After a slippery start, opening the season with a 1-6 record, girls hockey believes their improvement will soon start to show in the win column.
“Even though the score hasn’t been there, we’re going to continue to learn the most and we will play against the best competition in the state,” head coach Don Howard explained.
The 2018-19 season marks Howard’s first with the team after taking over for Hannah Belowski, who announced she wouldn’t be returning for her second season as head coach just three weeks before the season began. Even with minimal notice that he would be stepping into the role, Howard is beginning to implement new systems and a new culture for the team.
“In only two months, [Howard] has really changed the whole dynamic of our team,” junior Olivia DiPadova said. “He made it clear that this is the year for change and major improvements, which motivated us as a whole.”
While the team’s record thus far doesn’t necessarily scream improvement, they’ve faced off with some of the top talent in the state to open the season. The division the Kits’ compete in is full of DI commits, as both Loyola and New Trier sent numerous players to DI hockey programs last year. Evanston, on the other hand, did not send any players to collegiate hockey programs last year.
“It’s like being placed in a grade level above you,” DiPadova explained. “You get to learn at their pace and see how they work. Then, when you come back to your level, you have the upper hand because you have been exposed to a higher level of play.”
While the Kits’ have already faced off with the Loyola Ramblers this season, losing by a score of 6-2, New Trier, who finished second in the state last year, remains on the schedule. The matchup is set for Nov. 21 at Robert Crown, “The Bob,” and while the team will go in as the overwhelming underdog, they aren’t planning to back away from the challenge.
“I always want to play New Trier, I always want to play Loyola. I prefer to compete against those teams,” Howard said. “I always want to throw our girls into the fire so they can learn the most.”
While the patient approach may lead to some frustration after blowout losses, the team sees the plan as one that is future focused.
“If we keep at this rate within the next few years, we’ll in that upper tier [of teams in the conference],” Howard explained.
Evanston is set to face off against the visiting Naper Valley squad tonight at Robert Crown at 9:10 p.m.