One afternoon last February, Dana DeMartino, at the time a 16-year-old junior at Massapequa High School in New York, took one small step for teenage female athletes across the nation.
After putting together one of the greatest statistical seasons in the history of Nassau County high school ice hockey, DeMartino melted her critics' pens and anyone who ever doubted her by leading Massapequa to New York's AAU Large School state title.
Massapequa's championship victory meant that DeMartino would become the first female in the history of Long Island high school ice hockey to hoist a New York State championship trophy, and it also proved to the rest of the nation that competitive co-ed sports can extend well into high school, even for those sports that feature a great deal of physical contact.
Sports such as ice hockey, football, and lacrosse are typically not co-ed at the varsity high school level, but DeMartino's hard-nosed goalkeeping showed anything is possible with a little hard work and determination.
Most girls would feel at least slightly out of place being the only female on a team of over a dozen boys, but DeMartino has been doing it for so long that she thinks nothing of it.
Future NHL Star?
"I've been playing with the boys for so long, it's just completely normal at this point," said DeMartino, now a 17-year-old senior. "I don't see anything different than being on a girls' team. My players support me, they know I'm an important part of the game, and I give them support for helping me on the ice."
After helping lead Massapequa to the title last year, DeMartino compiled a 12-5-1 record with a 1.43 goals-allowed average as starting goalkeeper in her senior campaign.Her superb goaltending resulted in Massapequa reaching Nassau County's championship series this past season, just one year after securing the state title.
Of the hundreds of teenage athletes who play competitive ice hockey on Long Island, DeMartino and 15-year-old New Hyde Park High School sophomore Rachel Havrylkoff are the only two female goalies who earned spots on all-male varsity rosters during the 2012-13 school year.
"I play because I love to play, and it's more than a sport to me, it's a lifestyle," DeMartino added. "One day, I'm going to try out for the Olympics, play in the NCAA ranks, and be like that girl goalie in the NHL. That would be some dream!"
DeMartino was referring to Manon Rheaume, a Canadian ice hockey goaltender and Olympic silver medalist who became the only woman to play in the NHL when she hopped in net for the Tampa Bay Lightning in an exhibition game in 1992.
DeMartino hopes to follow in Rheaume's footsteps by one day goalkeeping in the National Hockey League, the world's premier hockey organization.
Competitive Co-Ed Sports in High School
A common thought among high school coaches and school sports officials is that co-ed teams for competitive sports can only work for athletes age 12 and under, as boys and girls are mostly balanced when it comes to height and weight until the age of puberty.
After age 14, it becomes rare to see girls competing alongside boys in competitive physical sports such as football, lacrosse, and hockey. No one wants to see an injury occur, and most leagues hope to match teams and players up by size and skill, which for the most part, keeps competitive co-ed sports from happening.
Athletes like DeMartino are proving to coaches and school sports officials across the nation that girls deserve the opportunity to compete with the boys on high school varsity rosters.
"I'm looking forward to the next chapter," DeMartino said following her final high school varsity game for Massapequa, which occurred in early February in the Nassau County championship series against East Williston-Jericho. "I'm very grateful for all the support I've received through my hockey years, from family, friends, coaches, and teammates. This is just the beginning!"
Eric Holden covered Long Island high school sports for several publications from 2010-2012, and he has witnessed DeMartino in action on many occasions. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Massapequa High School