Marcinko hopes to help lead Union College to winning season

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

Alaina Marcinko hopes to become a nurse practitioner so she can help her patients.

That goal is in the future, though. Right now, she's focused on improving the health of the Union College women's hockey team.

Marcinko, an Altoona native, is a senior goaltender for the Dutchwomen. The team finished 4-26-4 last season.

“What that record doesn't show is that we've had a lot of close games, some overtime losses and one-goal games. It really doesn't reflect how the team has been progressing,” Marcinko said. “This year, we have our sights set on winning those close games and turning those overtime losses into wins. Team-wise, I think we have the best team we've had so far since I have been here. I can't wait to get started.”

Marcinko, who attended Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School in Altoona through her junior year and transferred to Gilmour Academy near Cleveland, was thrilled to have a chance to play NCAA Division-I hockey at Union, which is located in Schenectady, N.Y.

“It's what I wanted to do pretty much since I can remember,” she said. “Basically, my main focus of high school was trying to do my best to be able to have a chance at it. It's been the most amazing thing to get my dream.”

The transition to collegiate hockey did not bother Marcinko. She appeared in 26 games her freshman year and posted a 3.14 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage, even though the Dutchwomen struggled to a 5-28-1 record.

She received the team's Rookie of the Year Award as well as the Terry Lynch-Jackie Havercamp Cuttita Award, given to Union athletics' freshman of the year.

“The game is a lot faster. That's the biggest difference,” she said. “You always have to be ready, more so than in high school.”

Marcinko appeared in 14 games during her sophomore campaign and seven last season. She said she hopes the team can rebound this year.

“We had a really big senior class. We had eight graduates, so we have a different core now. We have a lot of good freshmen, which I think will help out a lot,” she said. “The goal for the team is to make playoffs this year. I just want to play the best I can to help the team and get a lot of action.”

Marcinko said the hard work began in the offseason to prepare for the coming grind.

“I was on the ice almost every day and in the weight room in the summer. I wanted to improve,” she said. “Goalies always want to improve their rebound control, so that was big for me, too. I want to try to be consistent every day. Those are the two biggest things. I think I improved in both of those areas a lot.”

During the season, Marcinko juggles a demanding schedule on and off the ice. The senior neuroscience major works hard to balance her academics and athletics.

“It's hard. It's a really tight schedule during the week. I don't have much free time,” she said. “I try to get study time and lab time in as well as practice and weight room time. Fortunately, our professors are really understanding, especially if we have to miss class on Fridays if we leave for a trip.”

Once her collegiate career at Union wraps up, Marcinko hopes to attend graduate school to become a nurse practitioner.

“They don't have nursing here. I'd definitely stay at Union if they had it. I love the Boston area, so I might look to go somewhere there,” she said. “I am trying not to look ahead too much. I hate thinking about it being my last year at Union. Hopefully, we will make it count this year.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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