As the hockey season begins, the women have high expectations for the team. After four consecutive years placing fourth in the NCAA National Tournament, the women are ready to finally take the title home to Gustavus.
Junior Forward Carolyn Draayer says that taking fourth place multiple years in a row has been devastating. The women are looking to make a positive change, and she has faith in the team and high hopes for a championship.
“We lost in overtime during the semifinals the last two years, and that was heartbreaking. We’re coming in this year with a fresh team and looking for a change. We want to win the National tournament,” Draayer said.
According to Senior Forward Mel Doyle, the women plan to focus on fundamentals, keep a positive attitude, and take games one at a time. Doyle says that the team has been successful in the past because of the attention they pay to small details.
“We want to be the best in the MIAC again. We’re emphasizing basic skills like passing and angling. It’s the small things that make a big difference,” Doyle said.
The women face several challenges during the first half of their season. Because the Gusties have done well in the past, Draayer says that other teams see them as a threat and want to beat them. Despite their past success, the team tries not to overlook any team.
“We have a really aggressive schedule the first half of the season. We approach every team as though they’re the toughest game, because we don’t want to look past anyone. We have a really strong conference with a lot of teams that could challenge us on our way to our goal,” Draayer said.
Junior Forward and Defender Courtney Boucher says the team isn’t arrogant, but are aware of how other teams perceive them.
“We’re definitely circled on everyone’s schedule, and teams are going to bring their ‘A’ game when they play us,” Boucher said.
The women have been successful due to their aggressive, fast-paced style of play. Doyle says the women use their speed to their advantage.
“We have a very aggressive system where some teams are more passive. Our fore check and pass calls are very in your face. We have so much speed that even if we mess up, we can recover. It’s a very aggressive way of playing,” Doyle said.
According to the players, Coach Mike Carroll leads the team by being vocal during games and expecting their full potential at all times. He works with the players on setting short-term goals with pregame goal sheets and then discussing how to accomplish those goals.
“He expects a lot out of us and demands our best. But that’s not to say he isn’t concerned with other aspects of our life, like how we’re doing in class and how we’re feeling. But it’s a respect thing, he respects us and we respect him. Even if we don’t agree sometimes, we still respect him and know he’s doing what’s best,” Boucher said.
Between practices, weights, video, and games, the team spends roughly 25-30 hours a week at hockey, but the women say that they can’t imagine their lives at Gustavus without the hockey team and their love for the team motivates them to fight through the hard days.
“I couldn’t imagine not playing. I could be having the worst day, but when you get on the ice, you don’t think about anything else. It’s a natural high. Plus, you’re with your 24 best friends. It’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else, you can’t get that feeling of scoring a goal. Doing the thing you love with your best friends is the greatest, you can’t find that anywhere else,” Boucher said.
Beyond the players’ work ethic and dedication on the ice, Doyle attributes a lot of the team’s success to the close bond between players.
“One cool thing is we have a team Bible study. The season has barely started and over half of the girls have already come. It brings a different dynamic to the team and builds sisterhood. We also write a lot of notes to each other. Our lockers are plastered with quotes and supportive notes. Sometimes you’ll have a bad game or get called out by a coach but then you’re immediately surrounded by girls encouraging you,” Doyle said.
While the players place the national title as their goal, Draayer says that the Gusties’ first away series this weekend against Concordia will be an indicator of where the team is. Playing away from the team’s home rink is the first challenge the women will have to overcome to achieve this season’s goal.