By Betsy Larson
“It’s discouraging when you lose games not because you’re less skilled but because your skating whole periods at a time,” says Susie McDonough (‘17) Oyster River girls hockey player. “Hockey is a really fast paced game. A normal shift should be no longer than a minute and a half. There were games that our team didn’t even want to play. That shouldn’t happen.”
On March 2nd Oyster River’s school board met to discuss several topics, one in particular, girls hockey. For the past two years the ORHS girls hockey team has been struggling with such low numbers. Not enough girls were coming in each year to play resulting in a very small team. This past 2015-2016 girls hockey season started with 12 players, due to injuries or other constraints the girls were left with 10 but on any given day had an average of only 8 girls who were able to play or go to the game. In such a high intensity sport, two subs were not enough.
There were several major reasons in conclusion to why there were less and less girls each year such as, club teams, drivers ed, employment or other non-hockey based priorities. Due to these it not only made games tough but it also made practices, scheduling and fundraising harder for the girls.
“We couldn’t get into a real game scenario because we didn’t have enough players to do the drills so often times the coaches would fill in. Another setback was that during games, our bench was minimal so when a girl got tired, she wouldn’t have a substitute because there was rarely more than two lines,” says Abby Croot (‘18). “It wasn’t health for the players not to get rest.”
It’s safe to say all Oyster River members were on board for accepting some new girls into the ORHS program.
“For our current high school girls to struggle the way they did this year due to low numbers and injuries, I think it is uplifting for them and the coaches to welcome a good size freshman class and 4-5 girls from portsmouth to allow for more productive practices and games,” says ORHS athletic director, Corey Parker.
At Portsmouth High School they don’t have a girls hockey team at all, girls who wish to play hockey have to join a club team which was sometimes far away or at inconvenient times. Tori Liebel and Riley Deans, both freshman at PHS, spoke a few words at the School Board meeting about why they are in favor of the decision.
“If the Portsmouth- Oyster River Co-Op continues to grow over the years and more girls from Portsmouth try the sport, maybe even Portsmouth will eventually have their own girls team! But for right now I am just extremely grateful that Oyster River and Portsmouth made this team happen for us girls who just want to play our favorite sport,” says Liebel.
Deans also expressed her appreciation for this opportunity saying; “I’ve had to drive almost an hour away to play because there weren’t many options for me in the area. I’m very thankful and excited to be playing with Oyster River next year, we were very lucky to have this opportunity and I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing at a high school level.”
The girls at Oyster River invited the Portsmouth girls to one of their practices just after the agreement was passed to get to know their new teammates.
“I can tell already that they will fit right in. With the skill we have as a team and our new numbers we will definitely have not only a successful season but also a more enjoyable one.” says McDonough.
No matter what school these girls are from, they all have the same goal in mind; become a better team and individual player.
“I want to get better as a player and I want the team to get better together so we can become a strong team on and off the ice,” said Lily Madden (‘19) from PHS.
All athletes and coaches are very excited to see what the 2016-2017 hockey season will bring and are ready to be a competitive cooperative team.