By Jamie Reynolds
Special to GoHolyCross.com
A three-year captain of the Holy Cross women's ice hockey team, Lisa Wilson compiled an outstanding career in a Crusaders uniform. Now, the Corunna, Ontario native finds herself behind the bench of fellow ECAC East hockey conference member Castleton State, led by former Holy Cross assistant coach Bill Bowes. Wilson will be entering her second season as a graduate assistant coach with the Spartans for the 2012-2013 campaign, while earning her Master's degree in education. After just one season, she has been an outstanding addition to the Castleton State women's ice hockey program, and is well on her way to earning her graduate degree.
Wilson left her mark in the Holy Cross record books during her four seasons from 2006-2010. The defenseman lands in the top-10 in career points, goals, power play goals, short-handed goals and assists. She is also tied for second in single-season power play goals with seven in 2006-2007, and is tied for fifth in single-season assists with 20 during the 2009-2010 season. During her senior year, Wilson moved into a tie for second in the record books with four assists in a game versus Plymouth State on Feb. 19, 2010. She finished her career with 33 goals and 49 assists for 82 points.
Wilson was recognized by the conference each of her final three seasons, named second team All-ECAC East in 2009 and first team All-ECAC East in 2008 and 2010. The women's hockey program emerged as one of the most successful sports on Mount St. James, recording an overall record of 75-24-8 during Wilson's career, including a 44-6-3 combined record during her junior and senior seasons. Bowes saw firsthand the qualities that made her an outstanding player on the ice. "She was a really strong player, but even more, a great leader," said Bowes. "She was a three-year captain and just knew how to lead." As a senior, she received the Reverend Francis Hart award for commitment, leadership and performance.
After graduation, she had a decision to make. Would she remain involved in the sport of hockey? Would her passion for teaching influence her to take a different path? Or would she find the perfect combination of both?
Castleton State offers recent college graduates an opportunity to earn a graduate degree and work with one of its athletic teams through its graduate assistant program. Bowes knew right away he wanted Wilson for the position. "When I got the job at Castleton, one of the things that attracted me was the grad assistant program," Bowes explained. "Every two years I'd be able to get a young woman to help me coach and hopefully get them into coaching hockey, because we need more women in head coaching positions. To be honest, when I got the job, Lisa was my first phone call." For Wilson, the call was fortuitous.
"After Holy Cross I went to teacher's college up north in Ontario, because I wanted to teach," said Wilson. "I've always liked coaching, but I never thought of making a career out of it because in Ontario it's mostly volunteer. Now, I think I've been bitten by the coaching bug. I really like it and might want to continue with it because it's a lot of fun."
Just as she did in a Holy Cross uniform, she immediately embraced her new leadership role, and she's not just a figure behind the bench. "Lisa's never afraid to speak up and push the players," Bowes said. "She did that as a captain and she's doing it now as an assistant coach."
The Holy Cross connection with Bowes leading the Spartans did not mean that it would be an easy transition for Wilson. "She's got a lot to jungle," Bowes elaborated. "She's getting her degree, she's studying, her social life, and I give her a ton to do as an assistant hockey coach, too. She's juggling it all and doing a great job. And the players on the team absolutely love her. They really love her and they're certainly excited that she's with us. She relates with the players extremely well and she's made a huge influence on our program as we build it up."
Wilson began to get a better understanding of just how much a coach does that players often do not realize. "You never know how much work your coach puts into it until you're in their shoes," she explained. "Not only am I on the bench but I'm in the recruiting world, too. But, I love it."
Wilson has now had a major impact on two collegiate women's hockey programs. As a player at Holy Cross, she laid the groundwork for a successful program, with the 2012 graduating seniors setting a new overall record for most wins over a four-year period, going 80-19-7. Now, as a graduate assistant at Castleton, she's helping to build that program from behind the bench. Wilson explained the differences in the two programs, "[Holy Cross] Coach [Peter] Van Buskirk is my idol. Him and Bill are similar, but are also very different. They both push for results, but Bill is a more simple tactic guy whereas Van Buskirk likes his X's and O's. Bill kept it simple last year to allow the work ethic to come through. As Castleton keeps improving, I think Bill's coaching style will more closely resemble Peter's."
Castleton State set program records for most wins with 10 and conference wins with eight during the 2011-2012 season. Wilson's impact as a former defenseman was highlighted by the team also setting a record for fewest goals allowed in a single season. The Spartans will start this season on Oct. 26, and will potentially play Holy Cross three times during the regular season. Both teams will participate in the Rutland Herald Invitational hosted by Castleton on Jan. 11-12, but would not meet until the second round. Castleton will travel to Worcester on Jan. 18 for a 1:00 p.m. contest and the Crusaders will return to Vermont for a 7:00 p.m. slate on Feb. 15.
With the 2012-2013 season just around the corner, Wilson will undoubtedly continue to play a major role in the success of the Castleton State squad. Perhaps more importantly, she will continue her academic success by earning her graduate degree in two years. Her experiences as a Crusader and Spartan have put her on a path for success, and one thing is for certain. Whether she is in front of a classroom or behind a bench, she will have a tremendous impact on the lives of young students and athletes alike.