Friday, January 27, 2012

"Exactly What I Was Looking For"

Sarah Wilkie stands out as one of the more intriguing recruits of Josh Brandwene's 2012 class. She's presently a three-sport star at Williston Northampton - a prep school in Easthampton, MA - excelling in field hockey and lacrosse as well as ice hockey. But it was time spent in a fourth sport, figure skating, that developed a lot of Wilkie's strong points as a hockey player, including skating and puck movement. Despite her status as a first-year player next season, look for Wilkie to also bring a healthy dose of leadership to what will be a very young inaugural Division I team.

The Ashby, MA product recently found time somewhere between hockey and lacrosse practices to answer a few questions.

Thank You Terry: How did you get into hockey in the first place?

Sarah Wilkie: I figure skated until about seventh grade. I did synchronized skating and individual, I was very competitive with that. But my family is all hockey players - my cousins played hockey, my dad played hockey, my brother played hockey growing up. Two of my uncles played Division I college hockey. We’re all really big hockey fans, so when I decided to give up figure skating. It seemed like a natural transition, I wanted to try something new and something I’ve been around for my whole life but had never really tried. I also had the skating down, so I went to a few clinics. It was pretty casual at first, but I loved it automatically.

[Note: Sarah’s uncles are Greg Wilkie, who played at Vermont from 1975-1979 and David Wilkie, a Providence Friar from 1981-1985. David’s time at PC was notable for Frozen Four appearances in 1983 and 1985 as well as its overlap with Lou Lamoriello’s coaching career there, which ran through 1983.]

TYT: How did you end up at Williston? There are a lot of good prep schools up there, why them?

SW: I knew that I wanted to play college hockey, I was in love with the sport, and I knew that going to a public school or a private school in my area wouldn’t really prepare me enough, so my parents and I started looking at a lot of prep schools. I got in touch with the coach here, Coach Talbot came to visit and everything, it’s a really good fit for me in every category. Hockey is a great fit, academics, socially, the size of the school, location, so it was a pretty easy decision and I’ve had four great years.

TYT: In the Penn State release, Coach Brandwene called you a “student leader.” What kind of extracurriculars are you involved with?

SW: For the past two years, I’ve been a proctor in the girls’ freshman dorm, which is like an RA for prep school. I captain my three varsity sports, I’m a member of the disciplinary committee, and I’m the editor of the yearbook this year.

TYT: What would you say is your favorite or best moment in hockey to this point?

SW: This year we played Tabor Academy [on January 7th] and we had a breast cancer Pink in the Rink game. It was just an amazing game, we beat them 5-0, one of our biggest rivals, and we raised over $1000 for breast cancer. It was a huge game, everyone was so excited, and it was a great win.

Williston's raising money to fight breast cancer is one of Wilkie's favorite hockey memories.

TYT: You’re the captain, so how would you describe your leadership style? Are you more of a lead by example type or do you get vocal in the room?

SW: I wouldn’t say I’m incredibly vocal, I’m more - when I’m getting ready for a game, I’m more of like a focused player and slightly more quiet in the locker room before a game. I do try to lead by example and when it comes to being on the ice, I’m a lot more vocal, I talk with my teammates and get everyone going.

TYT: Your team’s playing really well right now, you guys have only lost one game since December 17th, if I counted right, 11-1-2 since then (now 11-2-2), with that one loss at the Exeter Tournament. What’s been going right for you guys?

SW: At the beginning of the season we struggled a little bit learning the systems and learning to stick with them and play inside of them. So we’ve built a lot of camaraderie and have been working together very well. We’ve faced some adversity the past two weeks with illness, we’ve had a lot of girls sick and with injuries and concussions. But it’s been really great facing adversity and working through that, so it’s kind of been a little motivating for us.

TYT: Any kind of goals personally or as a team the rest of the season?

SW: We’re coming into a big week, we’re playing Westminster on Wednesday, one of our biggest rivals, and Hotchkiss on Saturday. One of our biggest goals is to beat Westminster, we beat them once in a shootout at the Nobles Tournament [on December 17th]. We really hope we can do that again, and we definitely want to make the playoffs and go as far in the playoffs as we can. [Note: Westminster defeated Williston 4-2 in that game on Wednesday.]

TYT: Do you ever stop for two seconds just to think about how crazy your schedule is? I’m actually kind of new to following women’s hockey, so I didn’t know that you guys - you’re all playing for two teams, five games in a weekend, things like that.

SW: When I was looking to go to prep school and I finally got to Williston, the coolest thing I thought was you just walk to practice. You don’t drive an hour there, an hour back. Every day, you’re just walking to practice and it’s no hassle at all. It’s just so nice. There’s a rink down the street from me where I can go skate whenever I want, there’s a gym and everything, it’s really nice. That’s one thing I like about being at a prep school, because everything is so close around you and you can definitely make better use of your time. It’s still busy, but a different kind of busy. You don’t miss the car time.

TYT: Okay, let’s talk about Penn State. Who recruited you, was it Coach Brandwene or one of the assistants?

SW: Coach Brandwene. He had been coaching up here at a prep school (Kingsford Oxford School), so he was very familiar with my school and with my coach and I talked to him a lot. I actually came in for a visit over summer, and after I visited, it kind of kick started the recruiting, and I was talking to him a lot more frequently after that. After the NAHA Labor Day Tournament, I kind of knew by then that Penn State was definitely where I wanted to go.

TYT: Were there specific reasons to help you make that decision?

SW: I really liked the atmosphere on campus. I know a lot about the history of the sports programs there, and I was really excited about being able to be included in that. I just know the overwhelming excitement there is on campus, and I really liked the idea of being able to be a part of something so big and so prestigious. The new program, being a part of that will be a great honor too. I was just so excited for that and it will be really awesome, after I play my four years and graduate, to be a part of the history there.

Wilkie was all smiles on signing day, supported by (from left) mother Tracey, a Penn State alumna, brother Ryan, who also attends Williston, and father Eric.

TYT: Were there other schools you were looking at though?

SW: Clarkson, (Division III) St. Anselm, Holy Cross and Union College. I went to a lot of other schools, at first I thought I was looking for a small school but through all my visits figured out exactly what I was looking for.

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