Wildcats’ first girls team off to promising start
Ali Woodford and Madison Detwiler didn’t know it at the time, but an off-hand conversation they had while putting on their hockey pads last season may have had a major impact on girls hockey in San Diego.
Now members of the Wildcats Hockey Club’s first-ever girls team, the two high schoolers were playing for boys teams with a different club at the time, and casually mentioned how cool it would be to play for an all-girls team near their homes in the northern San Diego suburbs of Vista and Oceanside.
Knowing that the Wildcats had just begun to ice boys teams at nearby Carlsbad Icetown, they approached Wildcats president Ben Frank about the possibility of adding a girls squad.
Months later, Woodford and Detwiler are two of the 11 players on the program’s inaugural girls team. With players ranging in age from 13 to 19, the Lady Wildcats are technically a 19U squad and play a schedule that includes a mix of Southern California Amateur Hockey Association girls games and Bantam A division games against boys teams.
Through the end of November, it had won two of its first five games.
“Last year I moved up to Midgets playing with boys, and the contact at that level was getting to be a little too much,” said Woodford, 16, who’s been playing hockey for four years but had never been part of a girls program until this season. “Getting to play on an all-girls team has probably been the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey.”
Woodford said she and Detwiler had always wanted to play for a girls team, but with the closest established program being more than an hour’s drive away in Anaheim, it simply wasn’t practical. After recruiting a number of girls to clinics in the spring, they showed the Wildcats that there was enough interest to put a team on the ice this fall.
The team’s roster includes Isabella Bowman, Olivia Bowman, Detwiler, Soreya Hird, Ellise Jeannequin, Abigail Kolek, Taylor Poindexter, Emily Rodriguez Johnson, Madeline Sweerman, Samantha White and Woodford.
Pepper Pierman coaches the team with assistance from a number of other coaches within the Wildcats program.
“We had talked about it as a club and had always wanted this opportunity for the girls,” Pierman said. “As those talks got more serious last spring, Ali and Madison approached us about fielding the first team. They really paved the way.”
Kolek, a center who’s a junior at San Marcos High School one city over from Carlsbad, has been the Lady Wildcats’ top scorer. Having played high-level hockey in the Chicago area before moving with her family to San Diego, she’s quickly developed as a leader for the team, Pierman said.
“I played a little for a girls team in Illinois, but it was nothing like the Wildcats program,” Kolek said. “I’ve never had this much fun on a team and felt this included. I feel like I’m good friends with everyone on this team.”
Added Pierman: “This group has been an absolute blessing to work with. These kids are really paving the way for the next group of girls that are going to want to play.”
Detwiler hopes that the Wildcats’ first girls team will serve as a foundation and that more and more San Diego-based girls will have the opportunity to play in the future.
“That would be amazing,” Detwiler said. “We coach a lot of little girls, and we’re always telling them about the opportunity to play for the Wildcats.”
– Greg Ball