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by Clorinda Valenti

As Rensselaer celebrated 100 years of men’s hockey last month with a sold-out crowd at Houston Field House for the annual Big Red Freakout and at alumni gatherings across the country, another group of Engineers was putting the puck in the net in front of far fewer fans and with much less hoopla.
Jessica Malec

Forward Jessica Malec is a senior management major.

Photo by Mark McCarty

But instead of seeing themselves as playing in the shadow of the Division I men’s program, women’s ice hockey players are competing for the love of the game and forging their own tradition of excellence on the ice.

“They’re building a name for themselves,” says women’s varsity ice hockey head coach Bill Cahill. The team is attracting talented players with the opportunity to help build a young program into a hockey powerhouse and to get a first-rate education.

When senior co-captain Julie Durham received her first recruiting letter from Rensselaer, she had no idea where the school was located or what it offered. Although Durham had been recruited by Division I schools, she was encouraged by her parents to take a look at Rensselaer. She soon found it offered what she wanted: a strong women’s hockey team and a program in management and information systems. A campus visit sealed the deal. “From day one, I knew ‘this was it.’ I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” Durham says.

Having attained varsity status in 1995, the Engineers—the team has the same nickname as the men’s hockey team—quickly became contenders in the ECAC and have posted winning records in the past four seasons.

The ice hockey team is but one success story in a growing list of accomplishments by women’s varsity athletic teams at Rensselaer, which all compete at the Division III level. The program has come of age in the past several years, as teams are racking up post-season titles and individual athletes are receiving awards and accolades:
  • Women’s tennis, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, and softball all advanced to their respective tournaments in the New York State Women’s Collegiate Athletics Association (NYSWCAA), with the field hockey team winning its first-ever tournament title in the fall.

  • The women’s varsity basketball team, which became Rensselaer’s first women’s varsity sport in 1975, last year won the New York State Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association (UCAA) tournament and went on to compete in the NCAA tournament for the first time in team history.

  • 17 women swimmers, two runners, two hockey players, and one field hockey player have earned national All-American honors over the course of women’s varsity athletics history.

  • 23 women varsity athletes were named to the 2001 UCAA All-Academic Team. (To qualify for the honor, a student must maintain a grade point average of 3.20 and must be considered a major contributor to her team.) Rensselaer placed a total of 49 student athletes on the list—the highest of any UCAA team.

  • 6 women’s teams have earned Rensselaer Alumni Association Team of the Year honors.



Rensselaer Magazine: March 2002
President's View Your Mail From the Archives Hawk Talk Class Notes Features
Front Page At Rensselaer Milestones
In Memoriam Making a Difference Staying Connected
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