Before the holiday break, the St. Mary’s Ryken girls had their first game in team history. But for the Washington Pride, one of the premier girls' club teams in the Southeast, it was the first time outside of North America for most of the players.
About every four years, Coach Kush Sidhu organizes a European tour, on which his U19 squad plays against the U18 national teams of several countries. This year’s trip included games against U18 teams from the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia, as well as the Polish women’s senior national team.
When he announced it to the team, “they were all really excited and gung-ho,” about the trip, he said. It took a fair amount of planning, but once USA Hockey approved it, and with the help of raffling items and donations from alumnae to defray some of the costs, the Pride made the trek.
The team started the trip with a game against the Czechs, who were preparing for the U18 World Junior Championships. But traveling across continents puts a different strain on the body. “There it was a factor of the travel and the jet lag,” Sidhu said. “As much as we wanted, did not have our A game, by any means.”
After that performance, the Pride adjusted, winning two of the remaining three games.
“We were up 3-2 [against Poland] going into the third period,” Sidhu said. “We played hard, but they played with a higher purpose."
While the players got to eat dinner with most of the opponents, they also had the opportunity to explore the towns they played in, culminating with a trip to Auschwitz after the games were completed.
“It was heavy,” Sidhu said. “The kids were great. They’re knowledgeable, obviously, and had good questions.”
Heading into the second half of the season, the Pride will host the Junior Women’s Hockey League Challenge Cup at MedStar Capitals Iceplex this weekend. The team is taking the lessons learned abroad into those games, particularly from the Polish national team.
“I think it gave us a lot of confidence that we were able to play on a big stage as far as the tiredness, and I think we really could withstand a lot of challenges and still perform,” Sidhu said.
Here are this week’s top 10 rankings.
1: DeMatha (14-5-1) Last rank: 2
The Stags took down O’Connell and Churchill and looked to take their winning streak to seven against Gonzaga on Wednesday night.
2: Georgetown Prep (8-1) LR: 1
After dropping their first game of the season to Gonzaga, the Little Hoyas rebounded with a 6-0 win over St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes.
3: Marriotts Ridge (9-1-1) LR: 3
With an 11-0 thumping of Reservoir, the Mustangs now have three consecutive games with 11 goals.
4: Chantilly (7-1) LR: 4
The Chargers took their first loss of the season against Madison, 6-5.
5: Gonzaga (9-4-1) LR: 8
The Eagles avenged an early season loss to Georgetown Prep with a 4-1 win and took on No. 1 DeMatha on Wednesday.
6: T.C. Williams (7-2) LR: 6
The Titans have a break until February after taking down GM/Edison/Hayfield, 6-1, behind two goals from Owen Grainger.
7: St. John’s (9-4-1) LR: 9
The Cadets scored a shutout win over Yorktown and face DeMatha on Friday evening.
8: O’Connell (7-5-3) LR: 5
After falling to DeMatha, the Knights have a chance to get revenge on Georgetown Prep.
9: Yorktown (6-2) LR: 7
The Patriots won’t play again until Jan. 25, when they face McLean.
10: Washington-Lee (6-2) LR: 10
The Generals also get a break until February, when they’ll take on GM/Edison/Hayfield.
On the bubble: Wootton, Churchill, Severna Park