ASHWAUBENON – Morgan Zirbel is always calm, cool and collected on the ice.
The Bay Area Ice Bears captain is a key reason the co-op girls hockey team has been on a hot streak.
The senior defenseman from Ashwaubenon is tied for third with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) for the undefeated Ice Bears, who are No. 2 in the WisconsinPrepHockey.net state rankings.
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire recruit is part of a defensive corps that has allowed only six goals during an 11-0-2 start.
In addition to being a first-team all-state defenseman in hockey, Zirbel was a unanimous first-team all-Fox River Classic Conference outfielder in softball as a junior.
Zirbel discusses being a part of the Ice Bears’ 2014 WIAA state championship team, watching her brother play for the Badgers and an embarrassing celebration in this week’s Senior Spotlight.
What does your team need to do to make a state run?
Right now, I think we’re doing really well. We’re all working really hard and everything. We just need to keep working hard on and off the ice. Also, we need to stay healthy. That will help us get to state if we keep working at the pace we’re working at right now.
You have girls from seven schools on your co-op team. What’s that dynamic like?
It’s kind of interesting being on a co-op team and having girls from all different schools come together as one. I find that interesting because most sports are just like from the school itself. It’s really nice and cool how we all come together and are pretty much like family, even though we all come from different schools and four years ago most of us didn’t even know each other.
What’s the most difficult thing about playing hockey?
Ice time is kind of weird. You could go on right after school at like 3:45 or you could have practice at like 9:00 at night. It ranges on when you can get it, so that’s difficult. But we all make it work.
How have you improved as a hockey player over the years?
Getting my head up and my shot. I think that could always use improvement.
How big of an influence was your older brother, Jarod, for getting you started in hockey?
Ever since Jarod starting getting into hockey, there would be more hockey on TV at our house. My dad would watch and then I would watch it, too. I remember going to practices and wanting to play. They got me into it right away, like as young as I could. I just started loving it.
What’s it like watching your brother play for the University of Wisconsin?
It’s really cool watching him and getting to say, ‘My brother plays for the Badgers.’ It’s really cool to be able to say that. It’s so fun to watch him play at that level of hockey and for that team. It’s kind of like a dream come true for him, but also for me just to be able to see that happen.
How much Wisconsin gear are you able to get from him?
We try. It’s like, ‘If you have any apparel, hit us up.’ But most of the time you have to buy it on your own.
Why did you pick UW-Eau Claire for college?
They had the major I wanted to go for. The size is pretty nice. It’s a little bigger for D-III, and I like that. I didn’t really want to go somewhere super small. The coaches were huge with it. I love the coaches. They started talking to me right away. They were just super nice about everything.
What career are you interested in pursuing?
Athletic training is what I want to go for. I wanted to stay in sports. I wanted to be in it as long as possible because I just love sports and being active. That sparked my interest. Dealing with injuries and how to prevent them is important.
Do you know how to tape an ankle?
I took an athletic training class that my school offers, so I’ve learned how to tape an ankle, a wrist, a thumb.
What’s your most memorable sports experience?
State was definitely the most memorable moment. The feeling of winning state is unreal. I’ve never felt anything like it since. I appreciate it so much winning it then. We still do because it is difficult to get back, but I think we can do it again.
What’s your most embarrassing sports moment?
At state, you have that practice on the ice before you actually play games. We were doing a shootout, and I went to celebrate and there was this boys team watching us practice and I just fell in front of all of them celebrating. It was kind of embarrassing because they saw me do it and then fall.
Do you have any superstitions for games?
For hockey, I always put on my left-side stuff first. So, if I’m putting on knee pads, I put on my left on and then my right. The same goes with skates and then elbow pads.
Are you left-handed?
For hockey, I am. For softball, I am for hitting, but throwing I’m right-handed. I just bat lefty. It helps me more when it comes to drag bunting or slapping. I’m already used to that positioning. I just have to learn to move my feet while doing it.
What TV game show would you like to be on and why?
“Family Feud.” You get asked random questions where you don’t necessarily have to be like super smart to answer them.
Which teammate could survive on a deserted island?
Megan Saari, because she fishes and is outdoorsy, so she would know how to survive in any situation.
Who on the team would most likely be scared of a spider?
Lauren Widas. She just likes freaks about spiders and bugs.
Which teammate should have their own reality TV show?
Janelle Wotruba. She’s just an interesting person to be around.
Who is the messiest person on the team?
No one is super messy, but Jordyn Kadrlik will be eating like peanuts or something and leave a bunch on the floor in her little area.
Which teammate do you think would be the best Zamboni driver?
That’s hard. I’m going to say Johanna Cano. She’s a pretty good driver in general, so I feel like she would do pretty well out on the ice.
TV show: “Castle.”
Movie: “Finding Nemo.”
Musician: Chris Young.
Childhood toy: Blankie.
Athlete: Sidney Crosby.
“Morgan is an exceptional athlete and person. She is also very driven, which is the reason she is successful in anything she does. On the ice, she has the ability to assess situations and make some amazing heads-up plays in an instant. It will be fun to follow her progress over the next four years. Eau Claire is extremely lucky to have her.” – Bay Area Ice Bears coach Brandon Erkkila