MSVU athletes follow in their parents’ footsteps

There’s perhaps no better testament to the exceptional quality of the Mount Saint Vincent University varsity athletics program than the high number of second-generation athletes currently playing for the university.

In fact, history is repeating itself for the highest number of former student athletes at one time in recent memory. For these alumni, it’s a chance to relive fond memories through the experiences of their children. And for their children, there’s a special pride in following in their parents’ footsteps by playing for the Mount Mystics.

It’s indicative of the university’s stand-out varsity athletics programs and tradition of success. Since joining the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) in 1980, MSVU has won more ACAA championships than any other ACAA member university or college. Over the years, the program has brought home a total of 78 ACAA championship banners across women’s basketball, men’s basketball, cross country, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, women’s volleyball and badminton.

MSVU athletes and coaches have also earned numerous national recognitions, including: 66 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) All Canadian Awards, 2 CCAA Player of the Year Awards, 10 CCAA Coach of the Year Awards and 7 CCAA National Medals.

Currently, there are seven student athletes on five different teams with either one or both parents having competed for MSVU in the past. Every single one of these athletes past and present describes the special communities they found in Athletics at the university.

“One of the biggest compliments we could get is for a former athlete to have had such a positive experience here both academically and athletically that they support their children who want the opportunity to come play at MSVU,” says June Lumsden, long-time MSVU Athletics and Recreation Director.

Meet the MSVU parent-student athlete duos for whom sharing their MSVU experience has brought joy, pride and a whole new source of connection.

Annabelle Lendrum Harnish and her dad Mark Harnish

Annabelle Lendrum Harnish – Women’s Soccer (2022-2023), Daughter of Mark Harnish – Men’s Soccer (2005-2009 and 2014-2021 – Head Coach)

Currently a member of MSVU’s women’s soccer team, Annabelle Lendrum Harnish has had a near-lifelong connection with varsity athletics at MSVU. When she was just two years old, Annabelle travelled to British Columbia along with her dad – Mark Harnish (Bachelor of Arts in 2007 and a Bachelor of Education in 2009) – and the other members of the MSVU men’s soccer team for the CCAA national tournament.

“I came to MSVU as a mature student and ended up as a player on the men’s soccer team. Annabelle was there from then on,” says Mark, who played soccer for MSVU from 2005-2009, and served as Head Coach for the team from 2014-2021 (with a stint as Assistant Coach too). “She was around the field for games and eventually, when I was the head coach, she became pretty much a member of the full-time coaching staff and was there for every home and away game, kind of like my manager.”

Now a first-year Bachelor of Science student majoring in biology and minoring in psychology, Annabelle is building her own memories on and off the field as an MSVU student athlete.

“It’s really nice to experience the feeling of family I have with my teammates, and the love and respect we all have for each other. I’m so excited to experience this for myself. It’s really amazing,” she says.

And, after so many years as a player and coach at MSVU, Mark is enjoying watching Annabelle come into her own and remembering what he loved so much about his own experiences.

“I feel a really strong connection to what she’s living right now,” says Mark, who graduated from MSVU with a Bachelor of Arts with a major in psychology in 2007 and a Bachelor of Education (elementary) in 2009. “It’s fun for me because it keeps me connected to that life to a certain degree. I think any university athlete will tell you that as soon as you’re done with it, you miss it.”

 Jack Forward and his parents Mark Forward and Deanne MacLeod

Collage of Mystic M logo, photo of Jack, photo of Mark and photo of Deanne
Jack Forward – Men’s Basketball (2019-2023), Son of Mark Forward – Men’s Basketball (1987; 1989-1992) and Deanne MacLeod – Women’s Basketball (1989-1990)

Current MSVU men’s basketball team member Jack Forward – a fourth-year Bachelor of Science student majoring in biology – has the benefit of both parents having been former varsity athletes at the university.

Mom Deanne MacLeod (Bachelor of Business Administration, 1992) was a member of the university’s women’s basketball team in 1989-1990 and was team manager for the 1988-89 and 1991-1992 seasons. She later took on the roles of President of the MSV Alumni Association and Chair of the university’s Board of Governors.

“I am very proud of Jack,” says Deanne. “I had a great experience at MSVU and participating in basketball was a big part of that. I know Jack will take away some great memories and friendships from his time as a Mystic.”

Jack’s dad, Mark Forward (Bachelor of Business Administration, 1993), played on the MSVU men’s basketball team in 1987-1988 and 1989-1992, and later served as an assistant coach for the men’s team for several years. Mark has been the head coach of the MSVU women’s basketball team since 2009.

