Tomahawk sports history: Girls’ hockey
By Bob Skubal
Retired coach, historian, author of ‘History of Tomahawk Sports’
TOMAHAWK – The 2005-06 season saw girls’ hockey come to THS.
Don Nelson was head coach and was assisted by Jean Hintz. Team members were Rachel Janz, Jessica Verbist, Megan Barr, Sidney Peterson, Kelly Hintz, Katie Calhoun, Lizzy Hilgendorf, Shelly Slater, Martha Toede, Nikki Maki, Claire Hoffmann, Sydney Sykes, Joselyn Janz, Vanessa Barr, Hannah Barr, Jennifer Sargent, Kaylee Goretski, Jessica Smith and Kate Nelson.
The very first game for the girls saw THS lose to Medford 5-4. Nikki Maki scored two goals, and Kate Nelson had 31 saves in the nets. Maki is credited with scoring the first goal for the girls’ team.
In their second game, Tomahawk lost to Mosinee 11-0, with Nelson having 55 saves. A later matchup with Mosinee did not fare any better, as Tomahawk lost 13-0, with Nelson having 66 saves.
Tomahawk’s lone victory that season came against Rhinelander by the score of 6-2, with Nikki Maki having the hat trick. The season would end with Tomahawk at 1-14.
The next two seasons saw Tomahawk struggle to find the winning column. Don Nelson was assisted by Pat Steffen. THS would have a 0-41 record over these two years. Some of the highlights for these seasons were Kate Nelson having 68 saves against Appleton in an 11-0 loss, 47 saves against Hayward in a 10-2 loss, 58 saves against Mosinee in an 11-1 loss, and 50 saves against Baraboo/Sauk City in a 9-0 loss. Another bright spot was in the 10-4 loss to Lakeland, when Nikki Maki scored the hat trick.
2008-09 saw Tomahawk break into the win column in a big way, as they ended up with a 9-12 record. Don Nelson and Pat Steffen returned with team members of Brittnee Edwardsen, Katie Hanson, Kelsey Hilgendorf, Samantha Vincent, Chelsea Bremer, Brooke Williams, Katy Martin, Kacey Iwen, Kate Nelson, Lizzy Hilgendorf, Kendall Nelson, Liz Tourdot, Taylor Laack, Jennifer Sargent, Shanna Dennis, Holly Jaecks, Kara Krueger and Janel Smith. After a 7-1 loss to Baraboo and 5-4 loss to Reedsburg (Kacey Iwen and Kendall Nelson had two goals apiece), THS would defeat Lakeland 3-2 in overtime (Kendall Nelson hit the game winner just 22 seconds into the overtime to complete her hat trick). Other victories that season were 4-3 over Rhinelander, 4-3 over Medford (Kendall Nelson had a hat trick), 10-1 over Lakeland (Kacey Iwen scored five goals and Kendall Nelson had a hat trick), 3-1 over Marshfield, 6-4 over Rhinelander (Kendall Nelson had a hat trick), 2-0 over Medford, 3-2 over Webster and 4-0 over Medford.
Don Nelson returned in 2009-10, with Lonny Calhoun as assistant. Even though THS had a 3-21 record, their offense was becoming much more productive. In a 13-6 loss to Reedsburg, Kendall Nelson and Kacey Iwen had hat tricks. A 12-4 loss against Webster saw Kendall Nelson with a hat trick. A 10-7 loss to Medford saw Kacey Iwen with four goals and Kendall Nelson with the hat trick. In a 10-4 win over Lakeland, Kacey Iwen scored six goals. THS girls’ hockey would have their first All-Conference athletes, with Kendall Nelson-1st Team, Kacey Iwen-1st Team, and Taylor Laack-honorable mention. All-State honors also went to Kendall Nelson-2nd Team and Kacey Iwen-honorable mention.
In 2010-11, Don Nelson would be in his sixth and last year. He was assisted by Trish Piskula. THS would once again pick up three wins, with some season highlights being an 11-7 loss to Central Freeze (a Reedsburg co-op; Iwen scored five goals), a 5-4 win over Rhinelander/Antigo (Iwen scored the game-winning goal with Nelson having the hat trick), a 5-3 loss to Middleton (Nelson had a hat trick), a 7-3 win over Beaver Dam (Nelson had a hat trick) and a 5-4 loss to Rhinelander (Nelson had her 5th hat trick of the season). All-Conference honors went to Kendall Nelson-1st Team and Kacey Iwen-2nd Team. All-State honors went to Kendall Nelson-2nd Team and Kacey Iwen-honorable mention. Kendall Nelson would end the season with a team-leading 37 goals.
Pat Steffan took over as head coach in 2011-12. He was assisted by Greg Vallier and Ron Nerva. The season saw a 6-4 win over Rhinelander (Nelson scored five goals), 12-4 over Lakeland (Nelson, Nerva, and Iwen had hat tricks),7-3 over Medford (Nelson scored five goals), 6-1 over Beaver Dam, 10-2 over Lakeland (Iwen had a hat trick), 5-4 over Rhinelander/Antigo, 1-0 over Eagle River (first victory over Eagle River in school history). Other notable games were losses of 5-4 to Medford (Nelson had a hat trick), 10-5 to Stevens Point/Wisconsin Rapids (Nelson had four goals), and 6-4 to Eagle River (Nelson had a hat trick).
