By Talaya Robinson-Dancy
If an Ivy League hockey coach started to describe his favorite player, who would you envision? This player scored the most points in one season in Princeton history, with 61 goals, was the Ivy League rookie of the year, and was named the team’s most valuable player three times.
“I used to watch and [this player] was a magician on the ice,” said Jeff Kampersal, a former Princeton hockey player who is now the women’s hockey coach.
If you’re imagining a man, think again: Kampersal names Mollie Marcoux Samaan as one of the greatest Princeton hockey players of all time. Though women’s hockey is a relatively new sport—the National Women’s Hockey League only began in 2015—it’s existed at Princeton since 1979 and has grown enormously since Marcoux Samaan graduated in 1991.
Kampersal was inspired to coach the women’s hockey team after watching Marcoux Samaan when he was an undergraduate. “This position chose me,” said Kampersal, who has led the team to two Eastern College Athletic Conference championships. Just 26 years old when he was hired in 1996, he says he was the university’s “Plan D” choice to coach the women’s team.
“I was only supposed to be here a year,” he said, “and have been here for 20.”
The women’s team has won the Ivy League championship seven times since its founding. Meanwhile, the men’s team has struggled to advance past the first round of the ECAC in recent years.
Though Kampersal said that, from an athletic perspective, “there isn’t too much difference” between men and women players, when it comes to communication, “I could say something and they’ll hold on to it forever, and I won’t know until six months later.”
“Sometimes that’s an issue,” he said.
The team is “really receptive” to his coaching, he said. And, as fate would have it, the person that inspired him to coach women’s hockey has joined him on staff: In 2014, Marcoux Samaan became Princeton’s athletic director–which means she’s his boss.