Robert Morris women's hockey makes final push for NCAA Tournament
Of all the lessons the Robert Morris women's hockey team's coaching staff has delivered to its players, something first-year assistant Jinelle Siergiej said about the NCAA Tournament sticks out to junior Rebecca Vint.
“She says once you make one, you are going to want to go back,” said Vint, the team's leader in goals. “She'll tell us, ‘You've got to get there, then you'll realize how cool it is. Something you will never forget, and something that will give you chills down your spine.' ”
Those chills are closer than ever for Robert Morris. The Colonials (22-7-3) set a school record for wins four weeks ago and carry a No. 9 national ranking into their final two regular-season games Friday and Saturday against Penn State at Island Sports Center.
Now in its ninth season, Robert Morris never had been nationally ranked until Nov. 25 of this season. The Colonials haven't dropped out of the top 10 since, and they are holding the No. 8 spot in the PairWise rankings that attempt to mimic the NCAA selection committee criteria. Eight teams make the tournament.
“That,” senior defenseman Anneline Lauziere said, “would be incredible. We are right there. It's right there, and we want it so bad.”
Robert Morris still has plenty of work to do to achieve that goal, beginning with clinching a bye in the College Hockey America tournament by sweeping two 3 p.m. games against Penn State (4-25-3) this weekend. Then, the Colonials will have an opportunity to win the conference for the second time in three years with two wins March 7-8.
Although the CHA does not have an automatic bid, the Colonials' PairWise ranking combined with the No. 7 ranking by Mercyhurst potentially sets up, in effect, a winner-takes-a-bid CHA championship game.
“We are in a good spot, and we're enjoying it,” coach Paul Colontino said. “But truthfully, the interesting part is even though we're doing well in certain areas, the scale changes. ... That's great we're in the top 10, but now ... it's our nature as a program to keep going one step further and keep pushing for the next level.”
When the current seniors were freshmen in 2010-11, the team went 6-21-7, and an NCAA Tournament berth was a distant dream. Now, it's seemingly there for the taking.
“The tournament would mean everything, obviously, and we are working toward it,” Robert Morris captain Kristen Richards said. “But it's not just making it. It's winning it. That's what we want to do, and that's (Colontino) coming out in us and how we approach every game and the expectations we have.”