Girls hockey: Lourdes' Schmitz commits to play Division I college hockey
Jeff True kept telling Emma Schmitz that perfect offer was going to come, and she’d know it was perfect when it did.
It took a little longer than Schmitz had hoped, but the perfect offer finally came her way. And she didn’t hesitate to accept.
Schmitz, the leading scorer on the No. 8-ranked Lourdes girls hockey team (54 points), committed on Monday to play Division I college hockey at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Ct.
"It’s a big relief," Schmitz, a junior forward, said Monday night. "I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. I found the right school. I fell in love with the coaches and the campus. It’s a perfect fit for me."
Sacred Heart has played Division I hockey for more than a decade but only joined a conference within the past few years, becoming members of the five-team New England Women’s Hockey Alliance.
The Pioneers have strengthened their schedule in recent seasons and the university is building new athletic training and fitness facilities.
But what sold Schmitz the most on heading east was the feel of the campus and the coaching staff at Sacred Heart, which is approximately 60 miles east of New York City.
"It’s a smaller town and the right size school for me," Schmitz said. "They have a great nursing program, too, and I loved the coaches. They’re really easy to talk to and their style is a lot like my coaches here. They’re straight-forward about what you need to do, but they’re very much a family, too."
Sacred Heart has been strong on the ice this season, too. It is 18-7-4 overall and has some solid recruiting classes lined up. Schmitz and the Eagles recently played against one of her future teammates — Wayzata’s Alexa Ocel.
"A lot of schools over the past year have looked at Emma and liked her," Lourdes head coach Jeff True said, "but it was just about finding the right fit for her. She had some other opportunities that maybe didn’t feel as comfortable for her, and Sacred Heart has a good up-and-coming program."
Schmitz toured the campus last year while she was in the region, to attend the University of Maine’s prospects camp. She said she immediately loved the campus and her hopes grew in recent weeks as Pioneers head coach Thomas O’Malley had several phone conversations with True. Those came on the heels of SHU assistant coach Katherine Pauletti watching Schmitz play in person during the Schwan Cup in Blaine in late December.
Pauletti saw first-hand the growth Schmitz has made as an all-around player.
"One of the biggest things is being able to create opportunities for her teammates," True said.
"Last year, halfway through, I think Emma had 20 goals and five assists. She’s flipped the script on that and leads us in assists (29).
"She’s become a really good team player. She plays the entire length of the ice and has developed that tenacity. She’s willing to go into tight spaces against bigger players and come out with the puck."
Schmitz joins a handful of current Lourdes teammates who have made college commitments within the past year or so. Her linemate and Lourdes’ leading goal-scorer Clara Billings recently committed to Gustavus Adolphus College. Eagles defenders Allison Smith (Union College), Ali Ratzloff (St. Scholastica) and Maggie Hanzel (Boston University) have also made commitments.
Schmitz likely won’t be the last from this year’s Lourdes team to choose a college program to play for.
But, with her decision now made, she said she can focus on the task immediately at hand — attempting to help the Eagles reach the Class A state tournament for the first time. Lourdes (14-9-1) faces Faribault (19-6-0) at 5 p.m. Thursday at Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna in the Section 1A championship game.
"I just want to help our team get to state this year," she said, "especially our seniors because we have so many good ones and this is their last shot.
"Now I can focus on that, it’s a super-exciting opportunity."