When Penn State began creating its first NCAA Division I women’s hockey team in school history, head coach Josh Brandwene had to select a team captain. He decided that there was no one better to lead the team than junior Taylor Gross.
“It was clear that she was going to be a tremendous mentor for a young team,” Brandwene said. “It’s just part of her personality to really reach out and lend a helping hand, and sort of impart her wisdom and experience in a really caring way on everybody. That makes her a special captain.”
Gross, a recent transfer from the University of Connecticut, joins the team with a proven skill set. As a member of the Huskies, the 5-foot-1 forward scored 13 goals and amassed 12 assists during the course of 46 games.
“She’s a tremendous two-way hockey player. [She has] terrific vision and offensive skills, [is] a great distributor of the puck,” Brandwene said. “But [she] also takes care of things in her own end. So she sets a great example at both ends of the ice.”
Gross said she felt honored to be the team’s first captain, and was happy that Brandwene was confident in her to make the decision.
She joins the Nittany Lions with not only her skill set, but one and a half seasons of Division I hockey behind her, too. Her previous experience in NCAA women’s hockey is something that can benefit a young, relatively inexperienced team.
Brandwene said that her knowledge of what it takes to play at the NCAA level was a main reason she was named the team’s captain.
“She knows what to expect on a game-by-game experience, and she knows what to expect over the course over the season,” Brandwene said. “[She knows] how to manage your time academically, and how to manage your energy levels and your rest. It’s those sorts of experiences that really make her leadership invaluable.”
In September, a team vote also named senior Lindsay Reihl and junior Jenna Welch assistant captains for the team’s inaugural season. Reihl played with the Lady Icers before joining the varsity team. Welch, a forward, played at Connecticut with Gross.
Reihl said she was thrilled to have the chance to be a team leader because she’s always been a supportive player over the years.
As a group, the three veterans will have the opportunity to lead a team that is mainly composed of younger players that are newcomers to collegiate hockey.
“I love it, it feels great. We have the opportunity to make something awesome come together, and it’s nice to be behind it all,” Gross said.
Reihl sees being an assistant captain as a chance to be a driving force on the team.
“I think we’re there to motivate,” the defender said. “We’re there to back everyone up [and] support everyone, both on and off the ice.”
When the team named Reihl and Welch as assistant captains, Brandwene said he was pleased by the outcome of the vote.
“The team did an awesome job in selecting the two of them,” he said. “[They are] also great mentors, also great role models, and they bring this energy and enthusiasm to the rink every day that is just tremendous.”
Brandwene also said he thinks that all three of the captains have a mix of all the qualities needed to lead a team.
“I think we have a great blend of both types of leadership — leadership by example, great enthusiastic vocal leadership, great role models, and you need all of those if you’re going to have a successful hockey season.”