Girl power keeps Mission AZ Bantam quartet together
Often by the time female hockey players reach their teenage years, they transition from playing co-ed hockey to skating with girls teams.
As boys begin to surpass girls in size and strength, competing with and against girls seems to make sense, and fewer Bantam and Midget teams feature female players.
So it’s a rarity to see what’s happening in Peoria as Mission AZ’s Bantam White team includes four girls on its 17-player roster – forward Maddie Guertin, defensemen Reese Middendorf and Payton Goltz and goalie Hannah Schneidmiller.
“It’s really cool to have so many girls playing together on one team,” said Jeremy Goltz, Mission AZ’s director of hockey operations and the father of Payton Goltz. “It really helps them tackle the challenge of playing boys hockey. I get to see it as a coach and a father.”
Guertin has been playing hockey since she was three years old, and has always played on co-ed teams. She has played with each of the other members of the Bantam team’s female quartet in previous seasons, and really enjoys the experience, she said.
“It is awesome having three other girls on the team, and it makes it a lot more fun to play,” Guertin said. “I like playing on the co-ed team, but when I get older, I plan on switching to an all-girls team.”
Payton Goltz has also played exclusively on co-ed teams during each of her five seasons playing hockey. She said she has had other female teammates in previous seasons, but has never had girls comprise nearly one quarter of the roster.
“It’s pretty awesome having three other girls on the team,” she said. “It was always cool having one or two, but I feel like we have our own ‘group’ now. Rather than being a girl or two mixed into a crowd of boys, we’re sort of our own population. Nobody can forget for even a second that there’s girls on the team, and I find that incredibly exciting.”
Playing on co-ed teams has been the norm for Goltz throughout her life in hockey, so she doesn’t have anything to compare it against. Still, she said she’ll consider making a change to playing with girls down the road.
“I definitely think I’ll continue to play co-ed for a while,” she said. “I want to play for Mission for as long as I possibly can, and I think playing on boys teams has been a very good experience thus far. However, if Mission started up a girls team, I would definitely want to play on that team as opposed to co-ed. I like playing with boys, but I think playing on a girls team would be really fun, too.”
Middendorf has played on all-girls teams and co-ed teams during her nine years in hockey, and said she doesn’t really have a preference, although “It’s fun having girls on the boy’s team and not being the only girl,” she said.
She is hoping to play in college so may go back to playing on girls teams eventually to make sure she’s seen by the right college coaches, but is enjoying her experience playing co-ed and having so many female teammates. Schneidmiller plans to play on co-ed teams as long as she can, and hopes to play women’s hockey in college and on the U.S. Olympic team.
Scott Farber, the head coach of the Bantam White team, said the quartet of female players on his team is viewed like all the other players, both in terms of expectations and contributions.
“They have really bonded with one another since the beginning of the season, and from a coach’s perspective, it’s been great to see how hard they compete,” Farber said. “They just don’t push one another to be better, they push the boys on the team as well.”
— Greg Ball