Expectations high for Lady Ducks’ 14U teams
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While every team within the Anaheim Lady Ducks program traditionally holds lofty expectations, both its 14U AAA and AA clubs are particularly excited about what they believe they can accomplish this season.
The two squads got their seasons off to excellent starts, winning their respective divisions at last month’s Jr. Ducks-hosted Early Bird Tournament.
Kathy McGarrigle, the 14U AA team’s head coach and also the Lady Ducks’ director, is bullish on her club’s prospects.
“This team is full of potential,” said McGarrigle. “We’re already off to an exceptional start, and the girls are working so hard and are so coachable.”
The Lady Ducks’ 14U AAA coach, Scott Shand, is equally optimistic about the makeup of his club.
“It’s a great group and one I feel can accomplish a lot of great things,” said Shand. “If we keep working hard – and with the commitment level I’m seeing from these girls, I know they will – and improving, they’ll reap the benefits.”
McGarrigle noted that a hugely competitive tryout between AAA and AA at the 14U level over the summer has helped both squads.
“It’s the first time in our history we had to cut players from the AA level, simply because we didn’t have enough space on our rosters,” McGarrigle said.
In addition to returning a small handful of girls, the 14U AA club added Lady Ducks veterans from both their 12U AAA and AA teams, which has helped bolster the squad’s attack.
“We’ve seen a lot of girls coming to us with a stronger background on positioning, skills and an understanding of the game, and that’s important,” said McGarrigle.
The 14U age group is a pivotal one when it comes to development, says McGarrigle, and at the same time challenging because of the emphasis to move or play up at the AAA level by so many of the players’ parents.
“I took the 14U AA team as one of my focus points because I truly feel that girls who’ve been playing boys hockey, those who are new to ice or have not yet matured need a place to play and grow and learn the missing pieces to their game that can get them to the next level,” said McGarrigle.
It’s also important for the overall health and vitality of the program, says McGarrigle.
“We’ve focused on 12U AA and 14U AA for a few years now, and that emphasis on doubling our numbers for girls ages 11-14 has helped grow the program,” she said. “It’s also given girls the opportunity to learn the game and get meaningful ice time at the appropriate level.”
Shand brings the best out of his players by tapping into the mental side of the game, forcing the girls to commit to themselves above all else.
He recognizes the value that comes from motivating his players to make good on the promises they make to themselves.
“I constantly talk to these girls and ask them, ‘How hard do you want to train?’” Shand said. “We’re serious. If everyone’s on board, then we’re going to have a successful season.”
A competitive environment is conducive to a strong work ethic – something many Lady Ducks alumni seem to embrace as they keep in touch with the program amidst their professional and academic obligations.
“It’s a lot different than the boys; it’s a lot tighter community,” Shand said. “The girls seem to have a real good grasp on the don’t-forget-where-you came-from way of thinking.”
With continued progress, McGarrigle believes the sky is the limit for this particular crop of 14U girls.
“They get excited about pushing their game to another level,” McGarrigle said. “We’ve got a huge number of players who are in seventh, eighth, ninth grade who want to become as good as they can.
“There’s a big future for these girls in our program moving forward.”
– Andrew Turner