Taking on a traditionally tough field of competition at the ISBHF Worlds, including the trinity of powers that are two-time defending champion Canada, host country Czech Republic and the resilient Slovakian team, the United States understood that the road to a podium finish would be one hard-earned. Helping lead the way was Taylor Steadman, one of the tournament’s breakout stars.
Wearing number 24, the Vermont-raised Steadman provided a consistent presence for an American roster hungry for its first-ever podium finish. Gaining an assist on Team USA’s first goal of the tournament, score by Cherie Stewart in a 2-1 win against Italy, it would set the tone for a solid series of performances. Along with fellow American Stephanie Caban, who was just 16 years old, both earned spots on the Tournament All-Star team.
Prior to gracing the ball hockey court, Steadman competed at the NCAA Division III level, competing in ice hockey for one season with Elmira, followed by three with the Castleton Spartans. Part of the class of 2016, she graduated as the program’s all-time leader in power play goals. Rewarded with NEHC First-Team All-Conference honors in her senior season, she was also an All-Academic selection, respectively. Of note, her last NCAA Division III goal also coincided with her last multi-point performance, scoring twice against Plymouth State.
With a round robin performance at the ISBHF Worlds that involved two straight losses, the match against Great Britain would prove to be her finest hour. Assembling a three-point performance, highlighted by a pair of goals, it was part of a convincing 6-0 win that saw nine members of the US roster log at least one point. Steadman paved the way for the heroics that would unfold in the medal round.
“The team definitely needed a strong finish heading into the semi-finals. We needed our lines to re-sync and our whole team needed to refocus as a team, but against Great Britain we finally did settle down our play, controlled the pace and direction of the game, played aggressively and patiently, and as a result dominated. The strong finish reignited and gave us the confidence we needed to take on Team Canada.”
Finishing the ISBHF Worlds as the leading scorer for the US, it represented an exceptional milestone for Steadman. Placing seventh overall in the tournament scoring race, the only other American-born player that finished in the top 10 was Kelly Foley.
Although the strong scoring performance is an accomplishment that reflects a strong point of pride, Steadman’s loyalty to her team strongly supersedes any individual achievements.
Discussing what it means to pace the team in scoring is only part of the experience for Steadman. Recognizing that every effort exerted on the court represents part of the overall effort, it is the type of maturity that certainly established Steadman as an invaluable asset for the roster.
“It means that I am part of an incredible, strong, dynamic and talented team. Don’t get me wrong it is great to score. You get an adrenaline rush when the ball leaves your stick and finds it way to the back of the net, but you get the same rush when a teammate scores.
You are never out there alone. No one on the team would score a single goal if our goalie did not make a save, our defense did not successfully break out from out zone, our centers did not win face offs, the forwards didn’t dig for the ball and win the battles in the corner, and a teammate didn’t set you up with a great pass or a rebound so you can take the shot.
Only one player gets credit for a goal, but it really only means I have an incredible team with me. I feel lucky to have them.”
With such a deep admiration of her teammates, Steadman was essential in the team’s propulsion towards realizing the impossible. With the red, white and blue facing off against two-time defending champion Canada in the semifinals, Steadman scored the game-tying goal as Kelly Foley gained the assist. With Becky Dobson capitalizing on this momentum with the game-winner less than five minutes after Steadman’s tally, it signified the biggest win in the history of the US program.
Qualifying for the gold medal game, the US provided a valiant effort, forcing overtime against the Czech Republic in a game where the lead changed hands three times. The euphoria of a podium finish was met with mixed emotions. While there is a sense of achievement that comes with making history, as the US had never experienced the triumph of a medal before, sullen feelings also rise to the surface. After defeating Canada in the semifinals, the overtime loss to the Czech Republic is highly visceral.
With the taste of silver, Steadman is more driven than ever to improve on such an outcome at the following ISBHF Worlds in 2019. Ready to elevate the program to even greater heights, prepared to add a golden lustre, Steadman represents such ambitions, creating a confident persona that will help the US continue to evolve into a ball hockey power.
“Taking home Silver was exciting and humbling while at the same time disappointing and motivating. It was exciting as the USA has never had a podium finish and humbling as so many talented USA players/teams in our shoes have strived for that medal.
It was disappointing as we came so close to winning Gold and motivating because there is nothing more than our team wants than to play in next World Championship in two years and bring home GOLD!”
Although Steadman put considerable effort into the task of reaching a podium finish, she does not see her statistical prowess as the only means of ascending towards leadership status. In discussing the essence of leadership on this roster, Steadman is highly profound, revealing an amazing and multi-faceted acumen that sees her truly wise beyond her years,
“There is so much more to being a team leader than scoring goals. You have to be loyal, unselfish, enthusiastic, dependable, knowledgeable, and decisive. You need to be peacemaker and motivator, and you need to set the example both on and off the floor.
I would be honored to eventually be considered one of the team leaders but it is not an honor you obtain just by scoring goals. Luckily, (at) this Worlds, we had many amazing leaders on our team that set great examples.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Daniel Soucek