By Collin Atwood
Up until three years ago, only the men on the campus of Springfield College were able to compete on the ice at Smead Arena. The women joined them with the creation of their own team in 2019 and it has been a journey to get where they are today.
The first step for Tom Verrico, the head coach of the women’s hockey team and Assistant Director of Intramurals and Club Sports, was to survey the campus for interest in the sport. If there were no players, then there would be no team.
Verrico has experience in starting a club sport on a college campus and specifically a women’s hockey team. He helped start the women’s hockey team at Curry College during his time as their Intramurals Coordinator.
His involvement there made it easy for him to evaluate the talent at Springfield and see if there was a chance that they could compete in the Independent Women’s Club Hockey League.
“We had a decent amount of talented interest here which would make us competitive in the league,” Verrico said, “I had some past experience being in the same league we’re in now when I was at Curry so I knew where the level of play would be.”
Along with his coaching experience, Verrico also played youth hockey and still competes in a men’s league to this day. That’s exactly what he told Sam Foulkrod, senior at Springfield and member of the hockey team, when she helped start this club sport three years ago.
“I told her that I used to coach and that I believe I know a decent amount about coaching,” Verrico said.
Verrico made it clear that if anyone deserves credit for starting this team, it was Foulkrod. She played a major role in recruiting players by handing out flyers and reaching out to people.
“Sam was definitely the brunt and start of this program,” Verrico said.
Foulkrod and the other teammates that helped start this team are still on the team today and they are a huge reason why this team has progressed over the years.
“Our first season we went a game over .500 and now we’re sitting in first place at 5-2 and I think that’s just a great accomplishment for a brand new program,” Verrico said.
This season, the women’s hockey team has made multiple comebacks including an overtime win against Bates College, which is their only loss of the season. “This season is very special to me because I have found that our team is super resilient,” Verrico said.
Although club sports are about less time commitment and less competition, the women’s hockey team competes just as hard as any other team would.
“You don’t need to be highly competitive, even though we are,” Verrcio said.
Club sports at a college are a great way for student-athletes to compete while still having time to focus on their classes. The level of competition is fairly similar, but practices are usually three or four days out of the week.
“It’s my belief that club sports are the new trend because students want more time to focus on their academics at Division III institutions,” Verrico said.
Rachael Curtis, a senior on the women’s hockey team, agreed that the main difference between an NCAA team and a club sport is that it takes less time out of your schedule. She has experience playing for the field hockey and lacrosse teams at Springfield before joining the hockey team.
“It’s not as time-consuming as an NCAA team,” Curtis said.
As someone who played hockey throughout her childhood and high school career, Curtis was excited to get the chance to hit the ice again.
“When I heard they were making a team I thought it was awesome and I definitely wanted to join,” Curtis said.
The original group of students who started this program are preparing to graduate this year, but the future remains bright for this new and improving team.
“I think that’s our goal; to continue to grow the program every year and to keep recruiting numbers to get them up so that we are super competitive within the league,” Verrico said.
For more information about the team and to learn when upcoming games are scheduled, visit @scwomenshockey on Instagram.
Photo: Lucy Hamilton