On the surface, the list of similarities between soccer and hockey runs long.
Both sports have goalies, defensemen or defenders and forwards. Both require players to shoot a puck or ball past a goalie in order to score. And soccer and hockey each require a great deal of coordination between hands, eyes and feet.
For Maggy Henschler, the parallels between the two sports run much deeper.
The Milton High junior, who plays hockey for the co-op Rock County Fury and soccer in the springs for the Red Hawks, sees the two sports as an opportunity to escape the pressures of the daily grind.
“It’s a really big stress reliever for me,” Henschler said this week before the No. 5-ranked Fury practiced at the Janesville Ice Arena. “I can always go to practice and forget about things that are going on outside and forget about school for a little bit.
“It never gets old for me.”
If there was a sport that Henschler could play when she was younger, her parents, Matt and Shelly, encouraged her to try it. Matt was a college football player, and the family enjoyed watching sports, so they played them, as well.
Maggy said she wanted to try any sport that her older brother, Harry, was interested in. Harry is a junior at UW-Whitewater and one of the top defensive ends in the country in Division III football.
“I started playing soccer when I was 3,” Maggy Henschler said. “I swam, ran track, played volleyball, did boys lacrosse. Anything that was available.”
In fifth grade, she had to choose between hockey or basketball, which have seasons that run congruently. Hockey was more of a natural fit, she said.
And by the time she got to the high school level, hockey and soccer became the focuses.
Henschler began playing hockey with the Jr. Fury and has been a key cog for the varsity team since she reached high school. In her first three seasons, she had 39 goals and 22 assists in 70 games, including 14-8 during a sophomore year that saw Rock County reach the state tournament.
In this, her senior year, she’s taken her game to a new level. Entering the weekend, she was leading the state in assists (12) and points (23) and was second in goals (11).
“I just came in really motivated,” Henschler said. “This being my senior season, I was really ready to work hard. I think that kind of got casted onto a lot of the players that came in fresh and were maybe a little scared or nervous. Now, a lot of them have been the assists to almost all of my goals. We have a lot of chemistry.”
Henschler may be racking up the stats, but Fury coach Luke Steurer said not to confuse that with being a selfish player. If anything, Steurer has had to ask Henschler to shoot more and pass less.
“She’s always looked to pass first, and I’ve told her in a good way it’s kind of one of her downfalls,” Steurer said. “She’s been working this year, trying to get her to shoot the puck a little more and get those goals. It’s been good for her and good for the team.”
Henschler said there are several skills that translate between both hockey and soccer. She brings her technical soccer ability with her to the rink, and she brings her physicality back with her from the ice onto the soccer pitch.
She was a first-team all-Badger South Conference selection as a sophomore and has verbally committed to play college soccer at Division I UW-Milwaukee. Henschler plays for the club Rush Wisconsin, which keeps her busy during the fall season.
“I just really love it,” Henscher said when asked how she chose to pursue soccer at the next level. “I just never have a moment where I go in really angry or upset and don’t come out happy. It’s my happy place. When I went to Milwaukee’s campus, I loved it.”
Henschler has a high school career to wrap up before joining the Panthers.
The Fury are 7-1-2 heading into a critical Badger Conference game against league contender Sun Prairie on Tuesday night in Beloit. And the Red Hawks, who have made a trip to sectionals a near-annual tradition and played in a sectional final in 2016, should be right in the mix again this spring.
“Going into this season, I wasn’t really worried about points,” Henschler said. “A big reason we’re doing so good right now is everyone is having fun. My co-captains, Dani Heitsman and Ally Burke, we really just want to have the team mesh and have a fun time.
“We’ve had a lot of serious time and focus, but we have a lot of fun, and that makes a big difference. As seniors, we want to go out with a bang.”