As program director for the Lady Vipers and spearhead for creating competitive girls’ hockey in the Southeast, Pauline Ade knows that getting teams to the USA Hockey National Championships is a good way to promote girls’ hockey in her region.
And that is what the Kissimmee, Fla.-based Lady Vipers have been doing lately.
The Lady Vipers qualified their Tier II 14-and-Under club for nationals as the only entrant in the Southeast district tournament. It was the first time the team qualified for nationals.
The team, which features Ade’s middle daughter, Raquel, will compete at the National Championships on April 3-7 in San Jose, Calif.
“I think we have a strong team,” Pauline Ade said.
Last season, Ade guided the Lady Vipers’ 12U squad to nationals. The team went winless, but gained valuable experience on the national stage. Nearly half of the current 14U players played for the 12U club in 2011-12, Ade added.
“I think we will be stronger this time around,” Ade said. “Our goal is to win a game.”
The strength of the Lady Vipers 14U club starts with the team leaders, Ade said.
Over the past 14 seasons, Ade allowed the players an opportunity to voice their opinion during the preseason leadership selection process. Ade said she has yet to overturn the popular consensus.
“We look to the players to be part of the process,” Ade said.
This season, Emily Levin was tabbed as captain. The alternate captains are Krista Evans, the team’s leading scorer, and Kirsten Kondrady. Like most proven leaders, Levin leads by example.
“When she hits the ice, she is a hard worker,” Ade said. “She is our go-to person. She accepts the responsibility.”
Goalies Meagan McRae and MacKenzie Nichols are again expected to share starts at nationals.
With so few teams to schedule over an 11-state radius, the Lady Vipers compete against boys’ teams in the Central Florida Hockey League (CFHL). In 20 outings this season, Ade said the Lady Vipers compiled six wins and two ties.
“We are playing close with the boys,” Ade said with a hint of pride.
The Lady Vipers also participated recently in two girls’ tournaments. On the Vipers’ Facebook page, a photo shows the 14U team donning medals and posing for a Big Bear tourney championship picture.
Ade credits the players’ resolve for the program’s rise. Some families travel “3-4 hours” for monthly practices at Ice Factory of Central Florida. Practice days generally consist of morning and afternoon on-ice drills, off-ice conditioning and, of course, lunch.
“They are dedicated,” Ade said.
To gain additional experience, most of the Lady Vipers play on local boys teams.
“All the girls want to take it to the next level,” Ade said. “And all the girls have a good shot if they continue to do what they are doing.”
Reaching nationals and having success there is a sure way to garner attention. Having players graduate to higher levels of hockey doesn’t hurt, either.
Ade’s oldest daughter, Rachel, is a former Lady Vipers standout. Rachel recently committed to the University of Vermont women’s ice hockey team.
As a mother, it obviously was a profound parenting moment.
As the program director, Ade sees the signing as another potential marketing boon. After all, what better way to sell the Lady Vipers program to prospective players who want to play at the next level?
“It is good marketing for the team,” Ade said. “It shows that we’ve done it and we’ve done it recently.”
Ade plans on growing the program by “five or six girls” each year.
Rachel Ade currently competes for an elite Eastern-based travel squad and will begin her college career next fall.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.