For many Georgetown University students — particularly underclassmen — the fall 2021 semester has been a season of firsts, as they arrive on campus for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. To a select few women at Georgetown, this season of firsts will be quite literal. October 2021 marks the inaugural season of the Georgetown women’s club ice hockey team, and for some of the team’s 20 official players, their inaugural season of hockey altogether.
When women’s ice hockey president Meaghan Steck (COL ’22), a devoted hockey player since the age of five, arrived at Georgetown, she was shocked to discover there were no opportunities for women to play ice hockey, unlike most universities in her native Massachusetts. Despite playing coed hockey for most of her life, Steck saw the existence of a men’s club team — and the lack of a female equivalent — as an opportunity to play with and against women in the Washington, D.C. area.
Although Meaghan began working towards the formation of a women’s team in her first year at Georgetown, she wasn’t able to complete the new club development process required by the Center for Student Engagement, reach out to sponsors, and recruit players until the pandemic struck, she said.
Now that the team has been formed, it will present an opportunity for more camaraderie than a coed team, plus new interest in the game from veteran players and rookies alike, according to team captain and defender Meghan McQuillen (COL ’22), who has been playing for 15 years.
“Certainly, I hope it’s competitive, but I also hope we can provide a space for people to try hockey and skating for the first time,” McQuillen said in an interview with The Hoya.
Goalie Lily Brown (SFS ’23) also said that creating an all-female environment is important, especially in a sport as physical as ice hockey. Having tried out for the men’s team, Brown ultimately decided she would rather play with other female Hoyas moving forward, she said.
Some players, such as Sarah Fairbank (NHS ’24) and Sheila Foley (COL ’22), will be taking this opportunity to lace up their skates for the first time as practice players. Fairbank said she was excited about the prospect of playing for Georgetown after growing up playing against family members, noting that the formation of a women’s team has been a long time coming.
“I think it is important to create a space where women won’t feel out of place or be thought of as less worthy,” Fairbank said.
Today, there are a combined 54 Georgetown women who have expressed interest in either playing for or supporting the team as practice/nonplayers. The team, which will compete in the North Division of the Women’s Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League, will play its first game on Oct. 16 at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Md. The division, which includes schools like George Washington University, The University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia University, will host games around D.C. and Maryland from October to February.
Since club sports tend to be student organized, the women’s team will be coached by its captains, McQuillen and Hannah Walsh (COL ’22). Student volunteers from the men’s team will also assist in running the bench and teaching new players the basics of skating, stickhandling and gameplay.
McQuillen hopes the team’s variety of ages and skill levels will pose an exciting opportunity for female Hoyas to learn the game and grow the scale of the team in the future.
Foley, who also serves as the team’s social chair, said that although the team will have to fight to build their program from the ground up, she is excited for its debut and future prospects.
“As a team, we are going to have to work to create the dynamic that we want to set for women’s club hockey,” Foley said in an email interview with The Hoya. “This is a big task, but I know that this group of girls is going to do a great job at that; I am really excited to see what we accomplish by the end of the year.”