WESTFIELD, NJ — This season marks the fourth for the Westfield High School girls ice hockey program as the sport's popularity continues to rise among girls across the state, according to head coach Matthew Gualtieri.

“Girls hockey has grown immensely in the last three years,” said Gualtieri, who has been the Westfield head coach since the start of the program. “I believe we were the third public school to get a girls team and Randolph and Chatham/Madison followed soon afterwards. I know there’s more in the works, too. I have also seen an increase in girls hockey at the travel and recreational level.”

As more and more high schools continue to develop programs, Gualtieri looks for Westfield to compete at a high level this season.

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He has seen improvement and an increase in interest with every year.

“We’ve improved our level of play each season as well as increased our numbers,” Gualtieri said. “The goal is to grow the game and create a competitive varsity program that can compete with the top teams in the state. We started with 16 players in year one, 23 players in year two, 35 players in year three, and we’re up to 38 this season.”

The Lady Blue Devils compete in the Morris Union Girls Ice Hockey League and have a league schedule.

Westfield will play each team two times, but only one counts for the league. The LBDs will play most of the teams in the state in non-league games. There is also a county and state tournament.

The varsity team has 19 games schedule; the junior varsity team will play 11 games.

A number of players are expected to make an impact for Westfield this season. Senior goalie Megan Raftery brings a wealth of experience to the team.

“Megan has been our starting goalie since day one,” Gualtieri said. “She is a fierce competitor who has improved every year. She stands tall every game and gives us a chance in every game.”

Senior co-captain Maddie Katz also has been a top player who will bring experience and offensive firepower.

“Maddie has been one of our top players since her freshman year during our first season,” Gualtieri added. “She came in as a forward, but selflessly switched to defense out of necessity and has transitioned smoothly. She is our top offensive threat and will get to see some time at forward now that we have some added depth on defense.”

Senior co-captain Maddie McDevitt will also be a player who can get it done on both ends.

“She’s a natural defender who also possesses the ability to contribute offensively,” Gualtieri noted. “She’s our top defensive player who can shut down the top offensive players on our opponents.”

Senior Zoe Tedeschi is a two-way player who, much like Katz and McDevitt, can produce in a number of ways.

“She’s a natural forward that also switched to defense to help out the team,” Gualtieri said. “Added depth will allow her to see more time at forward this season. She plays with a lot of energy and will be counted on to contribute offensively this season.”

Senior assistant captain and defender Sara Miller has been with the team since her freshman year, when she first started playing hockey. Gualtieri has high praise for what she can do on the defensive side of things.

“She has turned herself into one of our most important defenders,” the coach said. “Her development allows us to move Katz and Tedeschi into prominent offensive roles. She is one more positive role model on the team and is an inspiration to other players coming in with little to no experience.”

Junior defender Mary Beke is someone Gualtieri claims can be a “potential difference maker.”

“She is a solid defender, but brings an offensive flair to the position,” the coach stated. “When she’s skating, she’s a threat at both ends of the ice for us. Her ability to add to the attack from the back line gives our offense another dimension.”

Sophomore two-way player Amanda Werner is someone who will bring an incredible work ethic to the team.

“She is one of the hardest workers on the ice and really improved her game,” Gualtieri said. “She’s also one of the coachable players we’ve had in our three years. She turned herself from a player with good skills to a player who can be a difference maker for us this season.”

And freshman Lillie Martel will be a new addition capable of being an impact player.

“Lillie brings several years of travel experience to the team this season. Her addition is one of the reasons we can move Katz, Tedeschi and Werner up front more often,” Gualtieri added. “She hasn’t looked out of place so far this season.”

Read more about Westfield High School sports:

Boys Ice Hockey: Westfield Has High Expectations in New Season

Allstate Westfield Athlete of the Week: Trey Rabinowitz