The Kalkaska-based 14U girls’ hockey team, the K-Stars, are headed to Nationals in Irvine, California. This is the girls’ second-straight year making the national tournament. This year, their national bid follows a 6-0 run during the Michigan state tournament.
The team has eight returners from last year’s K-Stars team, who got bounced in the quarterfinals.
Though the team is based in Kalkaska, not a single player is from that area. The K-Stars have players hailing from Cadillac, Negaunee, Marquette, Elk Rapids, Alma, and Sault Ste. Marie– which means the team rarely practices as a whole.
“We’ve had three or four practices all together as a team. It’s hard for us to do that,” K-Star’s Sara Outman said.
But even with the distance, this 14U team is still closer than ever.
“I think we all get it because there’s not a lot of in some of the places where we live there’s not a lot of hockey players. So everyone on the team has a certain bond that some other girls just don’t get,” Outman said.
The bond that the K-Stars share was initiated at the beginning of the season, and was integral to their success this season.
“With the logistics of our team with these girls that don’t go to the same school, not all of our girls practice here, what we really needed to do is to get them to trust in themselves and trust each other. And that’s where we started out in August. And by the time we got to the state championship weekend. They believed in each other,” head coach Jason Owens said. “It really comes down to the fact that they really believe in each other and they work for each other. They work hard for each other. You know, I don’t think we scored as many goals as we did last year. Our goals against are a lot better. We have a returning goaltender from last year. She’s playing great hockey this year. But I really think what it boils down to-is at the state championship tournament, they worked hard for each other. And that to me just sets the tone for nationals.”
The K-Stars begin their second-straight national journey March 30th and runs through the 3rd of April. The National tournament is a 12 team round robin, each team will play three games, and the top eight will advance to a loser-out quarterfinal.
The K-Stars have a GoFundMe to help with bonding events for the girls as well as travel costs.
“When it comes to the raising money, that part it’s super cool to see. Like, how many people support girls hockey still. And how it’s growing too,” K-Stars player Marley Anderson said.
When asked what they’re looking forward to most about nationals, the girls unanimously said they’re most excited to hit the beach together in California. But with the coaches nearby, they quickly changed their answer– and it turns out they’re excited to go up against tougher competition and hopefully make it further than they did last year, too.