Emily Owens, left, and Vanessa Soffee pose for this submitted photograph inside the Lady Beaverbrook Gymnasium. (Submitted: Emily Owens and Vanessa Soffee)

Hours of practicing, playing and sweating together from childhood to adulthood was a bonding experience for fourth-year students Vanessa Soffee and Emily Owens.

The pair formed a lifelong friendship through basketball and now play together for the St. Thomas University women’s team. Owens is a shooting guard for the team and Soffee is a point guard – but they played with or against each other for the Youth Competitive Basketball Club since Grade 6.

“Playing with your best friend has got to be one of the most amazing things. Our connection makes us so much better on the court,” said Owens. “Playing against one another when we were younger was always fun and there were times we would go at it and just laugh during the game.”

They became close in high school, where they played junior varsity basketball together. Owens said playing with a close friend allowed them to push one another as they ultimately want to see each other succeed. 

“Being so close, we’ve always had a drive to push each other to be better at every practice and workout. We can definitely hold each other accountable because we know we both want the best for each other,” said Owens. 

Soffee said because of their close relationship, they play fluently and continue to uplift each other to keep themselves in healthy, confident headspaces to perform.

Owens and Soffee were able to continue playing together when they both chose to attend STU. They knew STU was a good fit for them because it was close to home and they got to continue playing with each other. They both study economics and sociology, but constantly focus on basketball in their free time.

Committing their focus and effort into basketball, Owens said that outside of practices, you can find them at the J.B. O’Keefe Fitness Centre five days a week.

This year, they won first team all-star awards together.

“It’s special to see how far we’ve come as women and basketball players. The history we have as friends and players for almost 10 years is so incredibly special and you don’t see it often,” said Soffee.

Basketball brought them together and playing for STU allowed them to stay together in university. Their friendship has only grown throughout the years of playing together and supporting one another.

“It’s something we’ll be able to look back on forever. We’ve seen each other at our highest and lowest points and it’s a friendship that we both know will be there forever,” said Soffee.