Graduating Seniors Q&A: Kilbreath and Lalor's resolve, character and hard work shines through

Griffins' graduating seniors Hayley Lalor, left, and Noelle Kilbreath flank head coach Katherine Adams (Jefferson Hagen photo).
Griffins' graduating seniors Hayley Lalor, left, and Noelle Kilbreath flank head coach Katherine Adams (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – If there's an over-arching theme to the careers of Griffins women's basketball graduating seniors Noelle Kilbreath and Hayley Lalor, it's resiliency, resolve and hard work.

Both have dealt with tough injuries and found ways to make huge contributions to the program on and off the court.

They'll be celebrated prior to MacEwan's final game of the 2023-24 season on Saturday. The Griffins host Victoria on Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (3 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV).


"Hayley and Noelle have been two players that epitomize leading by example," said Griffins head coach Katherine Adams. "You cannot find two athletes who work harder, put more time in in the gym. From Day 1 when they stepped on court with our program, they were asking, 'can we do an individual (workout) in the gym? Can we get into the gym? Can we do this?' They're always finding ways to do more and in doing so, really set the example for what we do in our program and what the expectation is for others. 

"I think you can see the results in their play and growth as players over their time here. It really shows the work that they put in."

Kilbreath recently broke a long-standing program record for the most points by a Griffin in a Canada West game when she had 39 in a contest against Brandon, which is among several other program bests she holds.

Lalor made huge contributions across the board and leaves with one program record – best steals/game average by a Griffin in a Canada West playoff season (3.5 in 2021-22).

"Not only as basketball players have they been great leaders, but they're both phenomenal young women with high character who've really set the standard for what we're about," said Adams. "Their service to one another and the institution has just been unbelievable, and you can see that in so many ways that they've contributed, not only to our department, but the campus community as a whole."

Enjoy a Q&A with the two seniors.


Katherine Adams' coach's quote:

"I knew from Day 1 watching her play high school and in her club program that she has a phenomenal scoring touch. She got some minutes in her first year where she showcased that, but really it was in her second year – the season after COVID – where she put in a lot of work and really showed her ability to put the ball in the hoop in a lot of different ways. That is a huge piece that we've really valued and leaned on heavily over her time here. 

"Just the phenomenal person she is and the great, caring teammate that she has been over her time here – she's always looking out for her teammates and wanting the best for them."

 Noelle Kilbreath will leave with multiple program records, including netting the most points by a Griffin in a Canada West game when she scored 39 against Brandon last month (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Q&A with Noelle Kilbreath:

Graduating with …

Bachelor of Science in Psychology in April

Do you have a career goal in mind?

I'm hoping to get into Counselling Psychology at the moment, but we'll see.

Do you have plans to keep playing basketball or sports in any other capacity?

I don't know. We'll see what unfolds. Sport will definitely be forever a part of my life. It's such a big part of my family. It's what I do, so I'm sure it'll weave its way back.

When you look back on your time with the Griffins, what are some of your favourite memories that stand out?

There's a lot. I've had an opportunity to go on a lot of really cool trips – to Halifax, which was really fun; I've never been there before. We went to Montreal last year, which was also really nice and beautiful there. And there are a couple games that stand out, for sure. When we were able to beat the U of A in their gym, that was super fun. We beat the U of C a couple times and that was really fun. But lots of little moments with teammates and coaches that have been awesome, too.

How special was it in the last month or two of your career to get that 39-point game?

That was really exciting and cool, especially thinking about the players who have played here. There have been a lot of really good players historically in the program, so that's a really cool thing to walk away with. I'm just thankful it was able to happen.

Having your uncle Chris Reitsma, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, be part of your journey as a mentor, how much has that meant to you and maybe inspired you to give your knowledge back to others as well?

He's an incredible coach. He's actually coaching my sister's (basketball) team this weekend, so he can't make it for the Senior Celebration because they're playing. But he's an incredible coach. Watching his love of baseball and his love of sport in general, to be able to give back to the community – he's a really big part of my Calgary Christian community back home, as is a lot of my family – it's definitely really cool to see him do his thing and learn from him in a coaching sense, as well. 

You've had some injuries that have affected how much you could play over the last couple seasons. How do you look back on that experience and your resolve to come through that?

The nature of my injury was unlike a lot of other ones. I think the decision to play this year was very much purely out of my love for the game of basketball, love of the program, and wanting to finish on my own terms a little bit. It's definitely been a battle and tough in a lot of senses, but I'm very thankful that I made the push, came back, and have been able to stay healthy for the most part this semester.

How do you think you'll be remembered for your time at MacEwan? What's your legacy with the Griffins?

