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Sophomore Olivia Gill played stout defense for the Guilford girls’ ice hockey team this winter, while helping the Indians claim their first SCC title in the history of the program. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Gill )
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Defenders don’t always get the same recognition as offensive players on the ice, because their primary objective is to stop the opposition from scoring. It isn’t easy work, but sophomore Olivia Gill loves her role as the first line of defense on the Guilford girls’ ice hockey squad, and her work ethic has proved invaluable to the Indians’ success this season.
“When I’m on the ice, it’s like an escape for me, and playing defense is my favorite, because the puck starts with you, and you create the opportunities for the offense,” Olivia says. “There is so much that goes into the position. A lot of people don’t understand that.”
Olivia started playing hockey when she was just five years old. Although Olivia is only a sophomore, Head Coach Rich Binkowski says that she’s one of the leaders on a young Indians’ club.
“Olivia is always there encouraging her teammates, making them more eager to play. And her confidence is unrivaled,” says Binkowski. “A lot of girls her age don’t have the confidence to step up and make the decisions Olivia does, and she’s also not afraid to speak her mind if she thinks there is an adjustment we need to make. She’s a future captain for sure.”
With Olivia anchoring the defense, Guilford captured its first conference title in team history by earning a 4-2 win over Amity-North Haven-Cheshire in the SCC final this winter. Olivia scored four goals to go with 14 assists for her sophomore season, finishing the year with the most points by a member of the Indians’ defense.
“Olivia is our top defender,” Binkowski says. “If we’re in trouble, we can move her anywhere on the ice. She’s played wing for us before, because she’s such a strong skater. Her point total this season shows how versatile she is for us.”
Olivia sharpens her skills by playing hockey on a year-round basis. She competed for the Hartford Junior Wolfpack for three seasons before joining the Connecticut Junior Eagles this year. Olivia feels that her constant improvement stems from dedication to the sport.
“Not having any rest time from the ice is super helpful, and always having the game in the back of my mind helps me focus,” says Olivia. “I’ve also taken a lot of private lessons where I’m able to focus on certain aspects of my game.”
The Indians have shown an uncanny ability to rally back from deficits this season. Olivia says that attribute is a testament to the bonds throughout the squad.
“We have a lot of good team chemistry,” Olivia says. “We always stay positive, and we know we are in any game we play in, because we all have that confidence in each other. We have so many talented players on our team.”
On the heels of winning the SCC title, Guilford squared off with Amity-North Haven-Cheshire in the first round of the State Tournament just a few days later. The Indians won the game by a 5-3 score with Olivia contributing an assist in the victory.
“We are on a roll right now. I’m so proud of the way we are playing, and I truly believe we can beat any team,” says Olivia. “We just need to play as hard as we can every night and anything can happen.”
Aside from hockey, Olivia also rows crew for the Indians during the spring. A straight-A student, she plans on taking Advanced Placement in her junior and senior years at Guilford.
“I enjoy rowing a lot, and I also really enjoy school,” says Olivia. “I have the same mindset in school as I do on the ice. I want to succeed in every way possible.”
While she still has two years of high school to go, Olivia is already thinking about continuing her ice hockey career in college.
“I’d love to play in college, whether that be at the Division III level or club level,” says Olivia. “Hockey has been in my life forever, and I’d miss it too much if I stopped playing.”
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