While many high school seniors try to enjoy their last year by taking it easy, Wisconsin freshman Laurie Unser was looking for ways to occupy her time.
A standout athlete from West Salem, Wis., Unser was not satisfied just running on her cross-country and track teams in high school. She wanted to play hockey as well. Two hours away.
A current member of the Wisconsin women’s hockey team, Unser would make the trip from West Salem several times a week to play for the Madison Capitols, rated as one of the best prep hockey programs in the country by Hockey News Magazine.
Now that Unser has made the permanent move to Madison, she has brought that work ethic with her.
“I was always active,” Unser said. “I kind of like being busy because it keeps you so you have time management.”
Originally a figure skater, Unser became tired of watching her brother play hockey and decided to give it a try as a 6-year-old. She didn’t try cross country or track until eighth grade, but quickly realized she was a natural at running.
“Once you’ve had success it motivates you to work even harder,” Unser said. “It’s easier to work for something you need to know what in store for you.”
Efficiency will be key for Unser, as the level is raised both academically and athletically in college. So far, however, Unser appears to be doing just fine.
“She’s an all-around player on the ice,” UW junior Kelly Nash said. “Coach can put her wherever if we need somebody to fill in she just steps there and plays her hardest.”
In just her second shift as a Badger, Unser made her presence known with a goal against North Dakota. Positioned by the net, she turned a rebound opportunity into a two-goal lead for the Badgers. After her first taste of offense, Unser appears ready to contribute again.
“It’s nice to have those players that can hop out on to the ice and perform,” UW head coach Tracey DeKeyser said. “A lot of the freshmen it takes them a month or two to finally get in the groove.”
Fittingly enough, Unser did not receive a scholarship out of high school, but had to walk on to make the program. As a four-time scholar athlete and Midwest Elite Hockey League Academic Award winner, Unser’s grades were good enough to attend Madison even if she hadn’t made the team.
As if hockey and school at UW didn’t occupy enough of her time, Unser is considering joining the track team in the spring as well. According to Unser, the extra work on the track will benefit her on the ice.
“I think one of my stronger points on the ice is speed, and I think track has contributed to that,” Unser said. “I’m working my leg muscles and I think it’s a great cross-training.”
A state champion in the 4×800 relay and an individual champion in the 400-meter dash, Unser is no stranger to success on the track.
“Since sophomore year I realized that I could have a chance; I got second at state in the 400,” Unser said. “So my senior (year) I really worked hard — as hard as I could — and it all paid off.”
If Unser does end up joining the track team, she would not be the only dual-sport athlete in the hockey program. Twin sisters Alev and Derya Kelter, are on the soccer team as well.
Unser has kept in contact with the track coaches and will make a decision down the road to determine if she has a future in track as well. Although she is still unsure about what to do this spring, Unser has made up her mind that successful athletes don’t need to stick to one sport.
“If you want a sport, you just have to make sure you work hard,” Unser said. “As long as you put in the hard work you can pretty much do anything.”