Penn State Women's Hockey: 5 Questions with Jill Holdcroft
The Penn State women’s ice hockey team is a month into its first season as a Division I program. The team has 17 freshmen on it, including State High graduate Jill Holdcroft.
The 18-year-old has plenty of ties to Penn State hockey — her father and two of her uncles played for the men’s club team during the 1980s. While at State High, she played on the varsity boys’ team for two seasons.
She took some time to talk about being a part of the first varsity women’s hockey team in Penn State history.
T&G: What does mean to you and to Penn State to have women’s hockey playing at a Division I level now?
Holdcroft: The timing of the new hockey program could not have been more perfect for me. Right out of high school I get to start a Division I women’s ice hockey program in Happy Valley! I have a lot of support from friends and family who are all excited to watch my games. It means a lot to me to be able to play in the hockey community I grew up in and watch it grow. Women's hockey was never very popular in State College when I was growing up. Bringing hockey to this level will increase interest in women’s hockey and will make it a part of the community.
T&G: What was it like for you to play hockey with the boys’ team at State High? What did you learn from that experience?
Holdcroft: I was the only girl on my very first hockey team and continued to be the only girl in years to follow, so playing with the boys was nothing new. Some of the same teammates from my first hockey team were on the State High team as well. I am good friends with the guys and they always treated me well. Even though I was a girl I did not separate myself from the guys. I was not treated differently and I even hid my ponytail in my helmet during the games. As I got older, I had a significant size disadvantage compared to the boys. I adjusted my game and became more of a smart playmaker. By playing with the boys in a full-contact sport, I learned to keep my head up and be more aware on the ice, as well as being strong on my skates.
T&G: I saw a video on the team’s Web site that you chose your number because of your dad. Can you talk about that a little — what he’s meant to you and you playing hockey?
Holdcroft: My dad was the reason my brothers and I started hockey. My dad played for the Penn State club team in college and wore number 19. Hockey is a huge commitment and he devoted a lot of his time to coaching and traveling for my multiple hockey teams. My dad also built an ice rink in my backyard every winter for the past 13 years. My dad and I play hockey together a lot on the rink, passing and shooting. Through his example I learned to be hard working, disciplined, and a good team player. He made hockey enjoyable for me, and his sacrifices and commitment to my hockey got me to this level.
T&G: Do you remember the first time you put on a pair of skates and what happened?
Holdcroft: I started skating before I played hockey on my backyard rink and during public sessions when I was 4 years old. I even took ice skating lessons on the small rink in the Penn State ice rink, but since then that rink has been removed. When I was 8 years old, I was at the rink one day because my brothers had practice and my dad spontaneously asked my sister and I if either of us wanted to try hockey. I imminently said Yes, and they found equipment I could use. After that skate I told my mom I wanted to play hockey and she signed me up! I loved the sport ever since.
T&G: What can fans expect from the women’s team this year?
Holdcroft: Fans can expect a fast pace and exciting hockey game at this level. Because there is no checking in women’s hockey it becomes more of a skillful and finesse game. However, women’s ice hockey is still very physical, especially in the corners and in front of the net. We have a young hard-working team and fans can expect some upsets!