By David Willis
---- — Veronica Alois was destined to play basketball for Andover High, most everyone assumed.
The younger sister of Alex, Jackie and Rebecca Alois — all of whom won at least one state title during Andover’s magical girls hoops run of three straight state crowns from 2010-12 — would surely follow in her siblings’ paths at Dunn Gym.
And for many years, Veronica Alois believed that would be the case, too. That is, until she fell in love with hockey.
“I grew up playing basketball,” Alois said. “But as soon as I tried hockey, I loved it. It is such a different sport. Eventually I had to make a decision, and I went with hockey.”
That choice has worked out tremendously well for Alois and the Golden Warriors hockey team.
Heading into the week, Alois, a sophomore, has posted a whopping 30 goals to lead Andover to a 10-4-3 record and the No. 9 ranking in the state.
“Veronica’s greatest asset is that she is the ultimate competitor,” coach Liz Keady said. “She is also an awesome all-around athlete. She is already making her mark on the hockey world, and will only get better from here.”
Growing up, Alois imagined something far different.
Oldest sister Melissa actually began the state title tradition, winning four with the powerhouse Andover swim team (2003-07).
After that, the Alois name became synonymous with girls hoops greatness at Andover.
Older sister Alex was a starting forward as a senior for Andover’s 2010 Division 1 state title-winning team. Sister Jackie was a freshman on that team and went on to then start on the 2011 and 2012 title team. Sister Rebecca was a freshman on the 2011 team and a starting forward on the 2012 team. She is currently a girls basketball co-captain for the Warriors.
And the No. 1 fan for those teams was Veronica.
“It was so awesome watching my sisters accomplish that,” Alois said. “I was always in the front row screaming and wearing their jerseys. They love the game so much and I loved watching them.”
It turned out to be a pure accident that led Alois onto the ice.
“When I was about 12, my mother took my brother (Donald) to sign up for hockey because my parents wanted him to try different sports,” she said. “I just happened to be with them that day at the sign-up and my brother said he would only play hockey if I played, too.
“I had never stepped on the ice before that in my life, but I said OK. He eventually decided on basketball, but I stayed with it. I loved hockey right away. It was such a different sport. It was so fast and so physical.”
For the next few years, Alois juggled both hockey and basketball, until it became impossible.
“For years, I would go from one practice to the other,” she said. “But in the eighth grade, the practices started to overlap and I just couldn’t do both anymore.
“It was such a hard choice because my two favorite sports were hockey and basketball. My sisters wanted me to play basketball because they wanted me to play with them. But they also wanted me to choose the sport I wanted.”
Hockey became the choice, and Alois set her eyes on her new love.
“I was lucky that I picked the sport up quickly,” she said. “I would Rollerblade with my brother a lot and would make him put on goalie pads and take shots at him. There was nothing like scoring my first goal; it was a game-winner with five minutes left in a Blue and Gold town game. Once I got older, I stared to score more goals.”
Once high school arrived last year, Alois began making her mark on the Golden Warriors.
In just her third varsity game, the then-freshman scored four goals in a win over Central Catholic. She continued to roll, finishing the season with 13 goals.
“You can see right away that she is fast,” Keady said. “But she is also gritty and wants to win whether it is practice or a game. She wants the puck on her stick and she won’t back down. She loves the challenge.”
She has been up to the challenge this season.
Alois began the season in style, scoring the game-winner with five seconds left in the opener against Billerica. She followed that with a four-goal game against Boston Latin.
Since then, she has scored at least one goal in 13 of the Golden Warriors’ last 15 games, including notching five multi-goal games and netting two hat tricks.
She now enters the week with 30 goals, the fifth most for a season in program history. Only legend Maria Nasta (three times) and Sarah Oteri (once) have scored more since Andover girls hockey became a varsity sport in 2001.
“I think the key is that I am always working on my slap shot and wrist shot,” she said. “If we have extra time in practice, I am shooting or I am in the backyard shooting. (A goal) is such an amazing feeling. You never want it to end because you never know when it will happen again.”
But hockey isn’t Alois’ only sport. She is also a star for the soccer team (17 goals in 2013) and plays lacrosse.
“A lot of hockey players skate all year and that ends up being too much,” Keady said. “She plays three sports and is dedicated to all of them. She will reap the rewards of being diverse in the end. And she is very good at all of them.”
Among the best
Here are the best scorers in Andover girls hockey history:
Maria Nasta 2006 47
Maria Nasta 2005 43
Maria Nasta 2004 36
Sarah Oteri 2010 35
Veronica Alois 2014 30 (as of Feb. 17)