition, they also met with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) to register the sport to be in compliance with its regulations and requirements.
Sernus said, “Playing on the USA Women’s Team is going to help us spread the word about ball hockey. We really want a larger presence in the Midwest.”
The travel to the East Coast has been costly.
In addition, each of them are having to balance the lives they were living prior to this exciting voyage. Sernus is a student at Moraine Valley College. Once her prerequisites are met, she plans to transfer to UIC and major in sports nutrition.
Strohmier just completed an Associate of Arts and Science Degree at Moraine Valley. She’s now pursuing a degree from Trinity Christian College in Business Communication and Graphic Design.
Meslar is a graduate of Western Michigan University. She doesn’t have to juggle homework in the airport and on the plane like Sernus and Strohmier during all those trips out east. Though, she does manage working fulltime at BARBRI as a proofreader. The women said they’re grateful the training is on the weekends.
In spite of the rigor involved to keep them at play, they all said it’s worth it.
“Being able to represent our country playing a sport we learned as children is an amazing opportunity for us all,” Meslar said.