All-Conference honors went to Kendall Nelson-1st Team, Erika Vallier-2nd Team, Kacey Iwen-2nd Team and Nicole Nerva-honorable mention.
Kendall Nelson and Kacey Iwen would end the regular season as the state’s second- and ninth-ranked players in scoring with 54 points (45 goals and nine assists) and 49 points (16 goals and 33 assists), respectively. Nelson was voted Great Northern Conference Player of the Year.
All-State honors went to Kendall Nelson-2nd Team, Kacey Iwen-honorable mention, and Nicole Nerva-honorable mention.
Nicole Nerva was selected to play on Team Wisconsin at the USA Hockey National Championships in San Jose, Calif., in 2012-13.
In 2013-14, Greg Vallier took over as head coach. He was assisted by Brock Lombardo and Chris Bembinster. Team members were Erika Vallier, Nicole Nerva, Chelsea Garinger, Melanie Consolver, Erin Sparks, Emma Somers, Leah Foster, Bailie Conrad, Loerstem McCormick, Taylor Tomaszewski, Dacoda Shore, Lauren Bembinster, Sydney Calhoun, Jordan Parker-Calhoun and Sam Jorgensen. An 11-win season saw a competitive squad. THS would have a 7-7 record in conference. Notable achievements include 3-0 over Lakeland, 3-0 over Medford, 6-2 over Lakeland (Nerva had a hat trick), 4-0 over Medford (Vallier had a hat trick), 4-1 over Lakeland, 7-5 over Waupaca (Vallier had five goals), 5-1 over Beaver Dam (Vallier had five goals), 5-2 over Medford (Nerva had a hat trick), 4-1 over Waupaca (Nerva had a hat trick), 3-2 over Stevens Point/Wisconsin Rapids and 3-1 over Cedarburg Lakeshore Lightning. A 9-3 loss to Eagle River saw Erin Sparks with 46 saves in the nets. A 2-0 loss to Appleton United saw Appleton outshoot Tomahawk 50-4. Games like these showed the value of a great person in the nets.
All-Conference honors went to Erika Vallier-1st Team, Erin Sparks-1st Team and Nicole Nerva-2nd Team.
All-State honors went to Nicole Nerva-2nd Team and Erika Vallier-honorable mention
2014-15 saw the only winning season for girls’ hockey until they became a co-op team with Lakeland and Mercer in the 2016-17 season. THS was 13-11-1 under Greg Vallier, Chris Bembinster and Brian Cole. Team members were Nicole Nerva, Leah Foster, Erika Vallier, Madi Ungerer, Dacoda Shore, Erin Sparks, Jordan Parker-Calhoun, Melanie Consolver, Chelsey Garinger, Kiersten McCormack, Bailie Conrad, Lauren Bembinster, Taylor Tomaszewski, Sydney Calhoun and Rylie Flohr.
Highlights include wins of 6-0 over Lakeland, 7-0 over Medford (Ungerer had a hat trick), 12-0 over Webster/Siren, 10-1 over Lakeland (Vallier had five goals), 4-3 over St. Point/Wisconsin Rapids, 4-0 over Siren/Webster, 1-0 over Marshfield, 5-1 over Medford (Vallier had a hat trick), 5-1 over Beaver Dam, 4-1 over Lakeland (Vallier had a hat trick), 4-1 over Baraboo, 3-0 over Stevens Point/Wisconsin Rapids, and 3-1 over Lakeland. Other interesting games was a 0-0 tie with Stoughton (Tomahawk lost a 2-0 shootout, but the game was officially declared a tie), a 3-2 loss to Eagle River (Sparks had 47 saves in the nets), 3-2 OT loss to Rhinelander/Antigo and a 4-3 playoff OT game loss to Stevens Point/Wisconsin Rapids.
All-Conference selections were Erika Vallier-1st Team, Erin Sarks-1st Team and Nicole Nerva-2nd Team.
2015-16 saw Tomahawk struggle with a 0-16 record. Special accomplishments this season were a 4-0 loss to Lakeland (Sparks had 52 saves in the nets) and a 2-0 loss to Lakeland (Sparks had 64 saves in the nets). Even without a single win, THS would have two All-Conference selections, with Erin Sparks-1st Team and Rylie Flohr-honorable mention. Erin Sparks would also be voted All-State-2nd Team.
2016-17 saw Tomahawk’s numbers fall to the point that they became a co-op team with Lakeland and Mercer. Rick Sparks was one of eight coaches the team would have. This combination of schools produced a 14-10-1 record. Erin Sparks would have 50 stops in the nets against both Viroqua and Central Storm (DCE/Mosinee/Wausau West/Wausau East).
Erin Sparks was voted Great Northern Conference Player of the Year. Sparks was voted All-State First Team as a goalie. This was her third time being selected for All-State honors, as she was 2nd Team All-State the last two years.
In 2017-18, THS was in their second year as a co-op and only had two players on the squad – Rylie Flohr and Serena Henke. The girls would become conference champions and regional champions under head coach Steve Bucklew. They would have an 8-1 conference record, compared to second-place Eagle River at 6-2-1.
2018-19-saw no girls’ program.
In 2019-20, THS was a co-op with Rhinelander, Antigo, Lakeland, Three Lakes, Mercer and Wabeno. Serena Hanke was the lone skater from Tomahawk on the squad.
In 2020-21 and 2021-22, there was once again no girls program. Will this program go the way of boxing? Only time will tell, but it does look that way.