Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's Esse the News Tribune player of the yearHIGH SCHOOL GIRLS HOCKEY: Lumberjacks senior defenseman Carley Esse seemed destined to play hockey, though people who know her family might be surprised her father didn’t urge her into the sport.
By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton senior defenseman Carley Esse seemed destined to play hockey, though people who know her family might be surprised her father didn’t urge her into the sport.
“I grew up playing basketball in (Duluth’s) Central Hillside,” said Dave Esse, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s boys hockey coach. “I was kind of hoping the girls would try that.”
Instead, it was Christine Esse who urged her daughter to try hockey, and now more than 10 years later Carley is the 2012-13 News Tribune girls hockey player of the year.
“My mom grew up in a hockey family, too, but they didn’t have hockey for girls back then,” Carley Esse said. “I think she always wanted to play hockey, so when girls were given the opportunity, I think she at least wanted my sister (Courtney) and me to try it. It’s worked out great.”
Dave and Christine were high school sweethearts, Dave the all-round athlete and Christine the spirited cheerleader. They attended college together at Wisconsin-Superior, where Dave was an All-American defenseman.
Carley and Courtney grew up playing boys hockey until they were about 12 years old. That goes against the current trend of having girls play on girls teams all the way up, but Carley said it helped give them an edge.
“They always pushed me to be the best I could be,” Carley Esse said. “They were way faster and stronger, and that helped make me into the player I am today.”
And the fact Courtney is three years older also helped push her younger sister. Courtney just completed her junior year at St. Scholastica, where she thrived after getting switched to defense.
“My sister started playing hockey before me because she is older, and I always wanted to be like her, so I wanted to start playing when I was like 3,” Carley Esse said. “Courtney was always better than me, so I always tried to do my best to compete with her. I wanted to follow in her footsteps and do exactly what she did, and whatever sports our parents got us into, we liked. We played all kinds of sports growing up.”
Carley Esse has played soccer and softball and ran track at the varsity level, but hockey is clearly her favorite. She has a scholarship to play at Bemidji State next season.
It didn’t take Carley long to make in impact in hockey. In eighth grade, she and her sister scored all four goals in CEC’s 4-2 victory over Proctor-Hermantown-Marshall to propel the Lumberjacks to their last state tournament in 2009.
Carley Esse has since developed into a strong leader, captaining the Lumberjacks this winter.
“Carley is phenomenal. She is just a dream kid to coach,” said CEC girls hockey coach Lance Horvat. “You can tell she watched a lot of game tape and listened to dad because she understands every aspect of the game. She knows so much, and whatever you tell her to do, she is the first in line to do it. She is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached. She never stops. She has just been a great example to all our younger girls.”
Carley Esse has the ability to shoot without looking at the puck, something Dave Esse said few of his boys players have been able to master. She finished with 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points for CEC (15-9-2) this season and has led the Lumberjacks in scoring the past two years, quite a feat for a defenseman.
Dave Esse, though, is more pleased Carley maintains a 3.89 grade-point average. She has already taken about 10 college courses and could conceivably graduate from college early if she wanted to.
“Chris and I are very proud of both of them,” Dave Esse said. “They’ve been good athletes but even better students.”
Carley said her mother is emotional at games, while her father, when he doesn’t have a conflict with a boys game, takes a more analytical approach to watching her play. Then, later at home, gathered around the dining room table, he offers advice on that night’s game.
“I ask him what he thought about the game and he always tells me,” Carley Esse said. “Dad is always giving me advice if I want it. He always knows an area where I can improve and tells me what I’m doing well. I always get good advice about the little things that most people wouldn’t notice, but obviously he knows the game very well. It’s always nice hearing what he has to say because I’m his daughter and know he wants the best for me. I enjoy that.”