Sarah in action vs the Buffalo Beauts. Photo by Bryan Johnson

SARAH HUGHSON: REFLECTIONS AND REALITY

There were three of our Whale this who first swam into the Pod in Season Four. Our #3 Kayla Meneghin, #21 Sarah Schwenzfeier and the subject of this interview, our amazing forward #24 Sarah Hughson. As the times dictate, our first inquiry had to do with how Sarah was dealing with the pandemic. She advised us “I’m home now with my parents in Connecticut, and just hanging out for now. Lacrosse season was cancelled so I won’t be coaching them (Choate-Rosemary Hall prep) , and I'm just waiting for the rinks to open up again. But other than just hanging out, it’s good to be with the family. A lot of us (players) are coaches, and we’re not allowed to coach."

We asked Sarah what she was able to do, sans the ability to coach in person, and found that necessity is still the mother of invention. Sarah informed us: “I know for hockey we sent them an at home summer workout plan so we’re making it so there’s no excuses for them:) No excuses! During the season we have our captain’s come up with weekly challenges for the team and we have them split up and have this thing called the Choate Cup. So the team splits into two teams, and during the season we’ll play games on the ice, and the teams get points if they win. So we kind of extended that into the summer, and we’re having the captains come up with challenges for them, and then they’ll send me videos of them doing them, and I’ll post that. Our first one’s this Saturday, so tomorrow (April 4th)”  In terms of her own training, Sarah said “It’s definitely different, because usually I’d be in the gym, but I just have to do the same thing that everyone else is doing and switch it to at home workouts, going for runs, cycling doing all those workouts instead of lifting weights, which has been fun, it’s different.”

The training of course isn’t the only thing that’s changed, and we discussed the oddity that the 2019-2020 NWHL season isn’t over yet. And considering that, we asked Sarah for a prediction.

“Oh man, that’s tough! I think Boston will come out on top, but I think the Whitecaps will really give them a run. Because they’ve got speed, but I don’t think there’s another team that passes as well as Boston does. And they know how to capitalize on their chances, which is huge. But I think the Whitecaps goalie is going to really make it hard for them. I’m intrigued as to what they’re doing in preparation for that game too, since all the ice rinks are closed.”

And it’s not just the ice hockey rinks that are closed, but the ball hockey facilities as well. Sarah along with former Whale #8 Colleen Murphy were members of Team USA at the ISBHF World Championships last year. And we told Sarah we were disappointed that that probably won’t take place this summer. She responded

“I know, I know! I think just this week the team decided not to send a team this year. It makes sense. I was excited, but there’s really nothing you can do about it. It was going to be in Slovakia, but a different city in Slovakia. It the same Tournament, they do it every year But I know that, it’s the same with Canada and the US, we both have two teams, run by two separate GM’s. So the team I was on last year with Colleen Murphy, was run by a different GM, than the one that I would be on this year. Some players, only play on one, it depends. And I know for Shannon Doyle and Canada, it’s the same way. Every year they send a different team to each different tournament.”

And speaking of ball hockey and last summer, Sarah had a great story involving Whale goalie, #1 Brooke Wolejko. As she explained to us:

“I got to pull Brooke into ball hockey last summer, which is such a funny story. Brooke and I grew up in the same area, so we knew of each other. We both played in prep school, and played against each other in college, but didn’t really know each other. And then she messaged me after World’s last year, because our GM had messaged her about playing ball hockey. And she asked me what it was like. So I invited her to come play in a tournament in Ocean City, Maryland just to try it out. And she came, had so much fun, and she did so well! We won the tournament, and then we convinced her to sign with the Whale. And then, it’s been great! I take a lot of credit for Brooke being on the Whale! I’m very excited for her, she’s such a good human.” Wojo by the way, is the first of the Whale to ink a contract for next season, so that was a big recruit for Sarah!