I hope it's one of growth. Coming from a really small school, playing 2A basketball, and then being able to learn so much over the past few years and step into the role I have now, I hope it's one of hope and that it's possible to learn, grow and take big steps. I hope I'm remembered as a good, supportive teammate.

Anything else you'd like to say about your time with the Griffins?

I'm very incredibly thankful for all my coaches, all of my teammates, for the Athletic Therapy staff, who have been so incredibly supportive of me. Coming through my injury, Jen (Dunn) and Adrienne (Dorn) were really great. I'm just thankful I was in an environment where I was able to make mistakes and learn and grow and make some really good lifelong friends.


Katherine Adam's coach's quote:

"When she got injured last year, that moment was one of the hardest of my coaching career so far just because you knew that she was probably not going to play another game for us just due to the nature of the injury and the recovery. She's just such a phenomenal young woman and is so selfless. She cares so much about the team and would do anything for anybody in our program without having to ask. Just to see that moment where that was taken away from her was really challenging. But then to see how she's responded to it and still been bought in – hasn't missed a practice or a session and has still been here 100 per cent in everything that she's done – she's still Hayley and we still get to experience the joy that she brings to the team.

"The thing I love about her … is everything she does, she does with a smile on her face. (In her playing career), she would go all out, needing oxygen on the sideline and still be smiling. People are inspired by the way she goes about her business."

 Hayley Lalor was a strong two-way player on the court for the Griffins and showed her character and leadership of of it by serving as an assistant coach this season after an injury (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Q&A with Hayley Lalor:

Graduating with …

Bachelor of Science with a Major in Psychology and Minor in French. I finished in December and will graduate in the spring.

Do you have a career goal in mind?

I don't. I still have to figure that out. I'll see where it takes me.

This past year, not by your choice, you've transitioned into a coaching role with the team. Can you explain what you've been doing for the team this season?

I've been attending all the practices, all the film (sessions), all the lifts and just trying to help the girls out where I can. In practices or when they come off the court, whenever the girls have questions, I've been trying to help them out. I've also been trying to take it as an opportunity for myself to learn a little bit more about coaching and see how much interest I have in that in the future. But I'm mainly just there to help the girls with whatever they need help with.

It was a tough moment for you and your team when you went down with an injury last year. How do you look back on that and how you've managed to finish out your career here in a different role?

I think it's very hard because it just didn't go the way I planned. It's always nice to have your final year where you've been for five years and get to be on the court with your teammates. It's just very hard because I never wanted to have this be how I finished my time here. I wanted to be out there with my teammates and friends. I think that's the hardest part. I know last year it was very hard for me because Mac (Mackenzie Farmer) and Shan (Shannon Majeau) were graduating, and they were the only ones here in my first year. It was really hard for me to not get to be there for their last game. I was on the bench, but I didn't get to play with them in their last game. And I don't get to have a last game here, so I think that's just the hardest part of coming to terms and being OK with that.

What's been impressive is the other work you've been doing off the court. You were co-president of the Student Athlete Council with Shannon last year and you're in that role again this season with Sydney Hughson (of women's hockey). You've also had success in the classroom with five U SPORTS Academic All Canadians. How do you look at your overall contributions to the program?

I think heading into this year, I wanted to look back on my last year and feel like I had a positive impact on my teammates and on the council. When I hurt my knee and was just figuring out what this year was going to look like, I pretty quickly said I still want to run the council and I still want to be a part of the Athletics Community. I could have stepped away, could have finished first semester, and been gone, but I just wanted to finish strong and have a positive impact on the program and Athletics community. I didn't want it to end like that, so I wanted to make sure I was still doing what I could for those around me in the time I was here.

When you look back on your whole career, what are some of your favourite memories?

I think just the times with my teammates, which is maybe pretty plain. There's not even a specific (memory). Most of the time, the best times are off the court – the bond that you make and the people you learn from. All the times we're hanging out or are on a 10-hour bus trip getting to know each other and laughing with each other. I think if I had an on-court memory, I remember when we beat the U of A two years ago. That was really fun. Everyone was clicking, everyone just had a good game. I think that was why it was such a good game – not because we beat the U of A, but because we all just felt so connected. It was such a fun game to play. I think that's what plays into the best moments anyway – it's not the outcome of the game, it's how you feel with your teammates and those little moments in between where you get to know each other.

What's your legacy with the Griffins? What will you be remembered for?

I would hope that I was a good teammate, that I was someone people could trust and come to when they were having a hard time. And just someone who was all-in on our team and willing to do whatever the team needed. Hopefully I was someone the girls trusted, could come to, and looked up to.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about your time as a Griffin?

I think just how much I appreciate the opportunity I was given here and how much I appreciate my coaches. The impact that all my teammates have had on me and the person that I have become because of them, I think when I look back on my time as a Griffin, what I'll remember the most is all my teammates and how much they all meant to me.