Wave’s girls program gaining momentum
The Anaheim Lady Ducks may hold the touch when it comes to elite development for Southern California girls, but other programs are slowly but surely beginning to garner attention.
In the case of the California Wave, its club was fortunate to have two NCAA Division I-bound prospects play on its 16U AAA team last season.
Both making their college commitments in March, forwards Nicole Dunbar (the University of New Hampshire) and Kendra Farole (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) were major contributors on the Wave squad that reached the USA Hockey National Championships.
Dunbar played just one season for the Wave, but for her, it was a transformative experience. She said Wave coach Mark Falkowski tested her limits, and it helped her improve.
“He’s just the best coach; he trained me very well,” Dunbar said of Falkowski. “He pushed us to make us better players, and I think we really did progress throughout the year.”
The 17-year-old winger is taking the next step in her career this season. After aging out of the Wave program, Dunbar joined the Canadian International Hockey Academy where she’ll spend a year before joining the Wildcats.
Farole, who also played one season with the Wave, will skate this season with the Lady Ducks’ 19U AAA squad.
The Wave’s girls are again icing a 16U AA team this season with first-year coaches and Southern California natives Jennifer Friedman and Laura Veharanta – both of whom played NCAA Division I at Providence College – at the helm.
“Having two local girls who played college hockey coach that team is huge,” said Falkowski. “They’ve been in those girls’ shoes, and they know what it takes, both on and off the ice, to reach that next level. We’re extremely fortunate to have them involved in our program.”
With its recent successes, the Wave hoped it could expand its girls program with a third team this season. Although the organization saw increased participation at its tryouts over the summer, it decided to hold off on adding a 14U AA club.
Still, the thought of expanding is a welcome one within the Wave camp. The idea is being made possible because of the reputation the club is establishing as a hard-working program that gets results.
“I think that creates buzz; it creates interest as far as the kids go, but also the parents,” said Falkowski, noting that a solid work ethic and success go hand-in-hand. “That’s what they like to see; they want to know that their kids are going to get better and that they’re going to be pushed.”
Falkowski added that the organization puts the development of its players first – and that’s the message that permeates throughout the Wave’s operation.
“That creates sort of a desire from the kids and the parents; they want to be involved with that kind of culture,” he said. “I think that’s the mentality we have as a club, and it’s working.”
Those who’ve joined the Wave remember a time when their options outside of roller hockey were limited. If girls wanted to play ice hockey in their formidable years, they had to with the Lady Ducks.
“I think it’s great we’re building the program, and that’s honestly what I like to see,” 16U AAA defenseman Christina Kao said. “From the beginning of tryouts, we got more girls to show up. There’s more of a variety, and I think it’s good for everyone.”
Kao attributed the increased turnout to the team’s successes over the last couple of seasons. Although the group largely believes it could have done more with its trip to nationals (the Wave finished with a 1-2 record), the club’s accomplishments, as well as the individual accolades of players like Dunbar and Farole, have attracted new members.
“It shows that it’s possible to play Division I coming from California,” 16U AAA defenseman Daniella Dror said. “You can do it; you just have to put the work in.”
– Andrew Turner