This season, the reigning NEWHA Champion Long Island University Women’s Ice Hockey team is off to an 0-6 start. But a start like this is nothing new for the second-year program.
Last season, the team turned the page after struggling out of the gate, accomplishing an unthinkable feat. They Captured a conference title their first year in existence.
Winning a championship certainly brings a lot of pressure onto LIU, but the external expectations don’t outweigh what they expect out of themselves.
“The pressure that we experience is the pressure we put on ourselves,” coach Rob Morgan said in an interview with NYI Hockey Now. “If we did not feel pressure, do we really have high expectations? We have high expectations, so when we aren’t meeting those expectations, you start to feel a little bit of pressure.”
For a team that consisted of mostly freshmen — 21 to be exact — the lack of experience and senior leadership was a sure obstacle. However, it gave Morgan’s young team the opportunity to build their own identity together.
“There’s no preconceived ideas of who we are,” Morgan said. “So they all came in with ‘hey we get to all build this together.'”
A year later, the LIU Women’s hockey team has a bit more experience under their belts. They’re down to nine freshmen on the roster compared to the start of last season.
For captain Morgan Schauer, part of the fun of leading the young program has been watching how her teammates have grown through their first season and into their second.
“It’s been interesting, being the oldest one with the other captains,” said Schauer, a second-year transfer student. “Just watching them (freshmen) grow and watching them learn, not only just hockey wise, but life-wise and as we build our identity together, seeing how they all are able to contribute in their own way, its been really cool to watch all of them go through that and figure it out for themselves.”
The 2019-20 season began with games against out-of-conference opponents like the University of Connecticut, University of Wisconsin and Yale. While those games were a challenge, it prepared the players physically and mentally for their divisional play.
“I think in the very beginning we understood that it was going to be a process and It would take time to develop, learn how we wanted to play, learn how to compete at the college level,” Morgan said. “Just believing in each other and making every day count.”
Knowing how long it took last year to pick up the program’s first win, Morgan is looking forward to his team accomplishing that feat this season. “I know our kids are going to be really excited to have our first win this year,” he said.
Shauer looked back on the championship season, and what it felt like to be able to grow as a team.
“We got to build our culture; we had our own identity,” Shauer said. “When we finally were able to come through, come together in the end, and really do it together for the first time, it felt really good, and it was really rewarding. I think it meant a lot to the young girls and to me. I transferred, I went through a lot too. But just to have that and do it with my teammates, it felt awesome.”
Due to COVID-19, the NEWHA, in which LIU plays, essentially fell apart after three teams opted not to play. The school has had to piece together a schedule for this year. To add to that, LIU has not had its full group together in a very long time.
A third of the team joined the group towards the end of December, with kids still missing.
The schedule has not been all too kind to start the new season. LIU faced Quinnipiac University three times, with one more game remaining on the calendar.
Their schedule also consisted of games against Clarkson University and Sacred Heart University, the team that was ranked first in the division last year.
Regardless of how the season plays out, the team will compete against Sacred Heart in a playoff series. Long Island University defeated Sacred Heart in the semifinals last year.
Right now, the focus is on improving every day and finding a way to pick up their first win of the season.
After losing big to Quinnipiac University on Monday night, all the team can do is forget the 11-0 result and move on.
“When we woke up this morning (Monday), there is nothing we can do about the game that we played yesterday (Sunday),” Morgan said. “We had a little talk about things and you know we met as a coaching staff this morning already and we talked about the things we need to continue to focus on and get better at. I know that when we play our next game, we are going to be better.”