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

Skating towards success

The Liberty girls’ ice hockey team has experienced a turnaround season, characterized by an expanded roster, improved performance, and qualifying in playoffs.
Girls’ hockey program soars to almost forty players. | Photos courtesy of Lauren Patterson.

Following years of disappointing results, including just one victory last season, the Liberty (the LM girls’ ice hockey team composed of LM, Harrition, and eighth graders from the district middle schools) began showing signs of a new story this year. The change started with a complete overhaul of the coaching staff, with head coach Lauren Patterson leading the team. When the new coaching staff arrived, the team had only ten players. The coaches, L. Patterson, Mike Patterson, and Chris Moose, successfully combated this issue, increasing the program to almost thirty players, twelve of whom had never played hockey before. In addition, they started the JV/Independent Team, nearly doubling the total amount of games played by the program as a whole. Along with a more talented roster, this all culminated in a season that was a strong step in the right direction. This season, the Liberty have ridden that momentum, further improving their record to, with as of February 14, nine wins and five losses.

L. Patterson only started skating in eighth grade before going on to play hockey at Westchester University and professionally in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She brings this experience to her goal to “focus on building the youth and numbers for the team to have long term sustainability as well as long term development.” L. Patterson explains, “I want girls to build their confidence [so] that, if they try, they can have doors open for them like I did.” L. Patterson attributes the team’s growth to its supportive environment, in which “the girls have really been great advocates to get their friends involved. It’s been such a positive atmosphere overall, where they come to every practice and game, pushing themselves and falling in love with the game of hockey.” Defenseman Willa Moore ’27 recognizes this positive culture, commenting that “the team is pretty relaxed and fun.” Team captain Ella Miller ’24 emphasizes that even though the team has become more competitive over time, there is still a “great balance of competitive play and fun.” By working hard at practices and games while retaining the fun of the sport, the team has bonded, resulting in the players’ improvement and an enjoyable experience. This season, the program has expanded to almost forty players including seven new additions with no previous hockey experience. These new players, along with the ones from last year, have produced points in varsity games and been strong contributors to the team. The team is also supported by its eight youngest players, who have scored fifty of the team’s 79 total points. Center and defenseman Maeve Gilligan ’27 agrees, stating that “we are doing a lot better with the help of a lot of our younger and newer players.” Gilligan also explains that the team has been able to develop this youth because “this year, we have a lot more players with more experience which helps a lot with the new people. It also helps us work together as a team because we are able to help those newer players get better.” Miller leads the defense and the team with ten goals, having her best season of high school hockey. She attributes much of her improvement to her supportive teammates and the coaching staff, stating “I have had an especially strong season this year because of the confidence the team has given me. Knowing that the players and coaches believe in me by naming me captain proved to me that my skill set is strong enough to lead the team to a stellar season.” Regarding the role of captain, Miller understands well the importance of leading by example as she notes the need for her to “keep a level head and keep being positive. If the team sees their captain upset, it will only upset everyone else and bring the whole morale down.” She also understands the need to sometimes put the team before oneself, noting that “helping out the coaches at practices and talking to the referees at games is a weekly job of being captain, not [only] leading the team but helping them too.
Everything a captain does should be for the betterment of the team as a whole.”
Overall, although the role can be trying, Miller views the position as deeply gratifying and worthwhile. The coaching, positive environment, depth, and strong captain leadership have led to success throughout the season.

The Liberty have displayed some impressive scoring power, defeating Pennridge 9-2 and 8-0 and West Chester East 10-0 and 11-2. In particular, the dominant 8-0 performance against Pennridge where eight unique players scored was a highlight of the season. Patterson explains that “after taking a commanding lead with every defenseman scoring to start the game, the puck possession displayed by every single player was exceptional with the best cycling/passing displayed to date.” Against their rival Radnor, the team went 2-2 overall with extremely close battles. LM defeated Radnor 4-2 and 1-0 but fell 1-0in their other two matchups. Even their losses have a silver lining to them, losing to three teams from the higher varsity division (Kingsway6-0, Unionville/Rustin 7-0 and Conestoga 4-0). In the Unionville/Rusting game, the shortbenched Liberty faced an impressive opponent featuring multiple college-caliber players. One period in, LM was down 2-0 and 4-0 after the second. The Liberty showed tremendous heart to play until the final whistle with a final score of 7-1. Despite the loss, Coach Mike, who oversaw the bench that day, commented “I could not be more proud of the team, last year that game would have ended in the first period (referencing the league’s ten-goal mercy rule), but this team has improved so much to take Unionville/Rustin all the way to the end, play tough and even score a well-deserved goal.” The Independent team has also found success this season, culminating in their performance at the Liberties Invitational Tournament in Voorhees. After obtaining one win, tie, and loss, the team qualified for the semifinals in a game against the New Jersey Bandits. The game started out with an LM goal, eventually followed by a Bandits goal to send the game into overtime and then a shootout. After going back and forth, the Independent team eventually took home the exhilarating win. Although they would lose 3-0 against the undefeated New York Islanders in the championship, the team’s performance in the tournament is certainly something to be proud of.

Looking towards the future of the season, the team earned a spot in the league’s playoff for the first time in years. There, they will face tough competition against teams from the top division. Patterson reveals that “the girls look to upset these experienced teams and further make their way in hockey history.” Miller agrees, holding the hope “to continue winning and make the championship game.” The Liberty also qualified for the Inter County Scholastic Hockey League playoffs as one of the top two teams in the division. 

This season, the Liberty have only further increased their rate of improvement. A stronger team, improved varsity record, playoffs qualification, and Independant team success prove this is undeniably true. In the future, Patterson hopes to recruit more LM high school players, as the varsity consists of ten from Harriton, seven from the middle schools, and just four from LM. Patterson hopes that “promoting our success, youth, and how easy it is to jump into playing will entice more players from LM to lace up skates.” Moore believes that “in the future, the team will get better and gain players with more experience because of how many younger girls there are that play hockey that go to Black rock, Bala Cynwyd, and Welsh Valley.” There are also ideas of moving the program up to the higher division, hopefully making the team even more competitive. Looking back to her first year with the program in seventh grade, Miller finds it amazing just how much the program has progressed. She explains how “there used to be barely enough kids for a Varsity team, and now there are multiple teams with over thirty players rostered. There used to be one practice a week and no weight room, and now there is a weight room day and two practices a week. We have two different colored practice jerseys, and there used to be no practice jerseys. The new coaches are also club coaches, so they are very qualified and experienced, compared to the old coaches.” Lastly, Miller recognizes the challenges of playing hockey in an area with limited rinks and opportunities for girls to skate, but encourages that “it is never too late to get involved. Don’t be afraid to try something new or better your game by getting involved with Liberty hockey.” It’s clear that this program will continue to build off the growth of these last two seasons; the sky’s the limit for the Liberty.

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  • Joel HansFeb 26, 2024 at 11:22 PM

    Great article! Let’s go Liberty! It sounds like you got a terrific set of coaches and an even better captain.