As she stares down her last chance at a national title with the Brock Badgers, Grace Pyatt (BScN ’21, MAG ’22) said a U SPORTS Championship ring would be a fitting piece of hardware to pair alongside her two degrees from the University.
The Applied Gerontology major from Thorold has enjoyed an unforgettable season as a senior student-athlete on Brock’s women’s volleyball team.
On Saturday, March 11, Pyatt made the game-winning block to successfully pull off a five-set comeback against Queen’s University in the 2023 OUA Championship match that put the Badgers back in the national championship conversation.
The two-time OUA First Team All-star registered 22 points with 17 total kills and .517 hitting percentage, including 10 blocks.
She was named an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Athlete of the Week on Tuesday, March 14.
Pyatt’s skills on the court have gone hand in hand with her success in the classroom.
In October, she crossed the stage twice during Brock’s legacy and 112th Convocations to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Applied Gerontology.
The experience was “unforgettable,” she said.
Pyatt credits her volleyball teammates for playing a key role in her successful pursuit of higher education, which has continued with additional courses beyond graduation.
“Pursuing my master’s meant I got to come back and play another year, which means everything in the world to me,” said the five-time Academic All-Canadian. “Here at Brock, I’m surrounded by 14 other women who are passionate about creating change, changing Niagara and the world.”
Last season, Pyatt was a key member of the Brock women’s volleyball team’s first perfect regular season since 1989-90.
The Badgers went on an impressive playoff run as they captured their first OUA Championship title in program history and competed at the U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball national tournament in Calgary.
Pyatt credits her coaches and teammates for keeping her grounded while balancing her life as a student-athlete while in the Nursing program.
“It takes mental fortitude and was an adjustment bouncing between the two. I relied heavily on my teammates at times, especially when I was a younger nurse,” she said. “Going into the team room after a hard shift, there was always someone there to listen and give me a hug if I had to just cry for a minute. My teammates kept me grounded.”
Pyatt would often have to switch gears, going from a nursing shift at the hospital to volleyball practice.
“It’s been amazing to watch Grace develop as an athlete, but even more so as a human. During the height of the pandemic, I watched her walk into practice after working a 12-hour shift in her nursing placement,” said head coach Steve Delaney. “The fact that she could step onto a volleyball court after working all day in an environment full of sickness, illness and death was incredible to witness. I admire her a lot for doing that. I’m proud to have her on our team.”
By the end of her Nursing studies, Pyatt had 10 clinical placements under her belt focused on areas such as medical, surgical, long-term care, community mental health, pediatrics and labour and delivery.
“The work-place experience was amazing — and an emotional rollercoaster,” she said. “I went from performing wound care on surgical, emptying drains, to C-section or helping catch in labour and delivery.”
Pyatt draws inspiration and influence from her mother, Barbara, who is a nurse in Niagara Health’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to be like my mom. I thought I wanted to work with babies like her,” she said. “When I did my clinical placement, I enjoyed working with babies and labour and delivery, but I found I loved working with geriatrics. I’m so passionate about the well-being of older adults and seniors.”
As a Master of Applied Gerontology student, Pyatt worked at Hotel Dieu Shaver this past summer to research culturally appropriate palliative care and interventions for hospital staff.
“I felt a bond with older patients,” she said.
In 2021, Pyatt helped her mother and uncle Brian serve as the primary caregivers for her grandmother, Birdell, for the last two years of her life.
“Looking after my grandmother in those final moments is where my interest in health care for geriatrics originated from,” Pyatt said. “Palliative care was a ‘wake-up’ moment, but I quickly viewed it as a privilege to be with, support and comfort someone in their final moments.”
Brock is the No. 2 seed for the upcoming U SPORTS Championships and opens the quarter-finals against the host school, the University of British Columbia, on Friday, March 17 at 9 p.m. EST.
All games from the eight-team competition will be webcast live on CBC Sports digital platforms and USPORTS.ca