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  • Matt Ondesko

Giving it her all

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

You don’t need a letter on a jersey to be considered a leader.

Leaders are defined by wearing a “C” or “A” on their jersey during the season. There are many players that lead by example, or lead in the locker room, without having an official letter. That is what makes a great leader.

Someone who can lead by example, lead by their actions on and off the ice. Or, on and off the diamond. Once you become an upperclassmen that mostly by default you are expected to lead the rest of the team.

Some will shy away from it, while others will thrive with all the pressure.

Nichols hockey player Cortney Staniszewski didn’t have to wear a letter this season to get her point across to a young team. She has been a respected figure on and off the ice for the Viking since she stepped foot on the Nichols campus.

“Leadership is a very important part on the ice and in the locker room and around the rink. Junior year for Nichols we didn’t have captions and I think that was where the upperclassmen all had to step up and take on a leadership role,” stated Staniszewski. “Senior year unfortunately I didn’t have a C or an A on my jersey but it didn’t bother me because I knew I could still be a leader for the team. As an upperclassmen you realize you have to be a leader because there’s younger girls looking up to you and I think that’s a something really important because I know how much I looked up to my upperclassmen and how much I wanted to be like them.”

This is just another reason why colleges have loved Staniszewski so much. Besides her game on the ice, Staniszewski is leveled headed, team-first, player. A coaches dream. Her game on the ice for Nichols speaks for itself and that is what got the colleges coaches excited about the prospect go her joint their team.

Then they were able to get to know Staniszewski on a personal level. They were able to see what makes her tick. The recruiting process is never easy. There is a ton of things coaches will say to get you on campus. A ton of promises being made during that course of time.

But, Staniszewski had a clear mind when going through the pro cress, and she knew what she was looking for.

“The recruiting process has its ups and downs. For some people it’s easier compared to other people’s experience. For me I feel as it went good. For some people they know what school they want to go to and they go there,” stated Staniszewski. “But for people like me you have a list of schools and you like them all and you aren’t too sure where you're going to go. At some points in the process I felt like I wouldn’t find a school but the minute I stepped on campus at Utica I loved it and I knew it was the right school for me. I wouldn’t want to go through it again but if I had to I could. It was a great experience visiting so many wonderful schools. And i’m so happy where I will be spending the next four years.”

If there is one thing for certain is the fact that Staniszewski won’t be afraid of a little competition when stepping on the Utica campus in the fall. After all, she deals with top competition on a daily basis when she hits the ice with her fellow Vikings.

While the WNY Girls Federation gets a lot of press, Nichols churns out a lot of Division I, II and III hockey players. Every day Staniszewski goes practices with some of the best players in Western New York.

That doesn’t even include what Staniszewski goes up against on game days. Nichols plays some of the best competition in the country on a day-to-day basis. They travel to Canada for games. They head to Vermont for tournaments.

All this helps Staniszewski became a better player.

“Going up against these girls in practice is a lot of fun. You have to work hard for playing time no matter what grade you are. We have so much fun on the ice battling against each other. We all make sure we make it hard on our teammates so you both get better. And this also makes us more competitive,” stated Staniszewski. “Some people get very intimidated playing against good teams or good players. For travel and school hockey we were playing against very talented and competitive teams. We were playing against girls that played on Team USA and Team Canada. I think playing against good teams really boosts your confidence because you know you can play against them. It teaches you to play your game but also make changes in your game that make you better.”

Like most athletes these days it isn’t hockey 24/7. Staniszewski makes sure that she doesn’t get burned out playing hockey all day, every day. Sure, it’s her favorite sport, or she wouldn’t be going to college to play.

But, she likes to play and do other things. This spring, if we have a season, Staniszewski will take her rightful position on the Nichols softball team. Softball has just been as an important part of her life as hockey has.

While Nichols isn’t known as a softball powerhouse in the Monsignor Martin, the Viking have been getting better.

“I really enjoy playing softball, it’s not my first sport but it’s something that I enjoy doing and I love playing. It’s really upsetting not knowing if we will have a season, especially it being my senior season,” stated Staniszewski. “I was really looking forward to it especially knowing we have a strong team this season. We had such a fun season last year and I was really hoping to having one this season.”

As of now no one knows if there will be a season or not. Schools are closed until April 29, which is ironic considering the type of spring we had this year. It’s just not about whether or not there will be school again, it’s about being a senior and going through what is probably the most difficult time right now.

Not knowing if you will see your friends again, or going through graduation, is tough. Having to take online classes more than half way through your senior year is not easy. It’s been an adjustment for Staniszewski, and the rest of her classmates.

Whether they come back to finish out the school year is still to be seen, but it won’t take away the memories Staniszewski has made with her friends. Even with what is going on in the world right now, in some way that will be a memory too.

“I will take away all the memories I made with my team. I will take away all the times I struggled and how the struggles made me better and how it will help me in the long run,” stated Staniszewski. “I’m really going to miss the bus trips to games and tournaments with my best friends and all the laughs we shared and just how much fun we have together. I’ll take away all the things I have learned from really amazing people and everyone that has helped me along the way. “


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