Posted February 15, 2017
For the first season in over three years, UW-River Falls women’s hockey players and sisters, senior Defenseman Lydia Wagner and freshman Forward Bella Wagner, are able to wear the same jerseys on the ice.
Lydia started her collegiate career at Gustavus Adolphus College, where she played two seasons, while Bella was still finishing her high school hockey career for the Dodge County Wildcats in Minnesota. The decision for Bella of where to continue her hockey career was looming.
“I really pushed for her to be (at Gustavus Adolphus) with me,” said Lydia. However, after reflecting on it, Bella decided she would enroll at UW-River Falls, and soon after, older sister Lydia followed.
“Since we’re 45 minutes away that was a big factor to transfer here. The hockey program’s great, and with her already being here I really wanted to end my hockey season with my sister,” said Lydia.
Due to the age difference, Lydia and Bella had only played on the same team once prior to UW-River Falls. The two sisters, originally from Zumbrota, Minnesota, played for a couple of seasons together for the Dodge County Wildcats (a co-op team made up of girls from surrounding high schools). Both were all-conference players as well.
However, the season wouldn’t go off without a hitch. In a contest at Stevens Point in late November, Bella left the game with a knee injury and would later find out there was a partial tear in her MCL.
“I was very sad about it, because I was, like, I’m not going to be on the ice to finish out her senior year,” said Bella. “But in the back of my mind I knew that I would only be out for eight weeks, so I just had to work hard to get back on the ice and to play with her the last few games.”
Bella missed the next 10 games, which included the team’s only loss up to that point. Before the injury, Bella had started the year on a tear. In her first three games as a collegiate player, she found the back of the net three times and tallied her first multi-goal game in just her second outing. The injury didn’t slow her down, either. After coming back, Bella scored four goals and added three assists over her last eight games, according to UWRF statistics.
As the 2016-2017 campaign inches closer to the end, the red hot Falcons are hoping for a bid to the NCAA National Tournament. The Falcons grabbed the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference women’s hockey regular season title on Feb. 11 with a victory over UW-Eau Claire.
The Falcons finished as runners-up in last year’s NCAA tournament. The loss in the national championship still resides in Lydia’s mind.
“It’s hard to talk about,” she said. “We played really hard, but we just have not seen a team like that as often as we wish we could,” said Lydia on last year’s National Championship game against Plattsburgh State.
Though the thoughts are there, Lydia is not consumed by a national title run.
“My goal is just to live in the moment and do the best that I can for my team, my coach, and my sister,” said Lydia.
Bella, who not on last year’s team, had to watch the national tournament as a spectator, and it has shown up on her radar as well.
“It just kind of gives me the chills thinking I could be there this year… with my sister,” said Bella.
While Bella and Lydia are the skaters in the family, there are also two younger sisters who excel in sports of their own. Sophia, third youngest, is big into jiu-jitsu and Lola, youngest, is into softball, basketball and volleyball.
Lydia, Bella and the rest of the Falcon skaters begin WIAC tournament play Feb. 24.