“As a former player and coach it’s been a feeling of overwhelming pride to see Jack wear the MSVU colours,” says Mark. “To watch him grow as a student athlete and go through all the ups and downs the sport and a season provides has been fun.”

“I’m so privileged to have a front row seat to everything and I’m soaking it all in. To watch him also be part of a championship team last season was incredible. I’m proud of Jack and how he handles himself on and off the court as a member of the team and athletics program.”

Zach Keddy and his father Wayne Keddy

Collage of Mystic M logo, photo of Zach and photo of Wayne
Zach Keddy – Men’s Basketball (2022-2023), Son of Wayne Keddy – Men’s Basketball (1989-1993)

For Zach Keddy – currently a first-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) student – becoming a member of the MSVU men’s basketball team was the realization of a long-held dream.

“Ever since my dad told me about his experience playing university basketball, it has been a goal of mine to play too,” says Zach, whose dad Wayne Keddy played men’s basketball at MSVU from 1989-1993. “Playing university basketball at the same university where he played makes it that much more special to me.”

Zach’s dad Wayne (BBA – Accounting major, 1997) was on one of Coach Rick Plato’s early teams that went on to great success, winning a CCAA Bronze Medal in the 1992-1993 season. This was the first CCAA medal for the Mystics men’s basketball program. Wayne says, “I am extremely proud of Zach for achieving his goal. He put in a lot of hard work and effort. For him to be playing at the same school and gym that I did makes it that much sweeter. Playing basketball and going to MSVU was a great experience for me. I can’t help but go down ‘memory lane’ every time I walk into the gym and for Zach to be making his own memories there is pretty cool.”

Nick Sadek and his mother Andrea Hurley

Collage of Mystic M logo, photo of Nick and photo of Andrea
Nick Sadek – Cross Country (2022-2023), Son of Andrea Hurley – Women’s Volleyball (1993-1997)

Andrea Hurley (Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours), 1997), who played on the university’s women’s volleyball team from 1993-1997, has been enjoying her son Nick Sadek’s experience on MSVU’s cross country team.

“I am so proud that Nick is participating in varsity sports at MSVU,” says Andrea. “I loved my days as an athlete and some of my best friends are former athletes. Those were some of the best days of my life!”

Hurley adds, “I flew up for his meet this year and I was just so happy to be there. I love the feel of the competitive spirit but more so of the teamwork. I cheered on every athlete, but I’m just so proud of my son.”

In addition to being a member of MSVU’s cross country team, Nick is a second-year student in MSVU’s Bachelor of Public Relations program.

Emily Murphy and her mom Angie (Langille) Murphy

Collage of Mystic M logo, photo of Emily and photo of Angie
Emily Murphy – Women’s Volleyball (2022-2023), Daughter of Angie (Langille) Murphy – Women’s Basketball (1993-94)

Angie Murphy (Bachelor of Science, 1997), who played women’s basketball at MSVU in 1993-94, is excited for her daughter to be attending MSVU and for her to be a member of the women’s volleyball team at the university.

“It’s pretty special that my daughter and I can share this unique experience 30 years apart,” says Angie. “Knowing what the experience of playing varsity sports is going to be like for Emily, and her knowing that I had the same feelings and emotions, creates a deeper bond between us.”

“With her away from home, I find comfort in knowing that being part of a team provides opportunities to connect with teammates and other athletes, creating a sense of family and belonging,” she says, adding, “I enjoy going back to MSVU regularly to watch her games – it brings back great memories for me. I had purchased MSVU apparel for my parents while I was a student and now, I proudly wear the MSVU apparel Emily purchased for me.”

Angie’s daughter Emily – currently a first-year Bachelor of Science student – says she learned about MSVU from her mom, adding that she continues to hear about her mom’s experiences at the university to this day.

“I appreciate the fact that we have both been MSVU athletes because I get to hear about all the changes the athletic program has been through. Trust me, I can’t step foot in the school without her saying, ‘back when I was here…’,” says Emily.

“I also love to see other parent/child duos of MSVU varsity athletes that my mom knew when she was here because I can relate and connect to them in a way that most people can’t,” Emily says. “Being a university athlete is an amazing experience, especially here at MSVU, and the fact that I can share that with my mom is something that I am very grateful for.”

