RANDOLPH, NJ- A group of 19 girls at Randolph high school will be blazing a new trail for the school’s sports program, representing the inaugural roster for a newly created girls’ ice hockey team.
While there are private high schools with girls’ teams scattered around the state, on the public side it is almost unheard of. But that didn’t stop the drive of two RHS sophomores from pushing the idea until it became reality.
“We both have been playing hockey for a long time,” said sophomores Carly Snarski and Morgan Yurchuk, the two driving forces behind the teams’ creation. “Some girls who play hockey with us on our club team attend private schools in the area, and they have girls’ ice hockey teams. We had the idea and started the process in 8th grade, and kept pushing until now (2 years later) when it finally is happening.”
After starting discussions with RMS principal Dr. Copeland, who encouraged the girls to persevere and chase the idea, they continued to talk to whoever would listen during their freshman year at RHS. They did not gain much traction that year, but found a champion in a newcomer to town this past summer.
“At the end of freshman year, we found out that Mr. DiLollo was going to be our new athletic director,” said Snarski. “Within his first few weeks of starting at Randolph during the summer, we sent him an email explaining our entire story. He was very excited and helped us tremendously. Our Principal Mrs. Iosso, our Superintendent Mrs. Fano, and almost all of administration seem very excited for this team.”
Starting a whole new sport at a high school takes effort from more than just a few people, however. Fortunately for the girls, many others were eager to jump in and help.
“The most instrumental helper overall would have been Mr. DiLollo,” said Yurchuk. “He was very responsive during the summer to help set everything up for this upcoming school year. Mackenzie Vorel, a fellow club hockey player, has continued to help us, and the school administration allowed us to hang posters to spark interest.”
Gina Annunziata ( RHS Girls Field Hockey and Lacrosse coach ) volunteered to be the coach, and many of the girls’ parents also jumped in to help organize the effort, with some dads even volunteering to be assistant coaches.
As of now, the team has a six game schedule, and will play against Westfield, Summit, and a combined team from Chatham-Madison. They will play each twice.
Westfield and Chatham-Madison are also new programs this season, so the hope is that the level of competition will be similar. In addition to the scheduled games, they hope to add a few more games with teams such as Kent Place, Oak Knoll, and Pingry, although those may present a tougher challenge.
“Hockey has been a big part of my life ever since I was an infant,” said Yurchuk. “Growing up in Canada, it is almost inevitable to fall in love with the sport.”
Some would say in Yurchuk’s case, being from Canada, hockey is in her blood. However, it was not until the family moved to New Jersey that she started playing hockey.
“I started skating at a very young age as a figure skater, and then decided to play a sport called Ringuette,” said Yurchuk. “This sport is mostly unheard of in the US, but is a popular girls sport in Canada and is similar to hockey. I realized that goalie was the position that I loved. I then moved to New Jersey, where the sport was unknown, so I made the transition from Ringuette goalie to hockey goalie.”
Moving to Randolph, a town rich in hockey tradition, certainly helped.
“Here in NJ, I’ve been playing hockey for the girls New Jersey Colonials program, where my brother and sister also play,” said Yurchuk.
Sis Paulsen, director of the girls hockey at the Colonials program has also been supportive of the effort the Snarski and Yurchuk have put in. Her program donated practice jerseys and some used equipment to help the team gear up.
“I started skating when I was four years old, and having a brother and father playing ice hockey helped spark my interest,” said Snarski. “Instead of picking up stuffed animals on the ice during lessons, I wanted to skate with the hockey players on the other side of the Ice, so I played on a boys team up until I was 10 years old. I then started playing with girls at the New Jersey Colonials, and have met my closest friends through hockey.”
Having only four girls in the high school who currently play ice hockey, the goal was to get ten girls to commit to the roster. When 30 girls came to the first meeting, they knew the idea had some legs.
“Morgan and I feel so successful now that this team is a reality,” said Snarski. “Throughout Randolph I hear people say ‘Is there really a girls ice hockey team at the high school?’, and I am proud to say yes. I’d like to look back after I graduate and see girls playing hockey who probably would have never played if there wasn’t a team.”
“It feels great to know that I got to be one of the founders of the team with Carly,” said Yurchuk. “This whole new program will be a legacy that we can leave here at Randolph High School. We hope that many girls throughout the years will be able to look back on the history of their team and think of us.”
The Lady Rams ice hockey team will play their first game on January 6, at 5 p.m. away at Summit.