By Class of 2014 Cadet Jeff Lesmeister, Army Inline Hockey ClubJanuary 17, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Jan. 17, 2013) -- As she took to the ice in the opening minutes of West Point Inline Hockey Club's recent win against the Merchant Marine Academy, Class of 2014 Cadet Jenna Vercollone became the first female to represent the U.S. Military Academy in any capacity in the sport of hockey.
Vercollone is a member of the West Point Inline Hockey Club, a hobby club within the Directorate of Cadet Activities. Although the club was originally founded in 2000, it took off in earnest under the leadership of Pat Toffler, who is currently an infantry captain, from the Class of 2009.
The team is an affiliate member of the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association within the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association. The team gained momentum each year culminating in a Division I Central Conference championship in 2011-12.
This year, due to scheduling and availability changes, the club branched out to include a few ice hockey games as an affiliate member of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, and Vercollone jumped at the opportunity to return to the sport she loved growing up.
"Hockey has always been my favorite thing in the world," Vercollone said. "(This team) has made my time here at West Point a lot better."
Vercollone, who is also a member of Women's Army Rugby, had not even considered that she was the first female to represent West Point in this manner.
"I hadn't thought about it," Vercollone said. "I was a little worried, being the only girl on the team, but (the other players) have been great about helping me out and making me feel at home."
Although she may not be the biggest player on the team, she is no slacker on the ice.
"She goes into the corners just like anyone else, and she's one of the most committed and driven players on the team," senior defenseman and captain Brett Kroll said.
Her dedication paid off against Merchant Marine Academy, as Vercollone helped the team to a 6-1 victory by adding an assist of her own.
"I feel pretty comfortable out there," she said. "It's a faster game and I have to move the puck a bit quicker, but we have a group of really skilled players who have been helpful in getting me used to the higher speed and intensity."
She hopes that other cadets, both male and female, will follow her example in the future.
"I love this sport, and any chance to play is awesome," Vercollone said. "I think there is a large pool of people here (at the academy), male and female, who have a lot of experience playing hockey and would love to have a club hockey program as a viable opportunity."
She hopes to see the club gain momentum during her time here and wants to show other female cadets that they can come out and play for this team.
"Our club is really something great, and I am very excited to see where it goes from here," she said.