Girls Hockey Preview: It's a new beginning for deeper Warriors
By JOHN NASH
Villager Staff Writer | Posted: Friday, December 13, 2013 12:45 pm
NORWALK -- In the five-year existence of the Wilton High School girls hockey program, the Warriors have seen a measure of both growth and success.
Now, it's time for the program to take the next step.
Under a new head coach, former college player Melissa Hawkins, Wilton is looking to build upon its steady foundation and has done so by adding a junior varsity level to help feed itself in the future.
"We're just instilling more hard work and the ability to go the extra mile so they can accomplish what they want to do," said Hawkins. "We've added more structure and we're putting them into a regiment that will help them win."
The Warriors -- who technically are a co-op team with two members from Brien McMahon skaking with them -- have 27 girls in the program, seven of which are strictly JV players.
The biggest thing the team has is depth as many of the players who started skating three years ago now have the skills and ability of full-fledged varsity players.
"Just watching everybody grow from players who could hardly skate who are now on the third line and contributing is great," said senior Perri Blicht, whose family was instrumental in getting the girls program started at Wilton High School. "It's awesome to see the improvement and the passion for hockey now."
Blicht will co-captain the team with Nicole Liu, a high-scoring forward from McMahon. Liu had three goals in Wilton's 3-2 win over Trumbull on opening night.
"It's like I don't even go to a different school," said Liu. "I feel like a part of this team. Everybody was so welcoming (two years ago) and the transition was easy and it continues to be easy."
Liu was injured midway through the season in 2012 and never returned. She's hoping to make up for it with a big senior season.
"It was terrible not playing the second half of last year," said Liu, who suffered a separated shoulder. "Hopefully, I'll get to make up for that this season. I know we're all looking to be more competitive."
But, Hawkins knows, it's going to take more than Liu's high-scoring ways for the team to be successful.
"The one thing I'm trying to instill in the kids is we can't depend on Nicole to do everything," she said. "The other girls need to know they can put the puck in the net. We need contributions from everybody on the team."
Seniors like Sam Engborg, Alex Marcarelli and Emilie Arrix bring experience to the squad.
Arrix didn't play last season, opting to focus on her field hockey career, but is back after helping the Warriors win their third straight field hockey state title in the fall.
The junior class also has some returning veterans that bring depth.
Jennifer Hojnacki and Monica Prairio are joined by classmates Amanda D'Arbanville, Caroline Costello, Shannon Wolpiuk and Shannon Coomaraswamy as key upperclassman.
The sophomore class is another group that has enough talent to add to the depth, according to Hawkins.
Brooke Jonsson returns as the starting goaltender and will be joined by Elizabeth Craven and her sister Amanda as key players along with Annabel Randolph, Caroline Coupe, and Lily Walsh.
Freshman who made the varsity team include: Izzy Thelen, Lilly Blackwell and Megan Keating.
"We've told the girls at any given moment your spot is not solidified," said Hawkins. "A kid from JV can come up at anytime to take a spot. They're just pushing the varsity kids."
Still, unlike past Wilton seasons, which might have been top-heavy in the talent department, the Warriors go three lines deep this season.
"(The depth and talent) is definitely better than I thought it would," Hawkins said. "We have three strong lines and fourth line isn't far behind. Talent-wise, we definitely have some strong lines."
Hawkins hopes to get her JV kids a five-game schedule against other FCIAC JV squads to help build up their skills, as well.
It's a new beginning for the Warriors, who are in their second season calling the SoNo Ice House home and have their Wilton-adorned locker room, as well, but it's also the next step in a growth process that sees the program heading back to the upper tier of the FCIAC girls hockey ranks.