Hannah Huntley and her mom Ann (Cherry) Huntley

Collage of Mystic M logo, photo of Hannah and photo of Ann
Hannah Huntley – Women’s Volleyball (2021-23) and Ann (Cherry) Huntley – Women’s Basketball, Women’s Soccer and Women’s Cross Country (1985-1987)

Having earned two degrees and experienced two varsity seasons at MSVU, Ann Huntley was keen when her daughter Hannah said she was considering the university as one of her post-secondary options.

“When Hannah mentioned that she’d like to attend MSVU I tried to be ‘cool’ about that possibility as I didn’t want to influence her decision with too much excitement. I wanted her decision to be all her own,” says Ann. “However, I was thrilled when she’d made the choice. My experiences were fantastic as an MSVU athlete, and I hoped hers would be similar if not better!”

Ann, who first earned a Bachelor of Secretarial Arts (1987) at the university and later – after being a stay-at-home mom for a number of years – a Bachelor of Education (2017) says her feeling of connection with MSVU has remained strong.

“After Hannah was accepted, we participated in the orientation parent/student Zoom call. I immediately felt like I’d just come home. I was so proud to be a Mystic and immediately started pointing out people on the Zoom call with whom I was familiar — June Lumsden, for example. It was like I was introducing Hannah to family she’d not yet met,” she says.

Ann, who played seasons of women’s basketball and women’s soccer and also ran on the cross country team while completing her first degree at the university, has been enjoying sharing her experience with both of her children.

“It’s been really fun sharing MSVU memories with Hannah and with my son, Christian, also a varsity athlete at another university,” she says. “Many memories had been tucked into another part of my life and Hannah’s experiences have brought a lot of those memories back to life. Believe it or not, it really seems like yesterday! With all this being said, what makes me most proud and gives me the most satisfaction is watching Hannah play the sport she loves, with a great team, and getting an education while she’s doing it!”

Daughter Hannah is now a second-year Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality Management student at MSVU, and also in her second year of playing on the university’s varsity women’s volleyball team.

“When I was looking into universities, MSVU was always a possible top choice knowing that my mom had attended. She’s often talked about her years at the university and how fantastic they were specifically because of being an athlete,” says Hannah.

Hannah adds that her mom’s sense of belonging at the university has carried through to her, helping her feel at home.

“When it came time for me to try out for the volleyball team, I didn’t feel anxious or uncomfortable. Mom’s connection with the university made it quite natural. Mom couldn’t wait to introduce me to June Lumsden and show me around the campus,” she says. “Now that the championship banners are up in the gym, I can’t seem to hear the end of mom’s stories about her years that are up there – but it is really cool to have my year of winning a championship up there along with hers.”

Ashleigh Marshall and her mom Melissa (Stevens) Marshall

Collage of Mystic M logo, photo of Ashleigh and photo of Melissa
Ashleigh Marshall – Women’s Basketball (2021-2023) and Melissa (Stevens) Marshall – Women’s Basketball (1993-1997 and Assistant Coach, 1998-1999)

MSVU feels like home for Melissa Stevens and her daughter Ashleigh Marshall, and it’s no surprise given their strong connections to the university and its basketball community.

Starting in 1993, Melissa played women’s basketball for the university while earning her first degree (Bachelor of Child and Youth Study, 1997) and then served as the team’s assistant coach while earning a second degree (Bachelor of Education, 1999). She only stepped away from the team after becoming pregnant with Ashleigh, who spent lots of time courtside as a child.

“There are a lot of people who are still at MSVU who really watched her grow up,” says Melissa of Ashleigh. “The athletic department has such a strong alumni following, and lots of them saw her coming to watch games when she was little. She actually used to watch the players who are now her assistant coaches – Kate Gallant and Nina Brien.”

Ashleigh is now a fourth-year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in Psychology who hopes to go on to attain a master’s degree and work in school psychology.

“I’ve always loved it here and it’s always felt like a second home to me,” Ashleigh says. “As soon as I knew I wanted to move back to Halifax, there was no doubt I was going to MSVU. I didn’t even consider any of the other universities in the city. I knew I wanted to keep playing basketball, and I wanted to play for MSVU.”

Reflecting on being a student athlete and her varsity athletics experience at the university, Ashleigh adds: “You get to really connect with a group of people who are experiencing the same things as you and you always know you have a support system. It’s like you make an instant group of friends,” she says.

Melissa also experienced the benefits of being a student athlete, which for her and her teammates continue to this day.

“We had such a close-knit group,” says Melissa. “And even now, we’re still really close. Ashleigh’s godmother is an MSVU alumni member who played basketball, and we still get together with everybody. We have so many relationships through basketball and MSVU.”