It’s the start of every good sports story. An average team coming together to pull out a winning season and end up on top. It’s also what happened this year for the Villanova women’s ice hockey team.
This past weekend, the team found itself in the playoff spot, competing for the DVCHC Division 1 Cup at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, Del. Starting Saturday night with a game start of 10:50 p.m., the team proved it was in for the long haul this weekend as it beat Rutgers University 5-1 and advanced to the semi-finals for the first time in team history. Facing Slippery Rock University on Sunday, Feb.16, 2014, the team was faced with a loss (4-8) and set to play the U.S. Naval Academy the next morning for third place. Starting with a lead in the first period and then keeping up well into the middle of the third period, the women held their own against Navy. Unfortunately, they fell behind toward the end of the third, eventually falling to the Navy.
Taking fourth place is still an amazing feat for this team, who played with eight skaters as opposed to Navy’s 19 and managed to keep up with a team twice it’s size. Moreover, this is the first time in University history that the team has made it this far.
What a play-off run.
However, we can’t forget the monumental season that got the team to this point.
The women’s ice hockey team competes at the Club Division 1 level in the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference. They play all their home games at Center Ice in Oaks, Pa. Founded by Hilary Murphy in 2006. This University team has been competing at a high level the past couple years and growing better with every season. This year has been monumental as they came from behind to end up over .500 and make it farther than the team ever as before.
The team started the first half of the season last semester with wins over Liberty University and University of Virginia. Unfortunately, after that, the girls hit a rough patch as they suffered tough losses to Navy and Towson the very next weekend with scores of 3-7 and 5-11, respectively. Beating UVA once more, 4-2, the team then lost the last three games of the semester to University of Maryland, Navy and Towson with scores of 2-7, 3-8 and 9-13.
Over the break, the team found itself losing numerous players to semesters abroad and long-term injuries. The already small enough team got even smaller. Realizing they would barely have enough skaters at each game, the players prepared themselves to play long shifts and look towards a short bench. However, being a small team turned out to be a good thing.
Making a significant turnaround, the team went undefeated second semester as weekend after weekend they pushed forward with barely enough skaters and took down top-ranked teams. Defeating Rutgers University twice (scores: 4-3, 4-1), Slippery Rock University twice (scores: 6-5, 8-5) and the University of Maryland (score: 3-1). The Wildcats finished the regular season in third place in their league.
That’s what got them to playoffs last weekend. This season has been a shining example of what can happen in sports when a team rises above its individual players, bands together and reaches a new level.
This team went from allowing 11 goals to be scored by the other team, to defeating top-ranked teams. This team beat Slippery Rock for the first time in team history. This team went farther in play-offs then they ever had before.
Goalie, junior Rebecca Brown, placed second in the league for saves, saving 333 points in regular season play. Freshman superstar defenseman Jackie Denning tied for first in goals for the league, scoring 35 goals in regular season.
This team accomplished things only possible through team unity and hard work. Only possible through grueling 10:45 p.m. practices and copious amounts of fundraising to afford league dues. Only possible through determination and passion for your teammates, passion for your sport and passion for your school.
The fact is, almost any top team can start on top and remain there all season long. Any top team can score points, block goals and win games. But, to come together, overcoming lost games and lost players and fight tooth and nail for a top spot? That’s a story. That’s what matters.
Working hard to gain a top ranking and continuously proving yourself every step of the way with monumental plays and huge wins? That’s true success. And that’s exactly what the women’s ice hockey team accomplished this season.
This team may have started out average, but they definitely finished anything but average, fulfilling the Hollywood script that seemed anything but likely earlier in this of most satisfying seasons.