Mar 9, 2010

Women’s hockey team ready for Nationals

by Kelly Marvel

A three-year-old red-haired girl stepped onto a frozen pond in Ontario and fell in love. From the moment she skated onto that ice, Brooke Harris knew that she would play hockey. She started playing at age four and never looked back.

Harris is now a junior at Liberty University and is the captain of the Liberty University women’s hockey team.

The women’s hockey team has had great success this year, with a 16-8-2 record and is currently ranked fifth in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). Assistant Coach Scott Bloomfield said the players are the main reason for the program’s success.

“It has been their hard work that has built this program from nothing to a top-ranked team in Division-I in only four short years,” Bloomfield said.

Harris leads her team with three other Lady Flames, senior Patti Smith, junior Misty Pirus and freshman Jen Freymond with a united front and a Christ-centered goal.

“This sport is first and foremost a ministry, so to see the program flourish, giving more opportunities to witness to unsaved players and teammates and be an example of Christ in the community are incredible and encouraging aspects that this success will continue to bring,” co-captain Smith said.

The 2009-2010 version of the Lady Flames Hockey team is a strong family, which Harris said is a result of the presence of God in their team.

“We are extremely close to each other as a team off the ice,” Harris said. “We are like a huge family that goes through life’s trials together. Unlike most teams, we are also centered on a relationship with Christ.”

The team does a weekly Bible study and prayer time, which strengthens the team as a whole and gives them an effective witness to their opponents.

“I have loved representing the school and loved the adversity of walking into opposing rinks, hearing people cutting up Christianity, assuming since we are Christian we couldn’t be good at hockey, and not only proving them wrong by beating them but doing it with sportsmanship and class,” Smith said.

The players on the team have learned many things through playing hockey at the college level, both on and off the ice. Off the ice, the players have had to learn how to be college students and competitive athletes simultaneously.

“The challenges of balancing school and hockey have increased my work ethic, my time management and my spiritual life,” Smith said. “You would be surprised how overwhelming balancing everything can be at times and that really pushes you to pray more.”

The team is built on the fact that every player has some form of expertise that she brings to the ice.

“Each individual player has something to bring when we play games,” assistant captain Jen Freymond said. “Whether it is raw skill, communication or work ethic almost all aspects are covered by our girls.”

The team is very young and the leadership is excited for the future of the program.

“As the team comes together more and the girls gain more experience, this inconsistency should wane and that is an exciting prospect,” Smith said.

“They are a team of individuals who have gathered together with one purpose and one goal, and who are willing to surpass all odds in order to achieve success,” Bloomfield said.

The Lady Flames will travel to Blaine, Minn. for the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) National Tournament on Tuesday March 9. They will be playing rival Rhode Island on Thursday, and on Friday they will be playing second ranked Robert Morris and Penn State.

After the three preliminary games, the top four teams play for the semi-final round and then winners from that round will be playing for the national title.

“Our plan for nationals is to compete to the best of our abilities,” Harris said. “We know who we play and we know their styles. We have beaten the teams in our division at least once, and we know that if we work as hard as we can and like a team, we will have the best chance possible for success.”

Harris came to Liberty as a freshman and knows that her roots go back to that frozen pond in Ontario. That’s where her love story with hockey began.

Contact Kelly Marvel

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