Girls Hockey Scores Big, Winning First State Title in its History

Ali Stecker, Staff Writer

With a record of 18-8-1, Morristown-Beard Girls’ Hockey performed very well this season.  Despite losing many talented seniors to graduation, the team has gained a new crop of dedicated and strong players, adding to the team’s successes.  “It was hard adjusting from last year, but we really have come a long way since the beginning of the season,” said Abby Russell, ‘20, a defensewoman.  

Lilli Warnock, ‘23, a freshman on the team, also loved the season and has enjoyed watching the team grow.  “My coaches have all pushed me to be better in every game and practice to strive for more.  Not only have I created a relationship with everyone on the ice, but also off of it as well.  Creating these relationships off the ice has been great for the friendship aspect and has helped us all create a bond on the ice that helps us push through during a game,” she said. 

The loss of last year’s seniors was not the only struggle the team has faced this year. “We only have ten skaters when everyone is there, so when one person gets injured or sick, we don’t have two full lines.  Everyone gets tired, but I’m proud of the team for battling through it,” said Sasha Berniker, ‘20, the team goalie.  

The varsity roster is made up of 16 girls as opposed to the normal 20, so when injury or illness strikes, the skaters put in extra work to strive for success.  According to Faith Facchini, ‘21, one of the goals of the season was to win Preps against Pingry.  During the finals, Annabel Plante, ‘21, broke her collarbone, which set the team back because one of the defensewomen had to move up to the forward position.  This left the team with three defensewomen, and girls were taking double shifts.  This forced the team to strategize and work even harder to win the title.  The game ultimately went into overtime, and Alexa Degan, ’23, shot the game winning goal.  

“My initial reaction was honestly shock.  Once the goal happened, I was so excited and just so thrilled for the entire team because I know everyone worked so hard for this win,” said Degan.  “During the game winning play I was just trying to implement everything we have been learning all year from our coach during practice.  I was thinking about where I needed to be on the ice in order to be as useful as I could to the team,” she said.  This was the fourth Prep championship in a row for the team, which enjoyed all of the support from the school community.  

Through the illnesses and injuries the team has endured, there have been a few players that have stepped up to make key contributions to the team.  Degan is one example of a player who has displayed the mark of a true team player.  She was one of the defensewomen who moved up to forward to fill in on the offensive end, and has by far exceeded the team’s expectations, which was seen with her amazing game winning goal during the Prep final game.  According to Warnock, Leah Stecker, ‘22, has helped the team win close games and has created many great opportunities to score.  Sam Grant, ’20, has also been a team player.  “Everyone knows when Sam goes on the ice she will perform and keep us in a game,” said Warnock.  

There is a lot of talent on the team, but captain Anna Bajak,  ’20, always has a positive attitude and never wavers from keeping the team positive and motivated.  “Anna is a person you can always count on to be there for you.  She has definitely proved herself as a leader on the team and will continue to as the season goes on,” said Abby Russell, ‘20.

The girls are always looking forward to giving their all in every game, whether it is states, WIHLMA, Preps, League, or non-league games.  This year is actually the first that the girls are competing for a state title.  “Now that enough teams have been developing locally, there is enough competitiveness for us to establish a State Championship,” said Coach Christopher Payette, who is also the Science Department Chair at MBS.  

In order to prepare for tough games like these, the girls hype each other up in the locker rooms and encourage each other to play their best.  “I love singing and blasting music in the locker room to help us get ready for a game ahead and be ready to go out on the ice hard,” said Warnock.  For her and the other girls, it is moments like these that make the team.  Many great memories were made during this season, which was capped off by an unforgettable 3-0 victory over Summit at the Prudential Center on March 5.  Given this triumph and the team’s other successes, MBS Girls’ Hockey is sure to be a force in New Jersey for years to come.