For most of the school’s history, referring to the hockey team meant talking about men. But quietly, the women’s ice hockey club has been gathering numbers and making progress.
Senior Lilee McNeil, president of the club, has been working toward growing the program’s name for the future. As of now, they don’t have a coach and haven’t played any games, but the young club is gathering what they need to move up to club sport status.
The club was approved at the end of the 2016-17 academic year, according to McNeil. They are now in the two-year process of being a club before they can become a club sport.
According to the club’s faculty advisor, Dr. Mark Andreozzi, the team will spend that time as a club and then pitch to Student Senate why the team should become a club sport.
“They’re in a time [where] there’s certain milestones [or] requirements that they have to meet as a club to then petition Student Senate,” Andreozzi said.
Due to their club status, they do not yet have funding as a club sport, so in order to raise money for full-team ice time, they must fundraise. Their other option, which they have been utilizing, is attending public hockey games at Driscoll Arena in Fall River, where they play with any other skaters who attend the afternoon time slot.
Without a coach, it has been up to the players to coordinate and recruit. Posting in the class Facebook groups and attending table times at Accepted Students Day have proven to be helpful in growing their roster. McNeil said members of the club have talked to players interested in joining the team, even reaching out beyond those at RWU.
“I’ve reached out to old coaches, too, to get our name out there,” McNeil said.
She hopes that by reaching out to coaches, they will become familiar with RWU as an option for their players to play at a collegiate level.
According to McNeil, the team now has about 14 consistent players, including a goaltender, and a few who show up when they can. Her goal for the future is to have 18 on the bench when they begin to face other schools.
When it comes time to face other teams, Bridgewater State University is a nearby school that was in a similar position a few years ago before they recently made the jump to being a club sport. Their proximity to RWU geographically and developmentally makes it very likely the teams will face in future.
A women’s team on campus can do a lot for the university. Boasting a women’s hockey team can bring in students, which means more tuition for the school. McNeil says the location is great and people love the campus, but female hockey players she knows said they didn’t enroll because they couldn’t continue to play the sport here.
Growing the name of the program continues to be a major goal for the club. McNeil said that at one point, someone in Admissions approached her about the club and thought it was the same thing as the field hockey team. She assured them it wasn’t.
“It’s crazy how many people don’t realize we’re a club,” she said.
As for the future of the program, McNeil wants to see the team become a full club sport with a dedicated roster and a coaching staff. If she’s in the area after graduation, she would be happy to volunteer as the coach.
Andreozzi said the Northeast region of the country makes it entirely more likely that this program grows by both adding players and finding opponents.
“I think in five years, you’re going to see a [women’s] club hockey program here,” Andreozzi said.