On March 11th Michigan women’s club hockey players Stacey
Moses and Mary Catherine Finney were 40 miles from Marquette and
the Central Collegiate Women’s Hockey Association (CCWHA)
league tournament. Each was at the wheel of a University van,
leading the way for two more vans that also held members of the
team. After driving for more than seven hours in the snow and winds
that Michigan is known for, the drivers were mentally preparing
themselves for the hardest leg of the trip — the three
tournament games they would be playing over the weekend.

Little did they know that the worst was just seconds away.

Moses’s van went first. After losing control of the car,
Moses was helpless as her van spun around and was whipped into the
ditch on the opposite side of the road. The next car in line was
Finney’s. Her car too was taken from her by the high winds,
but she had luckily left enough space between her van and
Moses’s to come to a stop without hitting the other car. She
thought she was safe, but then BAM! Finney felt her van being
ploughed into suddenly. It was the third van, which ultimately
ended up parallel to hers and facing the opposite direction. Only
the fourth van escaped without damage.

“I was sitting in the driver’s seat and I just
watched the whole thing (in the rear view mirror),” Moses
said. “I was like, ‘Everyone ok in our van?’ and
then I was thinking, ‘Oh my God,’ when I saw the
others.”

No one was injured in the collision, but the team was forced to
abandon one of the vans and the triple accident put it even further
into debt. As if this debacle wasn’t enough, Michigan
(4-18-2) won just one game while in Marquette — against
league bottom dweller Notre Dame — leaving it in
second-to-last place in the final league standings.

In fact, this accident was just the latest bump in the very
bumpy road the team has endured since the beginning of the
season.

Just a year ago, the club program was in a great position. It
had a 18-12-5 record, sitting at No. 2 in league standings behind
Michigan State. Hal Krenkel, a Michigan student, was the fun-loving
coach and close friend of many team members.

But Krenkel graduated. Only one senior returned. The three top
goal scorers were lost to injury and study abroad programs. The
backup goalie was injured, and Finney was the only returning player
on defense.

Moses, club president, tried to pick up the pieces. She hired a
new coach, Steve Wartecker, and pulled in nine freshmen to round
out the team.

But the Wolverines learned that rebuilding can take time.
Wartecker’s previous experience was in coaching boys’
PeeWee hockey leagues, and initially he may not have been prepared
to take on a collegiate women’s team.

“He definitely improved a lot over the season,”
Finney said. “There were obstacles coming in, so we were
going to have problems no matter what.”

Wartecker feels the biggest problem was the team’s
composition.

“Practically three quarters of the team were
freshmen,” Wartecker said. “A lot of the girls
hadn’t played organized hockey before, so it was difficult to
gel with the team when everyone was coming from all over the place.
There’s a lot more things these girls worry about than just
hockey. The first year at a big university is a big
deal.”

Not surprisingly, older players found it discouraging to be on
such a struggling team after having success in recent years.

“The biggest problem with having a new team is having the
chemistry to (create) an offense,” Finney said. “It was
hard to keep losing, but feel like we had the potential to put it
together and just wondering if we were ever going to get there.
This year could have been even more frustrating, but we had a
really motivated group of people.”

Another issue has been the strength of the league Michigan plays
in. The 10-year-old CCWHA is the premiere club league in the
country, and Moses claims that it only gets better with every year
that goes by.

Despite an extremely trying season, the players have confidence
that the team will stay together next year. Moses said she thinks
the team will just lose one or two of its current members.

“Regardless of the win-loss record, I think the girls had
a lot of fun this year,” Wartecker said. “That’s
all that really matters in the end. We (plan) to be a lot more
competitive next year.”

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