Coming Off Last Year’s State Championship, Storm Hockey is Looking Forward to Learning Building Unity

Mansi Peters

“It was amazing to sit at the top of the mountain,” said Coach Jacques Du Vair, commenting on his team’s State Champion win in March of 2022.

Central Wisconsin Girls Storm Hockey is a highly competitive group of high schoolers from D.C Everest, Wausau West, Wausau East, Marathon, Merrill, and Wittenberg-Birnamwood. As the ladies return back to the ice for the new season, there is a determination to follow their championship year with a fresh mind and an even stronger work ethic than they had before. 

As the 2022-2023 season begins, 22 girls have been dressed for varsity. Of the 22, 16 are returning members from the championship team. While five integral players graduated in the spring of 2022 to welcome new girls to the team this year, Du Vair reflected that comparison is pointless. 

“It’s a new team and a new season that will bring all of its own challenges,” said Du Vair. 

The thrill of winning the State Championship was immeasurable, with all five seniors as major players and Coach Du Vair’s daughter being amongst them; however, this thrill may be the gilded surface to an underlying pressure for the players this season. 

Wausau West junior, Julia Debyle, confirms this. “I feel so much pressure. Sometimes we, as players, compare ourselves to last year’s team,” said DeByle. She reflects that this comparison exists largely because of her teammates’ desire to live up to the chemistry of last year’s group. 

“We definitely have a target on our backs,” said DeByle. After beating out the Onalaska Hilltoppers for the State title, DeByle feels there is a specific animosity that exists there, creating an even greater pressure for the girls this year to meet or exceed the team chemistry of Storm last year. 

Such pressure is not endorsed by the coach.

 “Last year doesn’t have anything to do with this year,” said Du Vair. He realizes the incredible season they had, but has no interest in applying any such success as a reason for pressure for the girls this season. 

“We want to make sure the new and veteran girls feel comfortable in the locker room, take pride in wearing the Storm jersey, and commit to playing hockey the right way,” said Du Vair as he highlighted what his true priority is when coaching his team. 

Five days a week, the girls are out on the ice, committed to their sport; oftentimes, this commitment extends beyond what is required. DeByle reflected that she does whatever she can on the weekends to better herself as an individual player, so that practices can be dedicated to the bigger picture. 

“During practice, we focus a lot on line chemistry and team chemistry,” said DeByle. The girls are working to create a system of cohesion that will bring them success and allow them to face the challenging season ahead.

“I think it will take some time to figure out what our team does well compared to last year’s group. We do, however, expect to play at a high level and do things the right way,” said Du Vair. 

DeByle agrees that it will be a long process, but feels it will be worth it once the players can figure out their specialties and how it can contribute to a greater picture of success. “This season is a learning season,” said DeByle.

As of press time, and as the season progresses, the girls sit with a win to loss ratio of 7-3. Du Vair believes that by creating a goal of unity, the girls will be able to achieve the best versions of themselves when the playoff window opens. 

“We just need to come together as a team,” concurred DeByle. Player and coach alike, there is a confidence that the work can be done to reach results that will satisfy the ambitious team.

“I like our squad and feel whenever we step on the ice, we have a great opportunity to be successful,” said Du Vair. The ability of the girls to climb that mountain once again is not doubted by Coach Du Vair, promising a memorable season, no matter the outcome.