We also asked Sarah about playing against another of her former goalies this season, our former #70 Sam Walther. Sam was a rookie on the Whale with Sarah last year, and a prep school teammate at The Gunnery. So we asked what that was like the first time they faced off on the ice. Sarah exclaimed

“Yeah, my best friend! Well that was actually the first game I ever played against Sam, because we never played each other in college, which I was very thankful for. Sam is super competitive and she’s a terrific goalie so it’s hard to play against her, but it was definitely fun. After the game she was like mad because I has a bunch of chances to score, and I was like, well I didn’t score any of them!:) And then when we went into the shoot-out, Coach gave me the nod, and I was like no, no she’s gonna take out my ankles! It’s not going to be me!Sarah had a great season for the Whale, and picked up her first NWHL goal. She spent a lot of time skating on a line with #15 Emma Vlasic and #94 Grace Klienbach, who were both All-Stars. Lines play as units and we thought that Sarah was an important  part of the success of both. She replied 

“Thanks. I jumped around a lot and I pretty much got to play with everyone I think, which I love doing. I love being able to play with everyone, so it was great. Everyone plays a little differently, but everyone has the same goal. So it’s fun to see how different lines are. Like Pickles (Emma) you get her the puck and she will do great things with it, and then Grace is always so fast, so I get to just dump it ahead of her. And then Jane I think was so good on the face-offs, she got it everytime where she wanted it. And playing with Kaycie and Sarah was fun, they are just such extremely hard workers. There was just a lot of depth throughout our lineup, which I thought was great. It’s so much fun, and it makes going to practice so much better, because you’ve known these players for a long time now, it’s just fun to see the same faces every day, which is nice, and season by season.” Sarah had played particularly well against Buffalo early in the season, as had the team, despite taking some losses. And so we asked if the team bought into the underdog role at all in the play-offs and Sarah said “Definitely not! The attitude we had going into that weekend, we knew we were going to come out on top. It felt so good (getting the win), because Buffalo was such a frustrating team to play against.”

We had touched a little on Sarah’s coaching at Choate, and asked how that meshed with an expanded NWHL schedule this season. She explained

“It was a little tough. There were a couple of conflicts. It ended up the semi final game against Boston was at the same time as our Choate championship game. So, I was able to go to the Choate game instead of Boston, and it was nice to be with the girls. We did not expect to get that far but it was very exciting. We didn’t play very well, but just getting there was pretty exciting. The girls were excited about it. And we were lucky, I know the Elmira (Sarah is a former Soaring Eagle) team didn’t get to play their first NCAA game before everything was closed and cancelled. So for the most part, I didn’t miss any Whale because of Choate, which was tough. But the coaching staff at Choate is so nice and so understanding of that. It was my second year of coaching hockey at Choate, working with the forward’s. We played a 2-3 this year, so we had forwards and three backs which is a different type of system. So I had to roll pairs of forward’s instead of lines, which was different. But it was a cool experience, and it worked out for us. That system clearly worked, so that was nice. Everyone moves constantly, especially the forwards. With the skill level we had coming in this year, we knew that was kind of the way we had to go about it.”

We also asked Sarah if she got involved in the recruiting aspect for the team, and she said “It will be different this year, but last summer Ashley Bairos and I did a good job of splitting a bunch of tournaments up, so at least one was at pretty much every tournament and showcase in New England which was really good for us. We try to go to at least every big tournament, and if a player reaches out to us we’ll go and watch them play. So it was fun to be involved in that this past summer.”

Cetacean Nation recently posted about Sarah’s involvement with Two and Ten Apparel (https://2and10.com) and before wrapping things up, we asked her to tell us a little more about that. She explained

“The GM of the ball hockey team last year runs an apparel company called Two and Ten. And they make jerseys, shorts, socks, sweatshirts, hoodies, like anything you could need for team apparel. And they do a different type of design, sublimation, where you can basically make it look like whatever you want it to look like, which is very cool. What he makes are very cool designs and he does it at an economical price which is great. He is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, and he was nice enough to give me the opportunity to make some money and partner with him and help get his company out there, and see if I can raise some money on my own. Colleen Murphy’s ball hockey team wore 2 and 10 bikini shirts as their jerseys.in the Maryland tournament we just mentioned.”

Cetacean Nation wishes Sarah success in that venture, and continued success in her career as coach, social media administrator, and hockey player, both on the ball hockey rink and on the ice with the Whale. Fins Up to our amazing #24 Sarah Hughson, one of our three amigos from Season Four!

Check out more from Sarah in her other two interviews here on the website. And you can read about the adventures of Sarah and Colleen and several of the other Team USA players who went to the ISBHF World’s in Kosice, Slovakia last year in the stories here as well, ISBHF I, II & III)