Lily Hillsgrove grew up between the stems.
For as long as she can remember, she was the goalkeeper. A football goalkeeper. But before her teenage years at Concord High School, a softball teammate and a member of the hockey team had an idea: What if Lily swapped her blocks for skates?
“I said, ‘Why not?’ And I told it to my mother, and she said, “Why not? We can do it. We can try,” Hillsgrove said.
Two years later, Hillsgrove not only got the starting job in net for Crimson Tide, but has now won honors as Concord MonitorHockey Athlete of the Year for Girls.
Hillsgrove said her experience with the football goal, as well as her time catching behind the plate, helped her prepare to fit the net in the Everett Arena.
“I had the athletic ability to have my angles placed, and I was good at cutting off people’s angles and responding quickly to projectiles flying at me,” Hillsgrove said. “Hockey is definitely very different because I’m skating and have padding, but I definitely had the instincts for what I was going to do.”
The transfer of goalkeeping instinct served as an ongoing start for Hillsgrove. The only problem? It does not help much on ice. And Hillsgrove did not know how to skate.
“The summer before I started, I went ice skating with my teammate’s dad, and he taught me to skate. And then he taught me to skate with the gear on. So it took a while, but it was fun, ”said Hillsgrove.
But the senior said it took more than just skating lessons. She worked tirelessly before her junior season on synthetic ice to hone her craft. But even with all that work, things got off to a rock-solid start in her first fight.
“I conceded eight goals. One went through my five-hole. And I was not really happy with my performance,” said Hillsgrove. “But I was excited to finally be on the ice, and after that I thought, ‘I will get better and I just want to improve and show people that a new goalkeeper can be a great goalkeeper. ‘ ”
That summer, Hillsgrove started work. She increased the intensity of her synthetic ice training and became more and more familiar with the subtleties of the sport. She attended goalie camps, played in the summer league and met with a goalie consultant.
“After that summer of training, I became more confident in skating and my movements and knowing what to do. I learned more about the game and understood the game more than in my first season,” she said. just make me more confident. ”
The shift from year one to year two was dramatic.
“She really just showed up in a huge way this season for us,” Concord coach Tim Herbert said. “It went from a child who had just started playing hockey to a legitimate goalkeeper at the high school level. She just has this unwavering work ethic where if there is something she has to work on, whether it’s her glove, to cover, to fall to the butterfly and move horizontally across the fold, whatever it is, then she just works on it again and again and again until she gets it. ”
Herbert said Hillsgrove rose when the team needed her. In her junior year, the team was highly defensive and was able to cover the still-learning goalkeeper. But in her senior season, the loss of some players and a change in playing style gave more responsibility to Hillsgrove.
“We were a different team and she was a legitimate goalkeeper who could keep us in matches and she stole a few games for us this season,” Herbert said. “It was definitely huge.”
Herbert added that Hillsgrove’s mental strength was something crucial to the position, and something she used with astonishing skill.
“She has a way of processing, splitting and being able to move on after a hard loss or give up a big goal,” he said. “And it’s something I do not know if it’s coming from her years of football, or what it is exactly, but she has an ability to just let it roll off her shoulders and focus on what it is she has to do. to make sure it does not happen again. ”
For Hillsgrove, the news that she won the award was a catalyst for the long list of people she wanted to thank for helping her find a new sport to love.
“I want to thank my mother because she was there for my madness and start a new sport. And she took a seat for me and bought some of my equipment, and she always supported me. And I want to thank my teammates for being amazing and make this last season a really good season for me, “Hillsgrove said.
“And I want to thank the Brown family, especially Livy Brown and her father, Chris Brown, who helped me train and taught me the piece and brought me into the game. And I want to thank my coaches and goalkeeping coach, Kevin Lacroix, for teaching me to play and for believing in me. ”