The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

Living on the ice

A large increase in the number of players and practice-time has propelled the Liberty, the LM girl’s ice hockey team, to see new success.

Following years of disappointing results, the LM Liberty, the girls’ ice hockey team, has finally had some encouraging signs of success in recent competition. Over the course of the 2021-2022 season, the Liberty only managed a lone victory. But thanks to a new coaching staff and an influx of promising talent, that total was bumped up to three victories during the current campaign, with a couple of games still left to go.

When Coach Lauren Patterson and the new coaching staff took over in June, they immediately noticed a big problem: they only had ten players and no goaltender. The previous year, this lack of depth made it incredibly difficult for the Liberty to succeed, resulting in them winning just one game all year. Starting her first year on the job, Patterson viewed this in a more positive way, explaining, “I came into the season thinking we could only improve from there.” This year however, the program has made an incredible leap in the number of participants, and now almost thirty players are skating and practicing with the team, including twelve who had never played hockey before. 

Although the expansion of the roster was an encouraging sign, if the Liberty were going to succeed, they needed to get these new recruits as much experience as possible, and fast. In order to accomplish this, the new coaching staff started the JV/Independent Team, nearly doubling the amount of games played by the program as a whole. Patterson believes that this increase of on-ice experience was invaluable for the program, and “a huge factor in how much our team has improved in one season.” Heading into the season, Maya Polss ’23 admitted that she had “never touched a hockey stick before.” But by the end of the season, she made it onto the JV/Independent Team, and even netted a game-winning goal against Central League rival Conestoga. The goal, which lifted the Liberty over Conestoga by a score of 5-4, sent the bench into a frenzy, with Patterson even claiming, “I’ve never heard a bench so loud even when I was playing college or pro hockey,” and that the moment “felt like it was out of a TV show or movie.” 

While the development of a JV program was a big step forward for the future of the Liberty, the Varsity team was also experiencing some immediate success of its own. The Liberty defeated Conestoga, Radnor, and even West Chester East, a victory which according to alternate captain Julia Dubnoff ’23 “would have never happened” in previous years. Even in games in which the Liberty were not victorious, Patterson saw evidence of impressive development. After implementing a brand new defensive system, the Liberty held Kingsway to just two goals in what Patterson described as “one of the greatest defensive games I’ve ever seen from any team I’ve coached.” Although they were unable to come away with a win, their sturdy defense stifled the opposition for much of the game. Then, against West Chester Rustin, a team chock-full of NCAA level talent, the Liberty had another outstanding performance on every level. According to Patterson, “Goaltending was stellar. Defense was solid and producing offense, and forwards put on the most aggressive forecheck causing so many quality chances.” If it were not for an impressive display from the opposing goaltender, Patterson believes the Liberty could have scored four goals against this high level opponent. 

Across the program, Patterson noted massive improvement in all facets of play. Although much of this is due to the rise in experience and players, much of the Liberty’s success can be attributed to the dedication of Patterson. As Polss explained, “I can tell you for sure that our coaches genuinely care about us. They have done so much for us individually and as a team, giving us amazing opportunities and we are having one of our best seasons.” Now, with a significantly bigger program, including plenty of experienced middle schoolers ready to play at the highschool level, along with the new JV/Independent Team to help the newcomers develop into stars, it is clear that the new coaching staff has built a program headed in the right direction.

The Liberty’s biggest win of the year came against West Chester East, a 3-2 victory. | Photo courtesy of Lauren Patterson

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