Want to evaluate team character during a rough season? Check out a Monday practice.
"Mondays were the hardest," says Tori Messina '19, a co-captain on Holy Cross' women's ice hockey team that went 1-29-3 last year in its first season in Division I's toughest conference, Hockey East. "You get beaten up all weekend and then you have to come back to the rink. But we were resilient. We kept showing up."
Katie Lachapelle, the team's new head coach, shares the same observation, and has high praise for Messina's class. "Those [class of '19] seniors set the tone for our culture," she says. After a pair of often-frustrating weekend games, they would "come in Monday morning working just as hard as they had on Friday. I give them so much credit for that."
And, with that, all involved with the program agree it's time to put that season in the rearview and look to the future. With optimistic yet grounded goals, Lachapelle and the entire squad are ready to move on to a brighter 2019-2020 season.
Strong Background, Division I Experience
Lachapelle's promotion to head coach is the culmination of a thoughtfully planned transition, as coach Peter Van Buskirk retired and the team, a longtime Division III hockey power, continues its acclimation to the ultra-competitive Hockey East. Prior to two seasons as Van Buskirk's associate head coach, Lachapelle was a nine-year assistant coach of Boston University's consistently ranked team, helping the Terriers earn six NCAA Tournament appearances and five Hockey East titles. In 2013, she won the Women's Ice Hockey Assistant Coach Award from the American Hockey Coaches Association. She's also a prominent figure in U.S. Women's National Team hockey, having won multiple gold medals, all of this following her own collegiate hockey career at Providence College.
"We had so much success at our previous level," Lachapelle says. "Well, there's no way [Holy Cross] got us in Hockey East just to come in last. So we need to find success here. That'll require a different level of commitment from me and from the players," she says. "It'll take some time, but we'll keep climbing the ladder. We'll get a little better every year." And when they reach the pinnacle? "Then we'll stay there," she says, adding she is excited to be joined on the bench by associate head coach Meredith Roth and assistant coach Maddy Norton.
In order to compete against the best in collegiate women's hockey, the coaching staff knows that expanding its recruiting reach is a necessity, and that plan is well underway. "We're out on the road more," Lachapelle says. "Canada, Austria, this is part of the commitment. We get to as many tourneys as possible, keep the biggest database we can."
She's learned that Holy Cross' excellent reputation helps in this effort: "It has so much respect academically, that makes things easier. I can't tell you how many [prospects] have said, 'I'm interested in your program because I know that's a great school.'"
Reflecting on Changes
While wins on the ice are important, they're just one part of the story. Athletes who've skated for Lachapelle applaud her steady approach and leadership. "Her mantra [last season] was ‘Never too high, never too low,'" recalls goaltender Jada Brenon '22. "She cares about people and she makes you want to be better."
That's just one lesson Lachapelle has learned about coaching student-athletes during her career, which dates to her Providence playing days in the 1990s. "My freshman year we still used wooden sticks," she laughs. "The changes in training have been amazing. Players are bigger, stronger, faster now." But they are still student-athletes, and Lachapelle — like her predecessor — is fully aware that studies take precedence. "Katie is understanding about school," Messina says. "Holy Cross is very rigorous, she knows that and respects it."
With an extensive Division I background, a well-engineered transition and the respect of the Holy Cross community, Lachapelle is ready to make the Crusaders competitive in college hockey's toughest division. "Katie can take us to the next level," Brenon says. "Everybody on the team agrees on that."
Written by Steve Ulfelder for the Summer 2019 issue of Hole Cross Magazine.
About Holy Cross Magazine Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.