The Daily Gamecock

Carolina Women’s Club Ice Hockey team prepares for inaugural season despite start-up roadblocks: 'It's long overdue'

<p>The Carolina women's club hockey team celebrates after its 2-1 victory against the South Carolina Lady Warriors on Oct. 1, 2023 in Irmo, S.C. This matchup marks the first recorded female hockey game in the 222-year history of USC.</p>
The Carolina women's club hockey team celebrates after its 2-1 victory against the South Carolina Lady Warriors on Oct. 1, 2023 in Irmo, S.C. This matchup marks the first recorded female hockey game in the 222-year history of USC.

The Carolina Women’s Club Ice Hockey team made history by playing the first-ever women’s college hockey game in the state on Oct. 1 at Flight Adventure Park in Irmo, South Carolina. 

However, the path to its first game was not an easy one for the club. 

Hana Donnelly, a fourth-year integrated information technology student and the president of the team, said she came up with the idea of creating a women’s hockey team at the University of South Carolina after watching the University of Georgia’s and Auburn University's women’s hockey teams face off in October of 2022

Before the team could even think about hitting the ice, it needed to work through the university's process for becoming a club sport. Under the new policy made by the Sports Club Executive Board and Campus Recreation, the women’s hockey team needed two actively participating members to become CPR-certified safety officers. After choosing the two safety officers, both members had to be certified before Sept. 4 in order for the women's team to be considered a sports club for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Another issue that slowed the team from beginning practices was the lack of funding. According to the 2023-2024 Sports Club Officer Manual, there are three ways that clubs can get funding. The women's hockey team ultimately opted to get additional funding through a GroupMe fundraiser, according to Donnelly.

“We didn't make any money last year because were just made in the spring, and we didn’t have any games, so we didn’t qualify for anything,” Donnelly said. “Just because we’re a new team, we don’t have any background. We have no points, and it’s a point system.” 

With no university-allocated funding, the women’s team attempted to start a jersey sale and GoFundMe to help with the team's founding and management, but because of what Donnelly described as the “red taped” start-up process for club sports, the jersey sale was canceled when the university did not approve of the vendor that the team used

Because of the unapproved vendor, players also did not have jerseys to wear on the ice, and the team missed out on an expenses-paid tournament at the end of September because of it, according to third-year fashion student Morgan Giard, who serves as the team's vice president.

"College Hockey South has been really accommodating," Giard said. "We were supposed to go to a tournament ... but we don't have jerseys, so we're not able to go yet. But it was completely paid for — which is really nice." 

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Freshman center Averie Bowen (right) attempts to take the puck away from Lady Warrior defensive forward Meredith Bordner (left) on Oct. 1, 2023. The Gamecocks beat the Lady Warriors 2-1 in its first match of the program.

The lack of jerseys remained an issue through the first game, where the team had to use the Gamecock men’s hockey team's old jerseys. 

The other issue for game one was finding a place to practice and play.

Flight Adventure Park in Irmo is the only ice rink within a 30-minute drive of the university, Giard said. That rink is already shared between the Gamecock hockey clubs, local youth teams and the public, which makes scheduling tough, according to Donnelly.

"Because we had no money, we had no way to book ice times," Donnelly said. "Which, at the Irmo rink, can be a year out or more." 

Other women's teams in the College Hockey South conference have access to ice rinks multiple times a week for practices, according to Giard, but the women's team at USC suffers from the overall lack of ice rinks in South Carolina.

“I think it will affect us. Because I know other women's teams in College Hockey South do have the opportunity to practice a couple times a week on ice, and skating is a huge part of hockey," Giard said. "You can do as many stick drills as you want and condition as much as you want, but if you don’t have good edges and good turns and good blades, then you won’t do good."

Despite the hurdles, the women’s club hockey team opened up its inaugural season with a 2-1 win over the U-19 South Carolina Lady Warriors — a local youth girls' hockey team — on Sunday, Oct. 1. Freshmen defenders Zoe Elwell and Alyssa Nardslico tallied the first two goals ever for the team.

“It’s long overdue that we needed a women’s program here,” Bobby DiCicco, president of the men's hockey team, said. “The people that are running it are doing a great job and are really leading the way.”

The women's club hockey team will continue its inaugural season with its first out-of-state matchup against High Point University in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Sunday, Nov. 12, at 9:45 a.m.