In each season that captain and forward Janelle Ferrara ’16 has skated for the Yale women’s hockey team, the team has improved, as the four-year key contributor has helped push the program to new heights. She has played in 103 out of a possible 104 games since she received her uniform, and is currently tied for the team lead with five goals this season. Ferrara has also led the Elis in assists in both her sophomore and junior seasons. And, prior to the start of her senior season, she was chosen by her teammates to captain the team for the 2015–16 season. The News caught up with Ferrara to discuss the current season, being a student-athlete and her career here at Yale.
Q. Your freshman year, you joined a struggling team. The year before you arrived, Yale only won one game. But every year since your arrival, the team has improved — the team finished with five wins your freshman year, then nine when you were a sophomore and 15 last season. What has it been like to be a major contributor in the rebuilding of a program?
A. This program has definitely come a long way since my freshman year, and it is great to see the positive changes that have been made. My class has done a great job leading by example throughout the years and really wanting more out of each season.
Q. This year, the team started off slow, winning only one of its first eight regular-season games. But since then, you have won three out of the last four. Do you believe that your team has turned its season around?
A. I think we had trouble getting the outcomes we wanted from the games at the beginning of the season, but we were still playing well and we were in almost every one of those games. We had a very tough schedule to start off the year, but we have definitely picked it up recently and it is nice to get some more wins, especially in league play, before going into winter break.
Q. What caused or who inspired the turnaround?
A. When you’re losing it’s easy to get down, but everyone on the team came together and instead of getting frustrated about the outcomes we’ve been having, we took it as motivation to finish this half of the season off on a winning note.
Q. Do you believe, even after the slow start, that you can continue the trend of your Yale career — each season improving on the previous one?
A. Yes, I think we are completely capable of improving our [15–15–1, 12–10–0 ECAC Hockey] record from last year. We still have a lot of hockey to play after break, but we are 3–2–1 in our league right now, and if we keep it up and build off of each game, we will put ourselves in a very good spot going into playoffs.
Q. Your first eight games were all against teams that spent time, at some point this season, ranked in the nation’s top 10. What effect has the level of difficulty of your schedule had on your team?
A. We played some very tough opponents already this year, but I look at it as a positive. We got to compete against the top teams in the country and got the confidence we need to realize that we belong in that group. We want to be playing our best hockey by the end of the season, and I know that if we keep working hard and improving, we will have success against these same teams when it matters more down the road.
Q. This year, you were named captain. What has it been like to serve as the leader of your team?
A. It was an honor to be elected captain by my teammates this year, and I try to lead by example every day at the rink. It is awesome to have such a great senior class working hard together to do whatever we can to help the team succeed.
Q. You were All-Academic each of your first three seasons. How difficult has it been to keep up your grades with the rigors of your 30-plus games and countless practices each year?
A. Being a student-athlete is definitely not easy, especially at a place like Yale. I’ve learned how to manage my time more efficiently, especially during the season, and have had to give up a lot, but being able to go to such a great university and play the sport you love is a privilege and I wouldn’t trade anything for this experience.
Q. Currently you are tied with forward Phoebe Staenz ’17 for the team lead in goals. How would you categorize your individual play this season thus far?
A. I definitely don’t see myself as a goal scorer since I usually opt for the pass, and my teammates love giving me a hard time about not shooting the puck, but I have been trying to work on that more this year. We have so many talented forwards and playing with them is a lot of fun. I am excited to keep working hard and get better each week with my teammates.
Q. After spending two years as one of the backup goalies, Hanna Mandl ’17 was thrust into the starting role this season, playing against some — as was mentioned before — of the nation’s top teams. How do you think she has performed thus far?
A. Hanna has done a great job coming in as our starter this year. You can see her confidence build each game she starts, and I am excited to see her get better and better. She has kept us in a lot of games so far this year and will help us reach our goal of competing in the [NCAA] Tournament.
Q. Obviously, as a senior, this will be your last year skating as a Bulldog. Are you ready to hang up your skates?
A. I don’t think anyone is ever really ready for that. I’ve been playing hockey my whole life, and being a part of this team has been an amazing experience. I know it will be hard, but whether we win or lose our last game of the season this year, I want to have no regrets and leave everything out there on the ice.