For That One Inch

A close trio of hockey players make NCAA commitments
Photo by Mark Mantegna
Photo by Mark Mantegna

In the six minutes before every game, the Williston Northampton girls varsity hockey team sits in darkness. Upstairs, the Zamboni circles the ice. Downstairs, the team is listening to words. The same words every time.

“The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game. Every minute. Every second. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone around us to pieces for that inch.”

It’s Al Pacino speaking—and he’s speaking to a roomful of male football players in “Any Given Sunday”—but his words resonate: words of strength, grit, and most of all, unity.

The last point in particular is one the hockey players have taken to heart, and one that’s helped propel them to a record 20 wins, one loss, and four ties over the course of the last season.

On Friday evening, the team came together to celebrate another victory when a trio of players—forward Delaney Belinskas ’16, defender Rachel Rockwell ’16, and goalie Morgan Fischer ’16—signed national letters of intent to play with Boston College, Providence College, and the University of Connecticut,  respectively.

“This has been my family for the last four years,” Ms. Rockwell said on Friday afternoon. “We’re one of the closest teams on campus. We never leave each others’ sides.”

Ms. Belinskas agreed, describing the team as “very aggressive” and “very determined.”

“We get along, in general. We don’t have drama,” she said. “It’s nice to play with a team like that.”

All three girls said they looked for colleges and universities where they would feel as welcome as they did at Williston, yet still have coaches and teammates that would push them be their most competitive, as Coaches Christa Talbot Syfu and former Coach Erin Davey did here.

“A lesson that I have learned here is that you have to work hard in all aspects of your life to succeed,” Ms. Fischer wrote in an email. “Whether it’s in the classroom or on the ice, you can give nothing less than 100 percent of whatever you have if you want to improve.”

That’s another locker room lesson all three girls have learned, and one that they hear over and over each week as Mr. Pacino, in his role as Coach Tony D’Amato, urges his fractious players to work as a team.

“I can’t make you do it,” Mr. Pacino tells the players. “You’ve got to look at the guy sitting next to you, look at his eyes. Now I think you’re going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. You’re going to see a guy, who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows, when it comes down to it, you’re going to do the same for him. That’s a team, gentlemen.”

The hockey players listen to the words in darkness. Then, together, they walk up the stairs and take the ice.

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