She may be quiet in the classroom, but when sophomore ice hockey player Sophia Cianfrani hits the ice, she puts all stereotypes to shame. Some may believe that hockey was an unusual choice for someone of Cianfrani’s unpretentious demeanor, but it proved to be the perfect sport to showcase her natural talent for skating.
Cianfrani and her three brothers grew up with skates practically strapped to their feet. During the summer, they played roller hockey with the boys in their neighborhood from sunrise to sunset, without even taking their skates off for a quick lunch break.
Two of her brothers played on hockey teams, so Cianfrani trained with them to improve her skills.
“I was always super competitive, trying to beat my brothers at their own game, and I just ended up falling in love with the sport,” said Cianfrani.
By sixth grade, Cianfrani decided to kick off the roller blades and learn to play ice hockey. Her years of roller hockey played to her advantage, allowing Cianfrani to easily pick up ice skating. Within a week, she was skating figure eights around the rink.
“I immediately loved ice skating, and I was excited to start playing hockey on a team, but it was evident that female ice hockey players didn’t really get much respect,” said Cianfrani.
Cianfrani quickly realized that it would be difficult for a girl to find her place in a predominantly male sport. When she first began playing, she was the only girl in the league.
“I had to play with the boys, which was a challenge for all of us. Boys didn’t like playing against girls, and they especially didn’t like losing to one. It was difficult for me to compete with the boys, but it taught me to be aggressive and made me a better player today,” said Cianfrani.
After four years of competitive ice hockey, Cianfrani has seen several changes in the sport.
“Now I’m on an all-girl team called the California Wave Girls 16AA’s. We still have to play against boys sometimes, but it’s been so much more fun playing with a group of girls who share the same passion for the game as I do. Our team has formed a special connection that really benefits us in games and makes the sport much more enjoyable overall,” said Cianfrani.
As a right and left wing, Cianfrani is responsible for keeping possession for her team and shooting the puck into the back of the net. Her speed and control are key factors to her success in this position.
“I get such an adrenaline rush when I score, and even when I miss, I know my team will support me anyway,” said Cianfrani. “Ice hockey has really boosted my self confidence and improved my stamina. It’s definitely shaped me as a person in a positive way.”
Throughout middle and high school, Cianfrani traveled across the country to play hockey. She and her team traveled to Colorado, Michigan, and San Jose, California for various tournaments over the years. These tournaments gave Cianfrani and her teammates an opportunity to bond with one another, benefiting them on and off the ice. She and her teammates also scrimmaged several varsity prep school hockey teams throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
While she was in San Jose for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Tourney in January, Cianfrani received the first concussion of her hockey career. Not even a head injury could stop her from playing the sport she loved. Immediately after the doctor’s approval, she got back on the ice to train with her team.
“I feel like the concussion made me a stronger player than I was before, and I think I can help my team do even better this time around,” said Cianfrani.
She hopes to continue playing ice hockey through high school and college.
“I will have to train really hard and manage my time well, but I think I can make it happen,” she said.
Cianfrani faced many obstacles in her path to success, but her passion for ice hockey gave her the strength she needed to face those challenges head-on.