Head Coach Gil Schaper knew he had a young bunch on the Guilford girls’ ice hockey squad entering the recent season. Although the Indians didn’t collect as many victories compared to recent years, they still made some strong strides, while growing as a group.
Guilford, which was moved up to the SCC Division I ranks this winter, finished at 3-15-1 behind a crop of several newcomers. With those fresh faces came a learning process that saw the Indians’ upperclass athletes help the rookies grasp the essentials of the game, thus bringing the squad closer together.
“We kind of came into this year knowing it would be a rebuilding year. With seven new players, six of them freshmen, we knew we had to focus on teaching them the basics. We were also fortunate to pick up additional assistant coaches over the course of the year [Rick Binkowski and Mitch Brown] because it allowed us to break the team up into groups with coaching,” said Coach Schaper. “One goal this year was to try and catch up the new players with the game in the short time we had and we succeeded in that. We wanted to get to the SCC DII Tournament, which we didn’t do, but our upperclassmen played a big part in this year in helping the younger girls. It was a good test of their leadership qualities and I’m proud of them all for sticking with it.”
The Indians featured a tremendous trio of captains in senior head captain defenseman Sarah DeLucia, along with alternate captains in senior forward/defenseman Lily Singleton and junior forward Alexa Petritz. Each of the three owns a different background in the sport, although the common denominator was that they all provided their teammates with a template of what perseverance can produce.
“Sarah was a pleasure to coach all four years she was here. She did everything you could’ve asked for. She maintained a positive attitude, started almost every game this year, and didn’t miss a practice,” Schaper said. “Lily was great in that she was able to relate well to other players as they could see where they could get to as an upperclassmen player with hard work. [Team manager] Emily [Kinney] was very helpful the last four years. She did it all, including announcing and working the clock at home games. Alexa was one of our more skilled players that also plays the game at a high level outside of our team. She showed what years of effort can get you as a hockey player.”
Completing Guilford’s senior class were manager Kinney, forwards Rosie Riccio and Bailey Haak, plus goalie Brooke Misbach, who was in her first year starting in net. Any club’s cohesiveness is often established by its veterans and the Indians were no exception to that rule this season.
“All of them were important parts of the team and the girls all had such great chemistry as a team,” said Schaper. “The seniors set the tone for that team chemistry and there were very few issues between players. All the seniors [besides Misbach] were spread out between the first and second lines and played a lot of minutes, as well.”
Coach Schaper felt the Indians’ proudest moment came in a 3-2 overtime victory against Lauralton Hall on Jan. 9, a contest that saw Guilford win with a shorthanded squad. Schaper also took pride in the fact that Guilford always sought to be better and fought through the final whistle, even while taking some lopsided losses.
“One of my favorite games of the year was that game against Lauralton. We were without two of our more experienced players. The rest of the team had to step up to get the job done. They gave it all and had only each other to rely on,” said Schaper. “We focused a lot on defensive zone coverage and our team effort improved over the course of the year. We also got better with fundamental skating. The girls were also still fighting to the end to get better, even when we were down by many goals.”
One bright side for the Indians is that all their youngsters will return to action a year wiser next December. With that in mind, Schaper will also look for a little in-house competition to build his club back to the level it was at when the Indians reached the state final a mere two years ago.
“We will look for the newer players from this year to make more of an impact next year. We have a goaltender in [sophomore] Alexa Maio, who stepped in goal towards the end of the year, so we are looking forward to her being starting goaltender next year. We also have a lot of returning players that saw a fair amount of ice time this season,” said Schaper. “We also have incoming freshmen that look promising and will hopefully challenge and compete with the current players on the team. We hope that competition helps in the long run with this program.”
From the Sidelines
Guilford’s assistant coaching staff was comprised of Krystyn O’Neil, Rick Binkowski, and Mitch Brown.
The Indians’ victories came against Lauralton Hall (3-2 in overtime on Jan. 9 and 7-1 on Senior Day on Feb. 17) and Hand (5-2 on Jan. 6).
Completing the Indians’ roster this season were juniors Catherine Lawrence, Lilly Young, Kacia Savage, and Sara Russo; sophomores Hannah Plaziak and Lauren Woxland; plus freshmen Claire Conerly, Jacquie Violette, Sarah Ziemba, Nell Kinney, Mariah Cretella, and Brielle Kendrioski.