Years of hard work pays huge dividends for Maple Grove girls’ hockey standout
By Bob San
Maple Grove senior Maddie Woo has always wanted to attend an Ivy League college. Because of her outstanding performance in the hockey rink and classrooms, that dream has become a reality because she will attend Brown University and play hockey there next fall.
There have been other Crimson who played Division I college hockey but Woo is the first to play with an Ivy League school.
“I’ve always wanted to go somewhere good like the Ivy League,” Woo said. “Hockey definitely opens the door to that opportunity. My parents are really excited.”
It all started at a very young age when Woo followed older brother Michael, a former Crimson player, to his hockey practices and games.
“I started skating when I was 5, and I finally decided I wanted to play,” Woo said. “I like hockey because of how competitive and fast paced it is. It’s something you can always get better at.”
Woo started playing at 6 and played with boys all the way up until peewees. By eighth grade, Woo made the Maple Grove varsity team.
“At first it’s really intimidating,” Woo recalled. “Just remembering it now I do regret being nervous and scared. But it’s still a lot of fun. It’s humbling to be playing with older girls at that level. I learned a lot from them.”
Now five seasons later, Woo is one of those “older girls” on a very young Crimson team. In fact she is the only senior who plays regularly and is one of the team captains.
Asked if being the only senior puts more pressure on her to take the leadership role, Woo said: “A little bit but I am fine with it. Being captain it’s kind of my role to be a leader so I am willing to accept responsibilities of it. I am more of a quiet leader, I lead by examples but it’s nice to know the girls can come and talk to me. I am doing my best to be a role model for them and just be a good player and be a representative for what they should look up to and how hard they should work.”
Crimson coach Rob Potter can’t think of a better leader for his young players than Woo.
“It’s a rebuilding year and Maddie is leading these kids and we are moving forward,” Potter said. “We are trying to build a program that is a state leader and she is playing a big part in molding that. We are getting the leadership from the right people and that’s helping the program going the right way. Maddie is a great student, a great person, and a well rounded, outstanding individual that all other kids should aspire to be like.”
Woo has done a good job of leading as the Crimson are a very respectable 6-2-2 in conference play entering the new year. She leads the team in scoring with 10 goals and five assists and scored both goals in the Crimson’s 2-0 win over Centennial in the last game of 2012. But Woo is not the type that worries about individual statistics. In fact she likes assists more than goals.
“Scoring is always good but I go for the setup,” Woo said. “If I score I score. I just want to help the team out.”
ROAD TO IVY LEAGUE
Woo has always played for the love of hockey but in her sophomore season, she got the first inkling that hockey could help her get to the school she wanted.
“It started in my sophomore year when I got a generic letter from a college and I was excited to see it being a possibility,” Woo recalled. “My parents always told me to have high hopes and to always shoot high but I never really thought it a reality. At the end of my sophomore year I started to realize I could make something out of myself if I worked at it. If I really focused and did my school work I could even choose which school I wanted to go to versus just taking whatever offers I was given.”
Woo started doing programs with club teams and played in many tournaments attended by college coaches and recruiters.
“You will get on their radar and they track you,” Woo said. “If you keep progressing, keep getting better and keep becoming stronger players they will start contacting you during your junior year even sophomore year.”
Woo attracted recruiters from several universities and she went out east and visited 12 schools, including Brown. In the summer going into her senior year, several colleges started to pursue her seriously. She narrowed it down to three and finally chose Brown.
“Basically I wanted to do academic first. You never know with hockey, something could happen and you are going there any way,” Woo said. “Then I like the coaches. I felt like they are getting good players in and I can see myself making an impact on the team.”
Potter feels Woo has the skills and work ethics to make an excellent college player.
“Maddie has nice skills. She is a great passer, a very good skater and has a high understanding of the game,” Potter said. “She aspires to be a team player, works with others and helps others get better. She is a very hard worker, not just in hockey, and she applies herself in her studies too. She will be a very nice addition to the team and helps them out greatly.”
Woo plays hockey year round. When she isn’t playing for the Crimson, she plays for the Minnesota Ice Cap and trains with Crimson head coach Rob Potter and his wife Jenny Potter in the summer.
Woo sought advise from Jenny Porter, a four-time Olympian and former All American for UMD.
“It’s nice to talk to her,” Woo said. “And during the summer training it’s nice to see how hard she is working to get to that next level and I learned that I could get myself up to the next level by doing what she is doing.”
Despite her busy schedule, Woo has been able to excel in the classrooms. Woo, a member of the National Honors Society, said there is no secret to her success, just a lot of hard work and sacrifices.
“A lot it is just time management and I have to set up my priorities straight,” Woo said. “You have to make sacrifices. A lot of it has to be school first and then hockey and you have to worry about your friends and social life later. Just because if you want to go to the college you want to go to, I had to sacrifice a lot. That’s how I feel like I’ve made it.”
Woo will devote her immediate attention to help the Crimson to a strong second half. After that, it’s on to the Ivy League. Looking back, Woo feels all the hard work and sacrifices are worth it.
“I’ve worked hard at it. I am starting to see a little reward, a little payoff,” she said.