For the first time since the Nantucket varsity girls hockey program was founded in 2018, Liz Collins will not be the head coach behind the bench after stepping down in the fall. This year, the program begins a new era under Andrew McNeilly – who is excited about this group of players and their potential.
"It's very promising watching the girls play and getting some feedback from the captains and the assistant coaches who have been around a little longer than I have," McNeilly said. "From everything they're saying, it's the best start they've had in program history, so the girls were either playing in the offseason or they're serious about putting the work in this season because they're out there grinding and putting in the work during practice and the assistant coaches and all the captains have noticed.”
The Whalers will be led by senior forwards Claire Misurelli and Emerson Pekarcik, as well as senior goalie Caroline Allen.
Defenseman Alex Wisentaner will be unavailable all season due to an injury sustained during lacrosse season, and the team lost several players to private schools - including defenseman Mia Beaudette. The Whalers also suffered a devastating, unexpected blow after senior Bailey Lower injured her ankle in the fall and is unlikely to be available this season.
"Ideally I'd like to see (Bailey) come back but I don't know if that's going to be a possibility," McNeilly said. "So that's definitely going to be a big hole to fill right there with having Bailey out for the season.”
McNeilly said Misurelli and Pekarcik have stepped up and shown lots of leadership early on. He expects both of them to have big seasons.
“We have six eighth graders and freshmen on the team, so we have young kids on the team which is perfect,” he said. “"It's unbelievable - I show up to the rink at 2:40 and half the team is already there before I am. They're running around doing whatever they want to do. They all have smiles on their faces so there is no negative energy right now, which is great and as a new coach that's the one thing we really wanted to hone in this year was building a hockey culture and I think we're on our way to doing that. The girls seem excited.”
The Whalers will begin their season on Saturday, December 9 at 2 p.m. when they host Martha’s Vineyard for a matinee matchup. You can access their full schedule by clicking here.