Road to recognition: RedHawk women's hockey team fueled by students' passion
Miami University may be known for its highly ranked men's hockey team, but few are aware of the women's program, which was established at the university only three short years ago. With eight wins, eight loses and four ties, the young team continues to make efforts to improve its record.
For most of Miami's history, female students who loved the sport had no option but to leave it behind when they came to college, but in 2010, three students' passion for the game inspired them to change that. Then seniors Natalie Dillon and Jessica Wood, and first-year Liz Wardlow got together to establish a women's hockey team.
According to Wardlow, Miami helped guide them through the process and get their plans in motion.
"Everyone was really supportive," Wardlow said. "Everyone at Goggin said they would help us in any way they could, and a lot of people involved with the men's club team gave us a lot of help and showed us how they run their program."
The team is run by head coach Scott Hicks, assistant coach Jim Stearns and goalie coach Nolan Peduto.
Hicks said he had doubts when initially being approached for the position. He soon found accepting the role was the right choice.
"I was really skeptical when I took the job, but every year it keeps growing and every year we get more passionate," Hicks said. "It's something that right now, at this point in my life, I can't imagine not doing it."
Hicks has spent years coaching men's hockey which allows physical contact and checking; the women's version does not. According to him, this has made it an enjoyable learning experience.
"I actually think [coaching women's hockey] is more fun because the actual skills of the game come out," Hicks said. "Some teams in the men's game can just rely on brute strength, where they go and just intimidate their opponents by throwing big hits. You can't do that on a women's team, so it's really more about the skill."
In just three years the team has doubled in size and become a notable program, Wardlow said. The success has been unreal.
"To be a freshman and not have a team, and now my senior year we're competitive in the [American Collegiate Hockey Association], I mean that's an awesome accomplishment for three seasons," Wardlow said.
According to Hicks, though the women's hockey team's popularity is nowhere near that of the men's, students are beginning to give it some attention.
"We play a lot of our games after the varsity team on Friday nights, so we get spill-over crowds," Hicks said. "We've been exposed to a lot of the student body, it's just something that we haven't targeted, but they're starting to take notice."
Hicks said he'd like to see awareness of the program increase, but he thinks it's important to first focus on the team's playing ability.
"We have a student body that knows the game, that loves the game," Hicks said. "If we put a product on the ice that is successful, I absolutely think that not just the student body, but the community could get behind us."
Assistant Captain, junior Nikki Stancampiano, said the team still has a ways to go, but the program's rate of growth is impressive.
"Because we're still kind of getting started out, we know we know we're going to face a lot of adversity," Stancampiano said. "We're definitely not going to come out on top at the end of the year, but basically [the coaches] have taught us the fact that we've come so far so quickly is something to be proud of."
Hicks noted the team's success, and said he has high hopes for the future.
"For really being in our second full year of competition, we've made huge strides," Hicks said. "You know, we beat Ohio State this year again, we tied Michigan-we're in the game, and that's the encouraging thing. If we can make the leaps that we made from last year to this year next year, sky's the limit."
According to Hicks, once the team has established itself competitively, he has plans to increase student turnout at games.
"We've been looking at doing a pink rink to benefit breast cancer awareness," Hicks said. "You know, something to get involved with, a charity to expose ourselves to people who might not normally attend a women's hockey game."
Wardlow said she has high hopes for the future of the Miami women's hockey team.
"In a couple years I'd just hope it'd be a competitive program that can maybe make it to nationals," Wardlow said. "Somewhere you can go and play competitive hockey, but still have fun and enjoy college."
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