Georgetown's Holly Williams has yet to play a game for her new U.S. women's college hockey team and she's already become part of the intense rivalry between a couple of East Coast Athletic Conference Division III schools. The sports teams at Neumann College, located not far from Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia, and Plattsburgh State University in New York have developed a healthy dislike for each other over the years. Neumann's Knights were eliminated from the first round of playoffs by Plattsburgh State's powerhouse Cardinals, who finished the season with a 26-3-1 record and their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III national championship, losing to Middlebury, Conn. in the final. The Knights also enjoyed their best showing yet in the ECAC in 2005-06, posting a 12-10-1 record, but they're clearly not content with modest success. Neumann recently hired back head coach Matt Kennedy after a year behind Quinnipiac's bench and they were aggressive in their recruiting during the offseason, picking up six new players from the hockey hotbed of southern Ontario, including Williams. A high-scoring power forward, Williams nearly signed with the Cardinals but decided that Neumann's scholarship package would better serve her desire to become and education major. No fewer than 10 Knights' players were selected to the ECAC West's all-academic team. "Plattsburgh just didn't work out, even though they have the better hockey team right now," the 18-year-old Williams said in an office of her family's business, Halton Hills Rad & Tire. "Neumann has the better education program, and in the end it will be about the education. That's mostly why I made the choice I did." That's not to say that the Knights are just a bunch of bookworms who wear Hanson Brother-type glasses. Unlike many Canadian university hockey teams, the Knights are well supported by off-campus fans and routinely draw 1,500 spectators to their home games in the town of Aston, adding pressure to produce wins. "Hockey's really big down there because it's a small community and they're passionate about their sports," Williams added. "You can buy our jerseys at the corner store. It's really exciting to become part of something like that. I'm thinking about trying out for Neumann's soccer team too."
Williams played with, and more than held her own against, strictly boys' competition in Georgetown until the age of 16, but then made the jump to the well-established Toronto Aeros women's hockey organization, and for the past two years has starred for the midget AA team, which lost just five games in two seasons and won two provincial championships. "I like to stand in front of the other team's net because not a lot of girls can move me," she said. "That's my thing. Nothing fancy." Williams also helped her high school squad, Christ the King's Jaguars, to the Halton quarter-finals and their most successful season to date. She has two part-time jobs and has been doing some dry-land training in preparation for the Knights' training camp in late August.