IN THE SPOTLIGHT
She just can’t resist the assist.
Just blame it on her servant’s heart.
Balancing a life is not easy — especially when you’re a high-level hockey player. Maureen McNerney’s passion for the sport is unquestioned.
The New Trier senior, who was named to the Amateur Hockey Association Illinois (AHAI) all-state team last month, makes it look easy.
But hockey is not her whole life. Not even close.
McNerney is just as committed — if not more — to serving the needs of others. No. 37 has produced 11 goals and seven assists this season for her high school hockey team.
Her assists — and other acts of kindness — at soup kitchens and food drives and with foster kids?
Closing in on ad infinitum.
Got a good cause? She’s there. With a plastered-on smile.
“I believe that it’s important to show care to others,” said McNerney, moments after New Trier edged Loyola Academy 4-3 in double overtime in a girls hockey state semifinal game at The Edge in Bensenville on March 5.
“Helping others is my passion,” added McNerney, daughter of Dan McNerney, a minister who currently is an associate director of Frontier Fellowship, a mission support group serving churches worldwide and advancing the Good News of Jesus Christ. “It’s about giving back. Bringing comfort to others.”
Active in the youth group at Willow Creek Church North Shore in Glenview, McNerney’s leadership skills are off the chart. On —and off — the ice.
“She was an unanimous pick for captain,” said New Trier head girls hockey coach Bill Brush. “That tells you something.”
That “C” on the front of her jersey is not just there for show. McNerney takes her captain’s role seriously.
“She does a good job of keeping her teammates centered,” said Brush. “Even in this game tonight, when things could’ve turned bad for us [NT allowed two goals in the final 7:08 of the third period], she helped to keep everyone positive.”
“Just a class kid. A character kid,” the coach added. “And she’s self-driven, smart and competitive. She shows up at every practice, serves her team and serves the community.”
Brush also makes sure that McNerney logs a lot of minutes. She’s a clean player, but she plays with an edge. She committed two penalties against Loyola.
“She’s one of our main playmakers,” the coach said.
Fittingly, McNerney figured prominently in NT’s scoring against Loyola. Her assist — there’s that word again — set up a goal for Julia Laden with 6:04 left in the first period.
She also was hanging around and applying pressure near the net, when Kate McLaughlin slipped in a goal with 7:41 left in the third period to put NT ahead 3-1.
But LA didn’t fold. The Ramblers got it back even on goals by Stephanie Smith (4:37 left in the third) and Jayna Park (:41 left).
“We didn’t let that get us down,” said McNerney, a first-year New Trier player, who has been competing at the AAA level for six years with two different club teams (Chicago Young Americans and Team Illinois). “When it went to overtime, Coach told us to take a deep breath. We just had to regroup.”
McLaughlin’s night ended up becoming truly special. With 3:18 left in the second overtime, she turned sudden death into sudden victory by scoring the game-winner on a feed from Sabrina Shvartsman.
“Ah, you can always count on Kate,” said McNerney. “She was nonstop. She just kept crashing the net.”
Serena Seiple scored New Trier’s first goal with 11:45 remaining in the opening period. The speedy Shvartsman got the assist.
With the win, New Trier will face reigning state champion Glenbrook South in the state championship game at the United Center on March 24.
“Tonight,” said McNerney, who watched her brother, Daniel, win two state titles as a member of New Trier Green, “was all about heart.”
Make that heart — and soul.
Notable: The state semifinal game was anyone’s game. New Trier had a 2-2 record against Loyola Academy during the regular season. … Abby Wieczorek earned the win in goal for NT. She made 22 saves. … In addition to Maureen McNerney, NT’s other all-state selections include junior goalie Hayden Snow, junior defenseman Madeline Babnik, sophomore forward Mae Olshansky and freshman forward Sabrina Shvartsman. … Olshansky leads the team in goals (32). She also has 14 assists. The assist leader is Shvartsman (21). The other leaders include Babnik (12 goals, 5 assists), Serena Seiple (14 goals, 17 assists) and Julia Laden (12 goals, 3 assists).