Respectability came quickly to last year's fledgling Crimson women's hockey team. Although the icewomen opened Year One of varsity status with a 17-0 disaster at the hands of Providence College, two months later they stood at 6-6-1, riding a four-of-five winning streak and opening eyes in the Ivy League and beyond.
Despite the late-season tournament woes which dragged their record back below .500, the icewomen's marginal campaign has to be considered a success. Their 2-3-1 Ivy record kept them in that race to the finish, and the 6-11-1 overall mark included a number of impressive performances: a 3-0 whitewash of Colgate, a 6-1 romp past Bowdoin, a 3-2 squeaker over Yale and the heartbreaking 6-5 overtime loss to B.U.
Now it's Year Two. Leading scorer Tania Huber (16 goals in 16 games) and netminder Nelia Worsley, the only woman ever to don the pads for the Crimson, have been lost through graduation. The returning cast includes wingers Sara Fischer (7 goals-16 assists-23 points) and Lauren Norton (9-9-18), center Firkins Reed (5-7-12) and all-Ivy honorable mention defenseman Julie Starr.
And there are new faces, too, the most important of which belongs to the new head coach Rita Harder. The first woman to coach the team (second-year varsity sports have lots of firsts), Harder played her college hockey at Brown and has since coached women's club hockey in Pawtucket and men's JV hockey at a private high school.
Harder describes her team as "young but experienced." She notes that five freshmen will play important roles, but stresses that they are not newcomers to the sport as often is the case--"it's not like starting at square one," she adds.
Most of the youth is up front. Freshman Alex Lightfoot, who captained the Choate-Rosemary Hall team, will center for returnees Deb Rosenman (0-0-0) and Sue Yunick (1-2-3).
Sophomore co-captain Reed joins Fischer and freshman Vicki Palmer on a line, and Barb Coffin (0-0-0) and newcomer Rosemary Mahoney flank (yet another) freshman, Amy Spalding, to form the third line.
The defense has experience and should play tenacious hockey. Co-captain Norton joins Alice Hill as the number-one pairing, and Starr and Anna Jones line up as number two. All four return from last year, although Norton is new to the blueline, and they should prove themselves a stingy quartet--no 17-0 games this year.
Row, Row, Row
Worsley's place in the nets is taken by perhaps the team's most important freshman. Katie Williams. A varsity field hockey goalie. Williams is working under the tutelage of goaltending coach Brian Murphy and gaining ice experience daily. If tradition holds up, she'll have plenty of game time to utilize this experience: Worsley played every minute of every game last season.
Predictions are dangerous, but there's no question that the team looks competitive.
"If the kids are psyched up and come out flying, we'll do all right," said Harder, adding. "We can hold our own."