Women's hockey a huge 'target'
The NCAA champions is the team to beat this year
With the title belonging to Norwich University, the women's hockey team knows it has a huge target on its back and other teams wants a piece of it, according to a member on the team.
In its fourth year as a varsity sport, the Lady Cadets last season won the Division III national title against Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) 5-2.
Fast forward to October, the women are ready to put last season behind them and start a new season with higher expectations from fans and critics, according to a member on the team.
Oct. 20 the team had an exhibition matchup against Ontario Hockey Academy and easily won it 5-0 as it gets ready for the East/West Hockey Classic.
Jillayne Debus scored the first two goals for Norwich and later in the game she would get an assist.
Melissa Rundlett scored the third goal for Norwich in the second period. Fourth goal came from Renee Lortie and the fifth goal from Kaycie Anderson.
Over last weekend, Norwich hosted four of the top 10 ranked teams Elmira College, Manhattanville and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) at the East/West Hockey Classic.
Norwich came out on top against Elmira on Friday after players raised their championship banner in the rink, but could not hold off RIT on Saturday. Norwich fell to RIT, 4-1, but beat Elmira 4-2.
During the rematch of last season's championship game, the Cadets could not hold off the Tigers. RIT opened up the scoring in the first period of play and Rundlett scored Norwich's only goal shortly after.
Later in the period, RIT took the lead again and did not look back.
"Obviously they were going to come out hard against us since we had beat them in the NCAA final, and we all knew that it was going to be one of the hardest games of our year,"
said Amanda Wilks, 21, a senior athletic training major from Winnipeg, Man.
The team is looking at the loss as a turning point, but it is still early in the season.
"No one is OK with the loss, we're just using it as fuel to the fire and are going to come out even harder next time. We all know we have the target on our backs," Wilks said.
"This year. everyone wants to beat us," she said.
The women say it won't be an easy road back to the title but they are ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
This year's team is an older and mature one, with only four freshmen compared to 12 last year.
"We have to work twice as hard before" said Meghan Papagano, an 19-year-old sophomore majoring in communications from Wakefield, Mass.
"I think the biggest (challenge) is putting last year behind us and understanding that it's a new season." Papagno said.
The team is ready to prove to the nation that it was named national champions for a reason.
Only one goal for this team and that is to win it all again this year and prove that they're the real deal.
"(We) have a target on our backs and we can't let up at all," said Kayla Parsons, a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in nursing from Fairbanks, Alaska.
"We have to give 110 percent every time whether at practice or in the game," Parsons said.
Norwich will be relying heavily on its older players to help lead the team this year on and off the ice.
The Cadets will look for their first and second conference wins of the season on the road Nov. 4 and 5 against Castleton and New England College.
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