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ASU women's hockey looks to propel program into Division I athletics

The club program currently fundraises and volunteers to receive funding; however, the program hopes to go DI in the near future

211018 womens hockey vs gcu

ASU sophomore center Callie Else (13) faces off against a GCU player at Oceanside Arena in Tempe on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. ASU won 4-1.


Most Division I sports are funded by the school, donations and other forms of funding, but for club sports, the funding is much harder to obtain. However, the ASU women's hockey team — one of those club sports — is hoping to make the switch. 

ASU women's hockey is considered a club sport by the school, but to freshman center Samantha Murphy, it is much more. 

"I don't even consider it a club sport. I'm only in Arizona, I'm only going to ASU for the exact reason of playing for this hockey team. Like I'm from Canada. So I pay a crazy amount of tuition and just for the reason of coming in here to play for this hockey team," Murphy said. 

The team relies heavily on fundraising efforts to be able to travel to its away matches while also not being awarded athletic scholarships because it is currently recognized as a club team. All the athletes on the roster pay full tuition, before any academic scholarships, to be able to come to ASU. 

However, each player on the team also currently pays $5,000 in player dues each season just to be able to play on the team.

"We don't get any sponsors at all," sophomore goalie Hallie McClelland said.

Sophomore center Callie Else echoed a similar sentiment to McClelland, expressing what it is like to obtain funding to be able to afford playing and traveling for away games. 

"I think we get money from, we volunteer with like the Iron Man races here and like, because we do that, I think last year they entered us in like a drawing and we won a bunch of money from that," Else said. "Through clubs, sports, if we like volunteer more and like go out to other clubs, sports teams, like events, we get more points and then points then translates to funding. Like, you'll get more funding if your team is involved."

Head coach Lindsey Ellis and the team host prospect camps and the "little Sun Devils" to bring in additional funding to the program.

Currently, Ellis is a volunteer head coach, meaning she is not paid to coach the women's team. Ellis has been a part of the program since its conception in 2016-17.

"I think ... she just loves the program and she has to like, see it grow here," McClelland said. 

Murphy said in a conversation with her roommates that she was asked why she thought Ellis chose to coach the team when she wasn't getting paid. 

"I was like, why do we choose to play if we're not getting paid? Like, we love the game. It's literally just because we love the game," Murphy said.

With the program continuing to rise in popularity and notoriety, the team hopes to keep inspiring a new wave of female hockey players not only in Arizona, but around the U.S. and Canada. 

"We're getting to like, see, like foster new generation of hockey players, like female hockey players, especially," Else said.

Murphy said the ASU women's hockey team is "paving the way for women's hockey in Arizona, which is really, really cool to be a part of."

Although the women's team does not receive nearly as much funding as the men's team, the team has the support of the DI men's program. Else said the men's team comes out to watch the women's team games and the men's head coach Greg Powers reaches out to Ellis frequently to share words of encouragement.

Currently, the women's team travels to its away matches using the funding that it fundraises and earns from the club sports. However, "we live a little more lavishly than a lot of (American Collegiate Hockey Association) programs," Murphy said.

"Like I know a lot of men's team programs ... bus everywhere and they'll do like 18-hour bus rides," Else said. "We don't do that. We fly. I mean, yeah. The fundraising, like coming into that and like we find the funding to be able to travel."

In the next few years, the women's team hopes to join the rest of the DI sports as a nationally recognized DI program, something Murphy believes may happen during her time at ASU.

ASU looks to join the current 41 nationally recognized DI women's hockey programs in the near future, but for now, the team is focusing on the rest of its American Collegiate Hockey Association season.

"A lot of it is funding. I mean, the men's team, like they're not that much older than us and they just got a huge influx of like donations to like make that extra step and like just recruitment. I mean, it's obviously really, it's pretty easy to recruit kids to come down here to play hockey that way," McClelland said. "So, I think because we're growing so much so quickly, a lot of good things are coming."


Reach the reporter at lhertz@asu.edu and follow @laurenrachell_ on Twitter.

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