For a sense of just how far women’s hockey has come in the past two decades, consider the story of Christa Talbot Syfu. Now Williston’s head coach, Christa came to the school as a student in 1996 after playing on what was the state of California’s first women’s hockey team. She made the U19 squad even though she was just 14. (Credit her parents, transplanted Minnesotans, for introducing her to the game early.)
Williston debuted its girls hockey program in 1983, one of the first independent schools to do so (before that, girls—notably current Williston JV coach Molly Couch Ward ’82—played on the boys team). But the sport was still in its infancy. In 1990, roughly 6,000 female players were registered with USA Hockey and 15 varsity collegiate programs existed. Today, there are 73,000 registered players, and more than 100 NCAA Division I, II, and III programs.
After Williston, Christa played at Providence College, and then coached at Hamilton College for a year before returning to Williston in 2003 to serve as assistant coach. She became head coach in 2004. In her last five years at the helm, her teams have amassed a remarkable record of 94 wins, 22 losses, and 14 ties, and qualified for post-season play six of the last seven years. Several players from her 2016 squad made the prestigious NEPSAC Division 1 all-star team.
“Under Christa’s remarkable leadership, Williston girls hockey has achieved a level of excellence that has made it one of the very top prep programs in NEPSAC,” notes Athletic Director Mark Conroy. “At the heart of this success has been Christa’s commitment to supporting the success of each of her players. The fact that so many of them go on to successful college careers and beyond is a testament to her leadership.”
Like the game of women’s hockey itself, Christa’s network— and the network of the Williston girls hockey program—continues to expand and gain influence. Pioneering alums and Christa’s former teammates are now coaching and playing at the top levels of the sport. Take a look, above.