Jessica Wernli | Junior | Papillion-La Vista High School
When Jessica Wernli tells someone she plays hockey for the U19 Omaha Lady Jr. Lancers, she typically gets a surprised look. “They’re like, ‘no way! A girl?’” Their surprise is warranted because there are only about 100 girls playing hockey in Nebraska. Her family had season tickets for the UNO Mavericks hockey team, so hockey became part of Jessica’s life from an early age. She started skating at three and played co-ed hockey from age four until middle school. “I really fell in love with the game when I played a season with the girls.”
Jessica made the team as a freshman, but the competition for open spots is fierce. Some of her teammates come from as far away as Des Moines, Lincoln, or Sioux City. The team travels out of state approximately 8-9 times during the season, typically going to Illinois, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan and sometimes South Dakota. “If you want to be competitive, you have to travel.” Jessica misses two days of school during those weeks because the team travels on Thursday so they can play on Friday. When asked if it’s hard to keep up with schoolwork, she replied, “If you ask the teachers, they’re usually really sympathetic about getting you the homework before so you can get started.”
Last September, Jessica began to deal with a new obstacle to playing hockey – Crohn’s disease. “Sometimes when I’m on the ice, I’ll start getting stomach cramps that are hard to push through.” She receives an infusion of medicine every 6-8 weeks to keep her healthy. It’s possible to get ulcers when under stress, so she has to balance her school work with playing tennis for Papillion-La Vista High School as well as her hockey schedule. Jessica keeps a positive attitude about it all. “It’s not that tough, I can handle it. I like staying busy a lot. It helps me stay focused.”
Jessica is hoping to play hockey in college, possibly for Midland University in Fremont, although she’d like to go out of state. “That would be a dream,” she said. She plans to major in either psychology or business. “This next year I’ll be looking for schools that fit both my academic and athletic interests.” College coaches will undoubtedly be paying attention to this talented young woman.