Waupaca to join Point/Rapids/Marshfield
By Greg Seubert
A big change is in store for Waupaca High School’s girls’ hockey program.
Instead of teaming up with area high schools to form a co-op team known as Waupaca Area, Waupaca players will join a 10-school co-op team with Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Amherst, Iola-Scandinavia, Assumption, Pacelli, Spencer and Athens,
Waupaca Area joined the Great Northern Conference for the 2013-14 season. Tim Guyer coached the team for its first four seasons, while Dan Bauer coached the squad last year.
The 2016-17 roster included 14 players, including 13 from Waupaca and one from Amherst.
“There were some parent concerns about where our numbers are,” WHS athletic director Carl Eggebrecht said. “Realistically, we were looking at between nine and 12 girls for this upcoming season.
“WAYHA (Waupaca Area Youth Hockey Association) just doesn’t have any girls coming through the youth program for probably the next five years,” he said. “They’re starting to pick up numbers down at the lower levels and they’re very optimistic as to rebuilding it at that point.”
Seeing the writing on the wall, Eggebrecht checked with two other co-op programs in the Appleton area: Appleton United, which includes players from Appleton East West and North high schools; and the Fox Cities Stars, which includes Xavier, Fox Valley Lutheran, Freedom, Hortonville, Kaukauna, Kimberly, Little Chute, Menasha, Neenah, New London, St. Mary Catholic, Two Rivers, Winneconne and Wrightstown high schools.
“The Stars didn’t want to (add Waupaca) because they picked up Winneconne and another school toward the Oshkosh area and Appleton United wanted to limp through another year with their three schools,” he said. “The other option was to look at Point/Wisconsin Rapids/Marshfield.”
That program is also looking at low numbers this season, according to Eggebrecht.
“They’re down to about 10 or 11 girls for next year,” he said. “That’s why they were willing to take us in. They knew they’d only be able to run two lines at the most in a game. If you want to be competitive, you have to try to develop three or four lines. If you can get 18 to 20 (players), then you have three lines.”
Wisconsin Rapids has been the team’s lead school in the past.
“We’re probably going to be leaning more on Stevens Point and Marshfield, mainly because Rapids only has one girl possibly playing,” Eggebrecht said. “Even though we have four rinks – Marshfield, Wisconsin Rapids, Point and Waupaca – Rapids says it’s hard to justify ice time when they only have one girl. Point’s in the situation where they have a hard time finding ice with two rinks and all the programs they provide with the university, public school and youth program. That’s where it comes to Waupaca and Marshfield having more availability as far as ice time.
“The key for practice time is not to be during school time or to lose school time,” he added. “How can we accommodate a reasonable time for practice like a 5 to 7 o’clock period vs. a 3:30 or 9 o’clock time period where they’re going to get home at midnight or 1 o’clock.
“It’s more of a trial and error for this first year to see how it all works,” he said. “There will be travel time for practice and that’s going to be the biggest difference. What we’ve agreed on is the school that is the closest to the site of the away game will be the host transporter. If we go to Chippewa Falls, Marshfield would be the host and we would have to transport our kids over to Marshfield to hook up with a bus to go to Chippewa Falls. If we go to Appleton, our bus service will transport the team.”
Eggebrecht hopes to have a number of Waupaca players on the team.
“I would hope that we have eight to 10 girls wanting to participate,” he said. “Our whole goal as we develop this mega-hockey team is how are you going to develop a feeder program for all four rinks?”
A coach for the 2017-18 season has yet to be hired.
“Marshfield and Stevens Point will be going through the interview process of hiring a coach,” Eggebrecht said. “Once we get the coach, we want to get a time where we can get the players and parents together in July or August to develop an action plan as to how this co-op program will work for practices and games. I believe that Point or Marshfield will be the main contact, so they’ll go through their (school) board for approval of the coach.”
Hockey teams typically have 10 to 12 home games during the regular season.
“We’re hoping we can get three or four (games at the Waupaca Ice & Expo Center),” Eggebrecht said. “The others will be in Point or Marshfield. I know Wisconsin Rapids wants to host one tournament over Thanksgiving. That might be the only time they play in Wisconsin Rapids since they only have one girl.”
The team is not affiliated with a conference and plays an independent schedule, but will compete in the WIAA state tournament.
“I think the WIAA’s going to take a strong look as to what can be done to draw more interest into more girls to participate,” Eggebrecht said. “When you have 17 schools for one team, you’re telling me these schools with 1,500 or more (students) can’t attract more than one girl to participate? There has to be more of a drive by the schools and the coaches. A good teaching coach will take any team and try to develop skills and the appreciation of a sport.
“It’s the nature of the sport,” he said. “The thought pattern is, ‘If you don’t start young, you’ll never be a skater.’ I think we have to change that mentality and say, ‘Even if you play youth hockey at (age) 13 or 14, we’ll help teach you and get you developed so maybe by the time you’re a junior or senior, you can contribute to the program.’ The coaches that we’ve had have taken on kids that weren’t very skilled, but you saw improvement through the year. They were able to come in as that third line for 30 seconds or 45 seconds.”
Next year’s WIAA state tournament will include 29 teams, down from 32 this year.
“We have to take as much interest in developing girls’ hockey as we do with the boys’ hockey programs,” Eggebrecht said. “When you have only 32 teams (statewide) and 32 rinks that are really providing girls’ hockey, you would think you’d be able to draw more than 600 kids that want to play hockey.”
Waupaca Area could have fielded a team of less than a dozen players this season, Eggebrecht said.
“Could we have limped through with maybe 10 or 11 girls for this year?” he asked. “Maybe, but how many are seniors, four or five? Then we’re down to six, so we would have to co-op for sure the following year or drop it altogether. We might as take the initiative now and hope that we can attract more girls that still want to continue to play hockey.”