The Branksome hockey team has opened the season with three consecutive victories.
December 20, 2016
Hockey and Academics Go Together
Branksome Hall’s hockey team has picked up just where it left off last year—by winning games.
The buzz of excitement, evident throughout the school, has come from a series of wins the Highlanders posted to start the season in the Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA).
Having won three of the past five CISAA Division 1B league titles, the Highlanders like the road to prosperity and are looking to add another championship. This year, the team opened with three consecutive victories, beating De La Salle (1-0), Lakefield (3-0) and St. Clement’s (4-1).
With a group of key players having graduated from last year’s gold medal squad, including Haley Shugart now at Union College in Schenectady, NY, head coach Joe Smith has turned to his veterans for leadership and has filled vacancies with talented and committed players.
“There have been huge accomplishments in hockey (at Branksome Hall) and while we’re very fortunate, it’s also not all about winning,” said Smith, in his 12th season as coach who also teaches Computer Engineering. “Every time they’re on the ice, these girls are learning from each other, taking advice and putting it to good use. They’re focused, dedicated, having fun and playing with no pressure.”
Olivia Williams, a three-time MVP, may be the most skilled on the team and, as the goalkeeper, has been solid. Williams, who first started playing the game at age five, also has some impressive academic numbers and will likely be in a Canadian or NCAA school in the fall.
“It’s a big deal playing hockey at Branksome—and we’re doing quite well as two-time reigning league champs,” said Williams, whose time away from books includes community service mentoring girls, between the ages of 8 and 15, who also want to be goalies. “I’m very competitive and everyone on the team gets along. It’s a great feeling.”
Anna Lisa Lowenstein knows all about goaltending. She would have battled for a position on the roster a few years ago and, instead, offered to play goal—something she had never done. With Williams now in net, Lowenstein—a solid fifth year player—has pitched in to help the forwards.
“When it comes to hockey, I am probably one of the less talented on the team, but I have skills that can benefit my teammates in other ways, like my leadership role as assistant captain. I love being on the ice to improve and help as best as I can.”
Another strong academic student, Lowenstein, outside of hockey, is on the Branksome Debating Society—and, in a recent competition, was chosen as one of the top teenage debaters in Canada.
While 42 girls showed up for hockey tryouts, and the team being restricted to playing 16 in games, the coaching staff have benefitted on the depth and made it clear that game-day starting rosters are altered when the opportunity arises.
And Smith doesn’t have to look far for replacements for the future as other players like Amber Chow, Emma Chan and Auden Wells have displayed their strong skills.