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A varsity ice hockey player in high school, Taylor Settles sets her sights on college

Jason Asvestopoulos
A varsity ice hockey player in high school, Taylor Settles sets her sights on college
Taylor Settles races for puck. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DARRYL SETTLES

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Imagine skating down a hockey rink, chasing after a puck with no pads on. As you sprint full speed towards the net, your skates wipe out and you crash into the boards, unable to get up.

Eventually, you skate off into the locker room on your power, tears streaming down your face as an excruciating pain in your knee grows.

For Taylor Settles this was not a nightmare, but a harsh reality she faced at the end of her freshman year in high school.

“A lot of it wasn’t as physical but it was mental too,” Settles said. “It sucks, like you can’t do what everyone wants to do.”

Settles, of Newton, is a far way from that player.

A varsity hockey player at New Hampton School in New Hampshire, Settles is now setting her sights on playing ice hockey in college next fall.

Settles’ goals come as more colleges, universities and the National Hockey League have been stepping up efforts to diversify college athletic programs that have traditionally attracted white players.

They are using scholarship programs and other incentives, including Black Girl Hockey Club, to attract Black and other female athletes of color, according to NHL.com.

Last year set the mark for most women of color in NCAA women’s hockey with at least 27 players, an increase from 15 in 2000, according to colorofhockey.com, which tracks the data.

Settles said she understands that the opportunity to play college hockey is rare and looks to use her platform to inspire others. “I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity that was given to me as best as possible, because I know that it’s not an opportunity that everyone is granted,” Settles said in an interview.

Persistence is something Taylor developed unexpectedly in first grade when her parents signed her up for a learn-to-skate program. Settles said she enjoyed it so much that she went on the second phase of the program, learn-to-play, where she first used a stick and a puck.

This spark of passion led her to try out for a local girls’ club team. After not passing the cuts, she could only play on a boys’ team. Settles used the adversity she faced for being a girl on a boys’ team as motivation to become a better player.

“Sometimes it was tough,” said Settles’ mother Lisa Owens. “They would give her a hard time, but she tended to be fast, so they respected her speed.”

When high school came around, Settles knew that she wanted to compete at the top level. During a sleepaway camp called Elite Hockey Camp, she connected with representatives at area boarding schools about possibly joining their hockey programs.

But the road there took work. After being waitlisted by one school and unsure about another, Settles said she was discouraged about attending boarding school.

One of her friends was being recruited by New Hampton School and nudged Settles to speak with the coach. Within a week, Settles visited the school in New Hampshire and accepted the spot on their varsity team.

“She didn’t say much. She just went out on the ice and worked her butt off,” said Settles’ coach Craig Churchill. “She always impressed me from day one with her high-level compete.”

Outside of the rink, Settles is a typical 18-year-old. She mostly enjoys spending time with friends and loves reading books and going fishing with her family. She said she is fixated on studying business when she gets to college.

This past summer she took an investment class at Georgetown University to familiarize herself with how the business industry works.

Furthermore, Settles wants to continue learning Spanish, which she was first introduced to in elementary school and grew passionate about after being around her Spanish-speaking nannies.

Settles is also deeply committed to the legacy of her younger brother, Preston. The two, bonding over fishing, grew so tight their mother described them as best friends. Preston died after collapsing suddenly during a pickup basketball game at his boarding school, Brooks School, in North Andover last February. 

Following his death, the team rallied around the Settles family and dedicated one of their home games to him. They also made custom jerseys with Preston’s nickname, PS3, as the front logo, and his last name on the back of every jersey.

That overwhelming support helped Settles push through. She said she uses her brother’s memory as fuel to combat adversity and turns her grief into grit and tenacity.

“I try to embody a lot of the traits that he had. Everyone knows him as someone who had no bad days,” Settles said. “It just pushes me to work even harder when I’m struggling, when I might be tired … or it’s a tough game. In moments where I need a little push, I can think back on him.”

Black Girl Hockey Club, College ice hockey, hockey, Sports