Williams Women's Hockey: A Season to Remember

Picture from CC Wallin

For the women’s ice hockey team, this season had been a season of firsts. This season was the first time the team had swept Amherst in years, the first NESCAC win for the seniors on the team, and the first ever win in an NCAA tournament for the program. Before the women’s ice hockey team took off to Plattsburgh, New York this weekend for their Elite Eight game, I had the chance to talk to three members of the team about this record-breaking season.

CC Wallin, a freshman on the team from Minnesota, told me about what she felt contributed to their astounding success this season. She immediately alluded to the incredible team chemistry that the team has, tracing it all the way back to preseason.

“Coming in, we had to go to North Adams to practice in preseason, and it was really nice because the older girls would drive us to practice. It was a really good way to bond. People would make up nicknames for each other, and the freshmen were integrated really well,” she said with a smile.

Even though four of the seven freshman on the team play other sports as well, the team still managed to cultivate a great team dynamic. While the team has been performing incredibly well this season, this has not always been the case.

“It’s very new for us to be ranked first and to be hosting playoffs,” CC said. “Usually Mid is the powerhouse.”

She went on to describe how the novelty of this season has worked to their advantage. “Everyone is going in with a fresh mentality that is really contributing to our success,” she said.

“We’re not going in with a past like other NESCAC teams; we’re just going in, playing hockey, and doing it as a team. Going into playoffs, I don’t feel like a freshman at all. We just feel like one team.”

I then spoke with two sophomores on the team, Georgia Keogh from New York and Gabi Montembeault from Illinois. With one season under their belt to compare this one to, their responses were slightly different. The two sophomores were even more animated about this season’s departure from seasons of the past and pointed out tangible changes from last season. Gabi and Georgia both emphasized the incredibly important role that their captains and seniors have played in creating a team culture of accountability that has put them in a position to succeed.

“The captains have done a really good job fostering a culture that everyone feels comfortable in. Everyone knows their role and feels comfortable contributing between periods,” Georgia said.

“Honest communication and accountability have been really helpful. The captains are very approachable and consistently lead by example.”

Gabi built off of this, mentioning the indispensable role their coaches have played in the team’s success.

“Our coaches have also held us accountable and have been very direct and open with us about playing,” Gabi said.

“They are always willing to give of their time; every morning we can go out and skate with them to get some extra practice, they will move their schedules around in order to help us, and we can always text them if we want to go over video.”  

The girls described some pre-game traditions that have really helped bring the team together throughout the season. “Before every game, the captains tell us that the most important thing to do is to have fun,” CC said. “Then, we do word of the day. On Wednesday, the word was ‘new territory’ since it was our first NCAA game, and we were playing a team that has won a national championship.”

The team also has some more light-hearted traditions. After the practice the day before game day, the team will sing a song together in the locker room. Then, right before games, they sing a different song as a team and play a game with a water bottle.

“Basically, it’s a competition of who can grab the water bottle first when one of the seniors says go,” Georgia said with a laugh. “Whoever wins gets challenged before the next game. I think it really speaks to fun-loving culture we have this year. It’s also a good way to work off nervous energy.”

All these traditions mentally prepare the girls for the game and help to build excitement. “Before games is the time I live for,” Gabi said. “That and the feeling of jumping on the goalie after the game are the best feelings in the world.”

This season had been one full of good feelings. When asked about the moment they won a NESCAC championship, Gabi said, “It was breathtaking. It was a huge accomplishment, beating Middlebury for the third time in a season is more than we’ve ever beat them in the history of Williams hockey. I’m just so proud of everyone. We were all ecstatic after working so hard after last season. The goal was always to win NESCACs.”

Not only did they win NESCACs, but they went on to defeat Norwich on Wednesday in the first round of NCAAs.

“Setting a goal and reaching it is one of most gratifying and fun things you can do,” said Georgia. “We talked before the game about how NCAAs was new territory; we can be excited about it, but then we have to hit reset and just go out and do what we love doing.”

The good feelings continued into this weekend with their Elite Eight game on Saturday. “We’re feeling great,” Gabi said. “We’re super excited. We’ve never played Plattsburgh, we’re on an eleven or twelve game winning streak, and confidence is high. When we play good teams, we tend to focus in and play above their level.” Georgia agreed, adding, “This is a huge opportunity to play a very reputable program. We’re just happy to have the chance to play our game at a high level.”

Although the team lost 3-5 in their battle against Plattsburch, we congratulate them on a season to remember and will be rooting for them again next year! Go Ephs!