After playing on the girls’ varsity ice hockey team for the past three years, Ellie DeCarlo ‘20 is rounding off her last season as co-captain. Don’t miss the chance to watch DeCarlo and her teammates in their final home game on Saturday, February 22 at 4:30 p.m.
Ashley Duraiswamy: How did you start playing hockey?
Ellie DeCarlo: I started playing when I was five. That was because my dad played when he was in high school, and then my older brother was playing. I always just thought that hockey was a “boy sport” and I couldn’t play. But one day, I guess we were taking my brother to practice, and I [said], “Wait, can I play hockey?” My parents were like, “Yeah, sure, whatever”— they didn’t even care. And that’s when I started.
AD: Do you think that a lot of girls who are interested in hockey initially feel like its a “boys’ sport” and they shouldn’t be playing it?
ED: I think it’s definitely tough. I’m from North Carolina, so there’s not a lot of hockey in general, and especially girls’ hockey. I think it can be very intimidating because also there are boys on teams and coaches who don’t want girls on their teams just because it can be seen as a distraction for the boys and stuff like that. It’s also a very physical sport, so I think a lot of girls shy away from that just because some people think that girls aren’t supposed to play physical sports, and hockey is very much seen as a “boys’ sport.” So I think it’s hard for girls to get into it, especially at older ages.
AD: Do you think it’s difficult to catch up with other players if you start playing hockey a bit later than they do?
ED: It can be. It all depends on how much work you put into it. I think the hardest part for picking up hockey is just knowing the game. The stick skills and skating skills, those can all be taught, but knowing the game and understanding it and having a good hockey sense, that’s something that’s a little bit harder to teach, and it’s something you kind of learn through experience. I think it’s definitely easy to play fun pick-up hockey, but at a higher level, I think it’s harder to pick up.
AD: When you aren’t playing hockey on the Lawrenceville team, do you keep practicing?
ED: I play for a club team called New Jersey Colonials. We usually can’t make the practices just because of Lawrenceville and practicing here, but a lot of times we do have Colonials practices at the Lawrenceville rink, so that’s really nice. A lot of the girls on the team play for that team or a different team (a couple girls play for New Jersey Titans). It’s definitely important to stay in shape outside of hockey season and continue playing so you don’t get too rusty, so a lot of girls do play outside Lawrenceville.
AD: How do you think you’ve improved during your time here?
ED: I think [I’ve improved in terms of ] getting used to the speed of the game. I think there’s a huge jump going from playing U14’s and playing in middle school to playing high school hockey, especially because there’s such a big variety of skill levels of players. There’s players like Kate Monihan [‘19] and Chloe Ashton [‘19], players who go D1 for hockey and are playing at a really high level. [For me] coming in as a sophomore and not really playing at a level like that before, was hard to get used to. But I think I’ve definitely adjusted to the speed of the game and being able to see the ice quickly and a lot more clearly—that was something that really helped me.
AD: As a captain, do you help new players make that transition between middle school and high school hockey?
ED: Yeah. A big part of coming into a new team and coming into a higher level of hockey is confidence. What Kelsey (the co-captain) and I try to do a lot, especially at the beginning of the season, is build up the confidence in those freshmen and new sophomores. We know that they have the skills, but once they’re able to use that confidence, that’s when their skills really come out. We’d kind of hype them up before games. We would do a lot of captains’ practices in the fall in order to build their confidence playing with older, maybe somewhat more talented players. I think a big part of that was building up their confidence and making them feel like they’re part of the team, that they are meant to be there, and that they’re there for a reason.
AD: Do you think the team has grown throughout the season?
ED: Definitely. I think if you compare our first game to the game we played on Wednesday [February 12] against Hill, we definitely improved not just skill-wise but as a team and making sure we play together, not as individuals. I think it shows that we play a lot better when we play as a team.
AD: Your team is known for being a very close-knit community. Do you think that spending so much time together off the ice helps you when you’re on the ice?
ED: I think you can tell when players have the off-ice chemistry—it shows on the ice. Teams that are a lot closer like us perform a lot better because we’re so close off the ice. When we’re on the ice, we’re able to cheer each other on and we’re not afraid to make mistakes in front of each other because at that point, we’re all so comfortable and we’re all really good friends. I definitely think that being a close-knit team helps us on the ice.
AD: Do you have any goals for the last three games of the season?
ED: Obviously we want to win games—that’s one of our main goals—but I just want to make sure that we keep fighting all the way through to the end of the season. It can definitely be tough towards the end. Everyone’s tired; it’s a lot of hockey throughout the winter. I think as long as we keep giving it our all and we keep bringing each other up and bringing the energy to every game, that would be my goal.
AD: How does it feel to be a senior and know you’ll be leaving the team?
ED: It’s sad. A lot of memories on this team. I owe BRVIH [Big Red varsity ice hockey] everything for my experience at Lawrenceville. I would not be the same person I am today if it wasn’t for Lawrenceville hockey. My teammates are all my best friends in the entire world, so it’s going to be tough leaving them and leaving the program. Obviously I love hockey, but it’s more about the relationships I’ve built through the team that I was able to build while playing hockey the last three years. It’s going to be emotional on Senior Night and when we have to graduate.
AD: Can you think of any particular ways that playing on the team has shaped you?
ED: I think playing on the team with really good leaders [has changed me]. Last year, we had really good captains and really good seniors on the team who weren’t afraid to tell you, “You need to do better” or weren’t afraid to tell you, “You need to pick it up.” They shaped me into a leader, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m a captain: because the seniors were able to show through their actions what it means to be a leader, how to lead a team to wins, and to [promote] a hardworking etiquette on the team.
There was one time junior year when I was being put out for a face-off, one of the last face-offs of the game, and I was like, “I don’t know why I’m going out on the ice! You know I’m not going to win the face-off.” One of the seniors on the team, Kate Monihan, just said, “The coaches believe in you. The team believes in you. So you just need to believe in yourself.” I still think about all the time—when she said that—and that was a big moment when I was like, “Oh, everyone believes in me, so why wouldn’t I believe in myself?”
I’ve tried to bring that to the team this year, that sense of “I believe in you, you can do it,” especially to the freshman and the new sophomores. Just making sure they know they’ve got it. We all believe in them; all they have to do is believe in themselves.
AD: Are you planning to continue playing hockey in college?
ED: That’s the dream. I want to play hockey in college, but if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. I’ve pretty much realized that hockey is really fun, and it’s a great time—it’s a great way to build relationships—but hockey is not life. Hockey shouldn’t control my entire life. Hopefully if I do play, I’m able to play at a competitive, high level, but if not, I still want to be a part of hockey. I’m going to go to all the games that I can for my college, and hopefully I’ll play. But we’ll see—we still don’t know.
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